Skip to comments.Imported Water to So Cal Cities Could Be Shut Off Soon If They Have the Wrong Landscaping
Posted on 02/17/2009 9:14:02 AM PST by WayneLusvardi
by Wayne Lusvardi - Pasadena Sub Rosa
An anonymous apparent insider to the backstage dealings of California's water crisis has alerted this blog to the real possibility that imported water could be shut off soon to Southern California's cities if the cities have the wrong type of landscaping (i.e., water thirsty home gardens). This shut off scenario could hit Southern California cities out of nowhere much like the world-wide financial meltdown appeared nearly overnight. And like the financial meltdown, it would be wise to listen to those who are furtively trying to give us an early warning signal of this emerging situation.
On February 8 on this blog this writer posted a column * - *Is Water Conservation a Preservation and Cultural Issue in Pasadena?* http://pasadenasubrosa.typepad.com/pasadena_sub_rosa/2009/02/is-water-conservation-a-preservation-cultural-issue-in-pasadena.html
The above cited column was written in response to recent public comments by a representative of the local Sierra Club in Pasadena who advocated that Pasadena adopt cactus and rock garden landscaping standards similar to those in Tucson, Arizona and tiered water rates similar to those already in place in Irvine, California for water conservation. In response, an anonymous person left the following comment:
(begin)Funny take on this, although I hope nobody takes your post seriously. There is very little that can be done legally to challenge required rationing based on the environmental clearance process. As iconic as Pasadena lawns are, there is an underlying challenge to those lawns that is waiting in the wings based on the California Constitution requirement that water use be reasonable. So, is it reasonable to use water for lawns during drought conditions when other similarly situated water districts (such as Irvine) use considerably less water? I think any sane judge would tell you to put rock over that dry, brown patch formerly known as a lawn ;) J/K, there are drought tolerant grasses I've seen used throughout the Pasadena area so I'd expect that we will see more of them in the near future. -- : (end)
The above comment was naturally mistaken by this writer as emanating from the local chapter of the Sierra Club which has continually advocated the tiered water rate structure in the City of Irvine for adoption by the City of Pasadena. This writer thus wrote a subsequent blog post entitled *Anonymous Commenter Alludes to Regulating Home Landscaping by Lawsuit* (Feb. 16), which erroneously named the Pasadena Sierra Club as the likely source of the email.
I further pointed out that Pasadena is not *similarly situated* as the City of Irvine, as Irvine manages the irrigation and selection of its residential landscaping through Homeowner Associations in the 40 master planned subdivisions in that city. Pasadena is an older community which was not developed according to a master plan and does not have homeowner's associations governing each neighborhood.
In a further response, this blog has now received a second email from the same anonymous person which eliminates the Sierra Club as the sender, corrects some of this writer's misconceptions, and clarifies the impending situation Southern California's cities may soon be facing:
(begin)I have no relation to the Sierra Club and am not a member or contributor to any environmental organizations. I may have commented anonymously but I did use my real email address when I left my comment.
I came to your blog through the Aquafornia blog and otherwise would not have visited or commented.
By similarly situated, I meant that Pasadena and Irvine are both large cities with a healthy mix of water users (single family homes, high density residential, universities, commercial buildings, industrial, etc.), in the same geographic area with essentially the same weather, and similarly reliant upon water imports from elsewhere.
Whether HOAs rule your lives or not does not matter when it comes to whether a particular water use is reasonable.
Embedded in the California Constitution is a requirement that all water use be beneficial and reasonable. In fact, water rights can be stripped from water users if they do not meet both requirements. In addition, whether a use is reasonable or beneficial changes with the times and are not static concepts preserved for all time. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) determines whether a use is reasonable and has the power to modify or terminate existing water rights to reflect those acceptable uses.
I've been closely following the debate over pumping water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Delta for export south to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and to the MWD. Lately, farmers and their elected representatives have been whining over decreased deliveries while cities get water for lawns and swimming pools. Some of the largest and richest farmers will get no deliveries this year. Those same large, rich farmers have been very active in state and federal courts over water. Their existence requires that they sue, sue, sue.
