Coachella Valley Water Conservation Questions

Summary.
Governor Brown has proclaimed a drought emergency and called for a 20% cutback in state-wide water use. Coachella Valley water officials have either ignored or dismissed the Governor’s water use reduction request and appear to believe voluntary conservation measures taken by water users will suffice to address existing valley water shortages and future needs.


Coachella Valley Water Conservation Questions

Palm Springs, California.  Coachella Valley is running out of water and little of substance is being done to adequately address the problem. The valley aquifer water table is falling as more water is being pumped out than replenished. Great reliance is placed on importing water from outside sources but the amount available and coming in is less than that needed and being consumed. Water conservation is more of a lip-service concept than a practiced reality. The local newspaper is hosting a series of water forums but they are not expected to result in meaningful plans to address valley water shortage problems.

Of significant concern is that too many Coachella Valley officials appear to have a definition of water conservation that does not include provisions for mandatory controls, rationing, penalties for excessive use – or even a definition of what constitutes overuse. Valley water rates are among the cheapest in the state so water costs do not encourage limited use. Significant voluntary water conservation, a concept that has seldom been proven to work, is the only solution being considered at this time.

The water shortage problem is one being faced by more than Coachella Valley. California is undergoing a severe water shortage crisis made of even greater concern by drought conditions. It’s an issue that caused Governor Brown to proclaim a drought emergency. The proclamation noted the state is experiencing the “worst dry spell in a century” and state overall precipitation “is less than 20 percent of normal“. The governor reportedly is “urging voluntary water conservation to the tune of a 20% reduction” in state-wide water use.

Governor Brown’s 20% conservation request has not found favor among valley water officials. Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) General Manager Jim Barrett implied the Governor’s approach represented “reactionary measures” not appropriate for his agencies “long-term water management approach“.

Desert Water Agency (DWA) Board of Directors President Craig Ewing responded “Desert residents have always made conservation a way of life.” In her rebuttal letter Karen Braff, a resident of Palm Springs for 55 years, responded “I know for a fact that water conservation has not been a way of life in Palm Springs. Millions of gallons of precious aquifer have been used to water grass on huge condo green belts, golf courses and homes and even the DWA office complex until 2007.”

As a resident in one of those “huge condo green belts” I’ve heard no calls from fellow owners or our HOA Board of Directors for a water use cutback. In fact I’ve not heard of such concerns being expressed anywhere by the larger water users. The simple truth is that few are prepared to change their water use habits unless forced to do so. Those who might be convinced to cut back may rightfully question whether voluntary water use restrictions, including expensive conversion to desert landscaping, will be mirrored by others in the community. Also, many may hold the view they already are genuine water conservations who have been doing a good job at saving the stuff. Certainly that would appear to be the message they’ve been hearing from the Desert Water Agency in Palm Springs.

Coachella Valley water officials need to address the Governor’s drought emergency proclamation. In that regard, many questions exist but few answers have been provided.

  • Do local officials agree with the call for a significant reduction in water use?
  • Is the Governor’s 20% reduction goal a target water officials share?
  • Do specific plans exist to achieve a local 20% reduction in water use?
  • How and when will water reduction plans take effect?
  • If there is no agreement with the need for a 20% water use reduction, what alternatives exist or are being considered to address valley water conservation shortage issues?


Is Coachella Valley destined to remain a premier state poster candidate for cheap water consumed to excess by a community whose greatest concerns appear based on water-induced financial rewards?

Bond Shands
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
January 27, 2014

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