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Rearranging the deck chairs….again

The article by Michael Gardner below the fold in the local section of the June 5, 2013 San Diego Union Tribune says in a bold headline, “Water Ruling Favors S.D. Region” and in the first paragraph:

“A judge Tuesday upheld the validity of a hard-fought accord to share the Colorado River, easing anxiety that a key water source for the San Diego region could dry up.”

Here again the tenuous hold we San Diegans have on our water is highlighted. A single judge had us twisting in the wind again. How often do we have to be reminded about how vulnerable we are to the vagaries of the judicial system? And more importantly, reminded about the fragile nature of depending on a several hundred mile long pipeline subject to natural disasters. One significant seismic event in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, long predicted by seismologists, could wipe out the State Water Project leaving us totally dependent upon the Colorado River.

While agri-business in the Imperial Valley is busily shipping our water to china in the form of alfalfa that requires 19,000 gallons of water per bale to produce, San Diegans blissfully go merrily through our days. After all, when we need some water, we just walk to a faucet and, there it is in its good tasting crystalline form, sometimes frozen, making a tinkling sound as the ice is swirled in the glass of water we sip and push away at the dinner table.

The tipping point for the socio-economic health of the San Diego region is not some judge’s decision, it is whether or not there is the political will to promote indirect potable reuse or recycling (IPR). The price tag is high to achieve water independence. Sure, another desalination plant like Carlsbad can be built. That would give us another fifty million gallons per day, a fraction of what is needed. How many years did it take to clear all the challenges for the Poseidon plant?  Imagine the torch and pitchfork mob of NIMBY’s that will march when a major pipeline is to be built to the San Vicente Dam to carry IPR water from a facility 200 times larger than the City of San Diego IPR pilot plant.

Water has always shaped history in North America, often the result of greed and large egos that have temporarily altered our ecosystem. My book, Water Shock, is scheduled for release in the fall of 2013. The scenario it describes is based on real facts, presented by fictional characters. San Diego could return to being the arid desert it was only a century ago. Unless, of course, we can convince our public officials that rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship is a pointless effort, and force them to consider making the San Diego region water independent. Which, by the way, would mean the Metropolitan Water District would lose a major piece of their business, but that is a subject for another day.

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