California’s water policy is overwhelmingly a local matter. But if you read the mainstream media you might think that it was mostly a state or federal issue. For example, consider that two thirds of all spending on water projects in California in a typical year are funded by local water agencies. Nonetheless, water expert Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute is calling for a nationalized water policy for Democrat Party candidate Joe Biden if elected the next president. There are four planks in Gleick’s political platform for nationalized water funding:
Plank 1 – Expand federal funding for people without water systems
Gleick wants a new president to fund water supply systems for “tens of millions of low-income people that lack safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation.” There is no source cited for where the tens of millions number came from. According to Bloomberg.com, 460,000 households in the U.S. suffer from “plumbing poverty” but that includes cabins and recreational homes.
Gleick doesn’t tell us what he is referring to might better be called water systems for “illegal land subdivisions” of migrant trailer settlements in California, and elsewhere, that lack paved roads, street lights, water lines and sewers and/or local water wells are contaminated. Many of these are mostly migrant worker settlements in California are in the Central Valley, such as Seville, East Orosi, Earlimart and East Porterville.
In Southern California, migrant settlements without water systems can be found near Thermal, Coachella and Imperial. For example, in 2013 it was reported that there were 31 trailer parks comprising 483 mobile home units in Eastern Coachella Valley that lacked paved roads in “areas that lack water, sewer systems and basic infrastructure.” Funding for new road paving in the under-developed Coachella area comes from environmental mitigation fees exacted from renewable energy projects.
To develop land into buildable lots in California, the Subdivision Map Act must be complied with. A legal subdivision as: “division of improved and unimproved land for the purpose of sale or lease or financing whether immediate or future” for five or more buildable lots. Water-less trailer settlements typically consist of mobile homes on wheels and trailers that are personal property not for sale or lease that depend on either a local water well or bottled water. Ironically, Gleick is concerned that retail bottled water uses too much energy. Since migrant trailer settlements are unmapped and unsubdivided, they are also untaxed.
Gleick’s solution to those without drinkable “water access” is to provide grants to non-profit agencies or county governments to fund water lines, and if need be water treatment systems. This is a non-solution because people living in poverty do not have the money to maintain water systems or install water treatment systems. Neither do they pay any taxes to pay back financing such water systems with municipal bonds. And, in California, new housing or mobile home parks must comply with the policy of “user pays” (Proposition 13). Nearby cities do not want to annex these areas or incorporate them and end up paying for their water systems.
Gleick’s policy would incentivize migrants flooding into undeveloped areas for a “free ride” on federally-funded public infrastructure without any way to get recipients to maintain them. As unfortunate as households without plumbing is, Gleick’s first plank is a non-solution and another Detroit, Michigan water scandal waiting to happen.
Plank 2 – Federal funding for climate change needed to mitigate impact on water systems
Where illegal land divisions for unpermitted migrant settlements are typically located is where there is potential groundwater available for a well. But groundwater basins do not need “climate change” to be over-drafted and depleted. Depletion can happen without climate change. New water well drilling costs in California run from $5,000 to $15,000, which is out of the financial reach for such migrant residential settlements.
Moreover, the “groundwater free-for-all,” as Stanford University’s Center for the American West calls it, has come to an end with California’s Groundwater Management Act of 2014. And residents on water wells have been left out of the Groundwater Management Act in favor of farmers, industry and incorporated cities. Cities typically require that when landowners subdivide their land, they must abandon any wells and hook up to the city system. Federal funding for nebulous “climate change” impacts on illegal housing settlements is a non-solution.
Plank 3 – Assess vulnerability of US water systems to cyber-attacks and terrorism
Assessments of the proneness of water systems to terrorism has already been done by the US Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Health Services (DHS), among other agencies, and is unnecessary. As the photo above shows, Hoover Dam has a new bridge that diverts traffic from the dam for security purposes.
Plank 4 – The US has no national water policy but needs one
As stated above, water is mainly a local matter and best dealt with by local water agencies. Oregon has abundant water, massive rivers and almost no drought. California has cyclical rainstorms and drought is “normal”. Arizona depends on the Colorado River and underground rivers and drought is always threatening. No one size policy fits all.
No coherent national strategy is needed beyond state and local policies, except where rivers and watersheds straddle or serve more than one state. California already has the Colorado River Compact with Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado. And there already is a federal water plan for California’s Central Valley. It is called the federal Central Valley Project built in the 1930’s, which supplies about two-thirds of California’s wholesale water. And Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona border, provides 50 percent of its hydropower to pump water to Los Angeles at a cheap $20 per megawatt hour ($0.02 per kilowatt hour). No national water plan needed.
Unlike Gleick’s plan, a properly focused California water policy for presidential consideration would:
- Continue the policies of the last century, not this one
- Avoid featherbedding for redundant water security
- Re-focus water policy onto local, not global or unknowable future issues
- Realize that California has been managing climate change forever
Gleick’s call for a National Water Plan is nearly identical to his 2012 Twenty-First Century Water Policy he proposed for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Gleick’s national water plan of 2012 apparently went nowhere and failed to provide water to migrant encampments in California even under Pres. Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown.
- Peter Gleick’s National Water Plan for California - October 12, 2020
- Court Opens Up Big Prop.13 Loophole for ‘Public Franchise Fees’ - October 2, 2020
- New Cal Grid CEO is Ex-Enron Green Power Trader - September 29, 2020