I expect that in short time, if it hasn't already been done, the farm lobby will ask the SWRCB to determine that landscaping is an unreasonable water use. Landscaping uses 12% of all water consumed in California. I doubt the SWRCB will go that far but should come back with rules that require water districts to create rules similar to Irvine and perhaps even more restrictive. With that, your local water district will need to turn off the tap if you use water for the wrong landscaping (end).
In an after note the anonymous person further clarified how Southern California's cities are bound to water contracts which may nearly instantly affect our water supply:
(begin) I almost forgot to mention that we, as end consumers of water, do not directly hold a water right. Our receipt of water depends mostly on contract. Your uses of water can also be controlled through those contracts. The State Water Project sells water to the MWD by contract which then resells to the local water agencies which then resell to actual water users (us). I'm sure that the terms of those contracts (I haven't actually read any) contain clauses that provide for changes to delivery due to drought or changes to state/federal law, and limits for liability for decreased deliveries (end).
The website Exchanges: Blogging About New York Stock Exchange-EuroNext Markets recently made a case that a blog could have better alerted investors to the Ponzi scheme of Bernard Madoff than the bureaucratic regulatory actions of the Security and Exchange Commission (SCE) - read here: http://exchanges.nyse.com/archives/2009/02/madoffblog.php
Could something like this be operating here where state bureaucratic agencies loaded with public relations officers spinning only positive news for politicians and apparatchik agency heads are avoiding telling us of the very real possibility of any such impending total shut off of imported water to Southern California cities specifically targeted to the wrong residential landscaping? A blog may be the only communication channel available for an anonymous insider to warn Southern California's cities, and the public, of the importance of this brewing situation.
The estimated cost to plant a California native drought tolerant garden is $16,700 per home. http://pasadenasubrosa.typepad.com/pasadena_sub_rosa/2009/02/california-native-garden-cost-16700.html . The adoption of tiered water rates by cities could add as much as $75, or greater, to the water bill of a typical homeowner in Southern California in the hot month of July.
My contacts in the water industry indicate that the above described imported water shut off scenario is credible and plausible and not likely agenda driven.
We're living in a period of *future shocks* where there is little public awareness of impending rapid and devastating financial and social change. Our new president ran on a platform of *change.* We're only now becoming aware of what that means with imported water in Southern California. The imported water bubble that Southern California has been living in for decades may be about to burst due in part to environmental court rulings as much as a periodic drought. Water thirsty landscaping may become a luxury item that even historical preservation cities such as Pasadena can little afford. The home of the Rose Parade may be unable to sustain many residential rose gardens if the scenario described above comes about.
“This shut off scenario could hit Southern California cities out of nowhere much like the world-wide financial meltdown appeared nearly overnight”
Great. That’s why we have the 2nd amendment. The people go, and get their water turned back on.
Obama says, “Let them drink mud.”
She has some stuff in pots, and that's the only place the pre-construction installed irrigation system is allowed to water.
Plenty of people have been putting out white gravel for years just to keep their water bills down.
Western water rights laws are far different than Eastern water rights laws. Best you check into how they apply to you before you pull any guns on people. Water theft is a hanging offense in some parts.
Or they die like dogs.
exactly. the idea of the gooberment turning off the water to a city they don’t like just makes the man rise up on the inside of me.
Southern California is a DESERT.
Just in case somebody there didn’t realize it....
It's really different.
Why not just let people buy all the water that they can afford, and let the owners of the water offer whatever price that they please?
By the end of the year all those suburbanites are going to wished they suported the Klamath falls bucket brigades, if this story is a trial balloon for which ever organization is behind it.
My comment did not make it past moderation on your web site, so I am posting a response here and I sent you an email.
