On the Public Record, a pseudonymous blogger on California water issues, responds to my post outlining some drawbacks to bottom-up water management with an interesting observation on government discourse:
This is the second time we’ve needed people who are employed by universities, not water agencies to tell us this. There is certainly no will to acknowledge this from within the state bureaucracies. Local agencies are not magic: some are good, some are inept, some are overwhelmed. We will find out which ones are which, but we’ll have lost years to the process.
The stakes are so high in the California water sector I'm not surprised government agencies are keeping their heads down. Groundwater regulations can ensure some measure of fairness between users and long-term sustainability, but there's no doubt reforms will turn some status quo winners into losers, and some losers into winners. As a case in point, Maven's Notebook has a blog roundup on this week's California water news which features, in addition to this blog, an article demonstrating the trade-offs between endangered species, urban populations, and agriculture in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. There isn't an easy solution for water managers:
Given tight water supplies, there’s little doubt that this additional water flowing from the Delta could have been used for other purposes. But some of the fish species that depend on the Delta are struggling mightily during this drought. Reallocating more water to other uses almost certainly would have caused further environmental harm, and increased the chances of stricter future regulations to protect endangered fish.
The South Florida Water Management District orchestrates a similar balancing act between water needed for the Everglades, the sugar industry, and coastal populations. Florida's water management districts are relatively well-funded and staffed, yet groundwater management still presents problems. Local agencies in California now have to bear the responsibility for making complex trade-offs between groundwater users whether they are prepared for it or not. Let's hope the legislature gives them the support they need.