Policymakers should rethink the way they are approaching California's water crisis, from preserving habitats for endangered wildlife to encouraging urban conservation programs, according to a book released yesterday by a slate of scientists and policy experts from the state's major universities.
Experts from the University of California, Stanford University and the Public Policy Institute of California wrote the book, titled "Managing California Water in the 21st Century," which argues in part that the state's water management systems are too convoluted and antiquated to be effective in the state today.
"Today's system of water management, developed in previous times for past conditions, is leading the state down a path of environmental and economic deterioration. We're waiting for the next drought, flood, or lawsuit to bring catastrophe," co-author Ellen Hanak, senior fellow at the institute, said in a statement. "But if we take bold steps now, we can move from an era of conflict to one of reconciliation, where water is managed more flexibly and comprehensively, to benefit both the economy and the environment."
The book recommends several key steps to improving and modernizing California's water management, including encouraging conservation in cities, expanding underground water storage, easing the purchase and sale of water between communities, and consolidating the myriad local and regional authorities that currently govern the state's water use. The report also recommends a cap-and-trade system to limit pollution.
Some points raised in the book have come up for debate before, notably in discussion surrounding Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's prized $11 billion water bond, which will come before voters in 2012 after being pushed off the 2010 ballot over fears it would fail. The money would be used in part to fund new dams and infrastructure, storage and delivery systems such as groundwater banking, and various ecological programs.
Assuming Gov. Jerry Brown makes it through what once seemed to be an intractable budget process with his political capital intact, the state's water woes will inevitably be high on his to-do list.
Brown neglected to endorse Schwarzenegger's water bond on the campaign trail and eventually released a proposal of his own, which calls for many of the same reforms mentioned in the report.