Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Water Storage/Water Shortage

At some point, editorial writers, including those writing for the Sacramento Bee, will wake up to the fact that there isn’t a water shortage problem—Northern California produces plenty of water—but a water storage problem.

Fortunately, some public leaders, like Congressman Tom McClintock, realize this and are beginning to shape water policy on an abundance approach rather than restricting its use approach—as we posted on earlier.

A common sense approach will take into account the abundance of water we do have and work to store more of it during wet years for use during dry, and for supporting solid economic growth of local communities that will benefit the whole region, rather than continuing to rely on tired arguments driving too many editorial writers.

An excerpt.

“Folsom's elected leaders probably didn't realize the mistake they were making in 2004 when they persuaded voters to approve a charter measure that was pure politics. The measure, among other things, smoothed the way for development south of Highway 50 by promising existing residents that the city's existing water supply wouldn't be tapped for the expansion.

“At the time, city leaders feared that slow-growth forces might pass a competing measure - later disqualified for the ballot - aimed at stifling any new development. Yet by attempting to appease citizens with Measure W, they placed the city in a costly and untenable position. The bill for that decision has now come due.

“On Tuesday, the Folsom City Council is slated to consider permits for development south of 50. The permits will allow construction of more than 10,000 homes and 7.2 million square feet of commercial, retail and office space over a 25-year period.

“In many respects, Folsom has done a reasonable job of planning this project. You could argue it is too light on housing and too heavy on retail. But it includes thoughtful provisions for schools, open space, transit, bikeways and neighborhood design.

“Yet there's one major problem with this project - its water supply. To comply with the provisions of Measure W, Folsom is banking on a "reassignment" of water from a Natomas agricultural district that could cost nearly $250 million.

“We have no problem with water transfers, as we noted in 2007. But $250 million for 10,000 homes and other development? According to Folsom's own analysis, that will add $38,882 to each new unit of single family housing. And that is just part of the $1 billion in infrastructure needed for this development.

“By taking this route, Folsom faces two different sets of risks.

“First off, water transfers are notoriously difficult to pull off - particularly ones that would shift supplies from farms to cities. Water contractors across California will want proof that Folsom is buying "real water" from Natomas - supplies freed up through conservation or fallowing of crops, as opposed to Sacramento River water that others might claim.”