Jul 21 2014
Water-The Third Rail Part XVII
There is something fundamentally wrong with the way our society is organized
when the safety and health of a city like San Diego is dependent upon an
appointed board like the San Diego County Water Authority. They have spent
two billion dollars over the past decade to build water storage facilities,
when the need is to develop new water. A friend of mine just commented on
the foolishness of raising San Vicente reservoir so more water could be
stored. He said, “That is the same kind of a policy one would do to solve
the poverty issues by increasing the size of one’s billfold”.
So how can one group of people sit around and decide to spend two billion
dollars and not spend one thin dime on new drinking water? Easy, they are
not accountable to voters.
Suppose a movement got underway to build a two billion dollar government
center financed out of property tax dollars. Do you think there is a
possibility there might be a public vote on this kind of a capital project?
Right, no question. Now it might pass, like the ill-fated high speed rail
project. But at least the public would have given their blessing to it.
Let’s go back to the two billion spent by SDCWA on storage projects over the
past decade. Did the voters ever hear it was being planned? And were there
competing water policies put forward like building potable reuse instead of
storage? Was there anything in any media outlet that a group of appointed
officials were launching on a water policy that did not include any new
No. what happened? The drought in the early 1990’s happened. The SDCWA, in
their infinite wisdom said, “What we need is more storage” to get past these
irritating droughts, so we don’t have to raise the price of water, or go to
severe drought measures. These are not bad thoughts. Those on the SDCWA
Board are smart, well-intentioned people. That is not the point. The point
is water is so critical to the life and economic health of San Diego County.
It is far more important than the hypothetical government center mentioned
above. And for that reason, decisions on major capital expenditures need to
be brought to those who are most affected..the water users.
We all know what capital expenditures are…a $416 million dollar project to
raise the level of San Vicente is a capital expenditure. We should have had
the opportunity to know about this and not only know about it, but vote on
it after a public discussion of the pros and cons. Maybe the result would
have been the same, maybe not. But what we know now is raising the dam did
nothing to reduce the eighty percent of our water supply that is imported.
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