In the American West, nothing sets politics aflame as quickly as water. In early April, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) issued mandatory restrictions on water use.
This has never before happened in California and is just another step on the path to combating the now 4-year drought. 60% of the West is now experiencing some moderate form of drought, affecting 52 million people.
These Western states have always jealously guarded their right to govern water usage and as a result, some of them, including California, have no groundwater management rules at all.
Farmers have taken advantage of this, pulling more than 65 cubic kilometers of water out of the Colorado River Basin to date.
The Washington Post reports:
“The federal government has been complicit, as well. Scientists at U.C.-Irvine, the California Institute of Technology, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and NASA concluded that the Bureau of Reclamation, which has jurisdiction over surface water flowing through the Colorado River, has allocated 30 percent more water than was actually available in recent years, putting more pressure on underground supplies.
Brown has advocated building two massive water tunnels in the Bay Delta, which would move water from Northern California to the drier south, though that plan has drawn considerable opposition from environmentalists. Other states are also planning: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) created a 38-member panel in 2013 tasked with plotting the state’s water future for the next 50 years.
But solving the problem will be a major political gamble. Case in point: Brown’s executive order this week did not seek reductions in water usage on farms, which use 80 percent of the state’s water.”
Action is beginning to take place in California and other states that are drought affected, but are these small steps enough?
Inframanage.com notes that long term water resource management planning (50 year horizon) such as what Utah is undertaking, is a good path forward in resolving the complex issues.
An observation from an infrastructure management understanding is that short term ’emergency’ solutions can often end up being very expensive in the longer term.
When short term ’emergency’ solutions are being proposed it is a good time to use infrastructure management tools such as business case, and whole of life cost analysis to examine the proposal against other alternatives.
PHOTO CREDIT: Public Herald via Flickr Creative Commons License