You make too many assumptions without asking or fact checking first. I am not an insider. I do not work for a water agency, the state or federal governments, or any organization with a stake in the water wars. I’m just a regular schmo taxpayer and residential water user. I just happen to be following the situation very closely. :)
This water bubble, as you call it, can be analogized to the housing bubble. Everyone could see it coming, we’ve been through it before, it did not take any special knowledge to know it was coming, and people in the know warned for many years of impending doom but people rarely paid attention or believe the warnings. The public is very aware of our precarious water supply but chooses to ignore warnings in news stories and from water agencies. I still hear stories of “If yellow, be mellow. If brown, flush down.” My local library still stocks multiple copies of Cadillac Desert (I highly recommend you read it). MWD puts millions into its educational campaigns for good reason. See: http://bewaterwise.com/
We were put on notice by the Mono Lake case in the early 1980’s that our water supply is limited. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mono_lake We were also put on notice that water and our environment is held in public trust for future generations, not just our exploitation today.
I think it is important to expand your analysis to view the larger picture. We’re talking about more than just lawns and swimming pools. This is about our most important natural resource literally drying up. Our reservoirs are at historic lows, including the biggest reservoir of all (Sierra snow pack). That leaves less water for all the varying uses we take for granted. Aquafornia blog regularly posts about the drought and our low reservoir levels. Check out this excellent post made late last week: http://aquafornia.com/archives/6922
We will all feel the economic consequences of decreased water exports from the Delta. The biggest economic impacts from a decrease in water exports will be felt by the farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, served by MWD, and various Central Coast water districts. The State Water Project and Central Valley Project (Feds) have initially told water users to expect only 15% of normal water deliveries and many farmers will get no water.
I’m trying not to point fingers. Conservation starts with all of us. There is waste and unreasonable use all around us, in both urban and rural uses. Pointing fingers would not be the way to resolve the bind we find ourselves in. A state wide dialog needs to happen now and discuss all uses and water sources. Agriculture uses 80% of water consumed in California and municipal/industrial consumers use the rest. Landscaping, discussed here in your posts, and alfalfa each use about 12% of all water statewide. That 24% of water consumption needs to be seriously discussed along with all of the other uses that we have for water. In other words, are green lawns and alfalfa reasonable uses of water as required by the state constitution?
Some blogs and other web sites you should check out and add to your RSS reader. I use My Yahoo! as my RSS reader, in case you do need one.
(and for fun) http://urbanflyfishing.blogspot.com/
This is in reply to Dan *h20h20* who continues to send emails and critiques but refuses to identify himself. Dan continues to criticize me for making assumptions about his identity, but refuses to identify himself. When you have someone who refuses to reveal their identity you have to say: *consider the source.* My suspicion is Dan is an environmentalist who is afraid to ID himself on conservative websites.
Dan states that our water supply is very precarious and at historic lows. He fails to acknowledge that we’ve been through this before. There have been several 3 year or greater periods of non-peak rainfall in California. Drought is a natural state in Southern California. What we call drought is really a lack of water storage because enough water typically flows to the ocean even in dry Southern California to meet demand each year *whether wet or dry years.* So drought is man made as much as Dan and others may want to make it out as caused by *waste and unreasonable use.* A drought is really the lack of a peak rainfall or snowfall year which refills reservoirs so that we can draw them down for a few years.
Dan believes the book Cadillac Desert is an accurate depiction of the water situation in the Southwestern U.S. Even the author of Cadillac Desert, Mark Reisner, recanted what he wrote about rice farming wasting water after he wrote the book. Cadillac Desert is an apocalyptic genre book and is the secular equivalent to the Christian apocalyptical book of Revelations. Cadillac Desert is taken as gospel when it is book of myth mixed with history.
Pop environmental books gravitate to juxtaposed cliche titles: *Silent Spring,* *Cadillac Desert,* *Dead Pool.* But think about the following juxtaposition: *Palm Springs.* The words Palm Springs evokes an image of a water rich garden or oasis. Palm Springs is in the California desert and has a self-sufficient supply of groundwater. Ditto for San Bernardino County, which is in arid Southern California. So much for the thesis of Cadillac Desert.
Even in suburbs like Pasadena where this writer lives, the city meets 60% of its water need from groundwater but enough rainfall typically flows to the ocean in two weeks during the winter to supply the entire population for a year.
Dan thinks that this writer puts too much emphasis on water issues at the local level and that I don’t get the BIG PICTURE. Having worked at the largest water agency in the state for 20 years, I think I get the big picture. Cognitive elites are trying to dictate water usage at the household level, after local governments have mostly embraced smart growth and other policies which will divert population growth to the cities where water growth is unsustainable.
Both those on the political Left, such as water activist Dorothy Green, and the moderate political center, Sacramento Bee writer Dan Walters, agree that drought is not the cause of our current water crisis. In other words, it is NOT *waste and unreasonable use* of water as Dan simplistically asserts that is behind our current water situation. *Waste and unreasonble use* are terms that follow a rather Leftist world view that obscures our real water situation.
Feel free to believe what you want. You seem to have already made up your mind that I’m a sniveling environmentalist who is an insider to the great water machine. I’ll say it again. I’m not an environmentalist (I do not even donate time or money to any environmental organization) and I do not work for a water agency. I’m not even on the left of the linear political spectrum.
Everyone has a right to anonymity on the Internet, or at least some levels of anonymity (there are still ways to identify me, such as by email address -which you have- and IP address). If I choose to post anonymously, that is my choice. You and your readers can choose to take what I say with a grain of salt. I try to remain constructive with my posts, which is what matters in the end.
My point, asking you to read Cadillac Desert, is that we live in ... a Desert. Much of California qualifies as a desert. Our water is a finite source. We import it from Northern California for a reason. The farmers in the Central Valley also live in ... a desert. They import their water. Same with the San Francisco Bay Area. It too is a desert and must import water. Cadillac Desert makes the point well, I think, that we live in a desert and our state is built on moving water around. I’m not making a political point telling you to read it. I do not personally subscribe to the apocalyptic part about the end is coming soon. I usually blow by any warnings like that. Rice farms are an important stop along the Pacific flyway so I don’t have issues with them as the book did. btw: if you go duck hunting, the best ducks are in and around the rice fields.
Waste and unreasonable use are not the reason we are in the mess in which we find ourselves. I personally believe the current water crisis is the result of mismanagement of the water systems as much as it is the drought we’re currently experiencing. Why is it the water managers for DWR and CVP continued to drain down the reservoirs after dry winters instead of slowly applying the brakes on exports as a precautionary measure as you would when driving down the grapevine in a car? Shouldn’t the reserviors be managed so that water releases are based on the snow pack? Those are questions I’ve wondered but don’t have answers to. In addition, plans were made based on forecasts for water exported from the Delta but Judge Wanger’s rulings that limit Delta pumping puts a kink into those plans. And soon, when the San Joaquin river is flowing again from Friant to the Delta, less water will be available.
But now that we are here, with drought conditions and less water than we collectively need, what do we do? With that, I suggest that the argument will be made that lawns, swimming pools, alfalfa, etc. are unreasonable uses of water. The term is legal more than it is a leftist phrase meant to instill fear into the hearts of SoCal water users. It is part of the legal argument that I think will likely be made to the SWRCB and then courts about what types of uses shall be barred during years when there is not enough water to go around. Water use, according to the California Constitution must be beneficial and reasonable. Will I make that argument, no. Which gets me back to the point I made responding to your original post. The water used for iconic Pasadena lawns can be restricted by the local water agency with little recourse if it is applied during times like these when we expect to be short of water come September. It will likely be done contractually, which will get around your local preservation board or environmental ordinances. And there is always that farmer, looking enviously at the water flowing by their land saying it should water their crops, who will sue to declare lawns unreasonable use for water during such dry times.
I’m not saying that you don’t get or see the big picture. But what I’m saying is that this water crisis is local and it is statewide. It is local because, well, everything is local. It is regional. And it is statewide because 40% of your water comes from outside the aquifer underlying the San Gabriel Valley.
btw: you can at least post a correction at the bottom of your web site post saying that I claim not to be an insider. Even if you make light of that claim, you should at least post it and let your readers decide for themselves.