Water resource management in California, as Mark Twain noted, sometimes involves threats and drinking adult beverages. It was not a subject for compromise or even reasoned discussion—until relatively recently. An historic drought consumed most of the past decade. The Legislature passed and the governor signed historic groundwater reform and got a water bond on the ballot and passed. The water/energy nexus became commonplace lexicon. The spectre of a public goods charge on water was tabled for further discussion over the fall.
Let’s learn from history and quit repeating our mistakes. Storage, conservation, recycling, groundwater cleanup, transfers, water reuse, conveyance — the good stewardship solutions are well-known. The conversation began in earnest during the lead up to the water bond. Everyone can share in the sacrifice and the gain.
Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, reminds us repeatedly that “We’re all in this together.” Resources Secretary John Laird, California Department of Food & Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, Department of Fish & Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham and many other leaders all make the same clarion call for cooperation.
Compromise is key. Marcus spoke at a recent luncheon meeting, telling us to “look for solutions. Collaborate. It is not easy to try to first understand someone else and then find where you can collaborate for solutions.” She cautioned against demonizing and finger-pointing. It distracts from getting things done. Do not make anyone who disagrees with you “evil” or “bad,” she said. “This is something we should get over by the 8th grade.” Yes. It is NOT easy, to be sure. Water governance is subject to layered regulations and overlapping jurisdictions, in addition to entrenched stakeholders and honest conflict.
Listen, understand, work together, and agree on actions to make progress. Time grows short. This administration put forward a comprehensive California Water Action Plan, which is a clear roadmap — if we only learn how to navigate and move forward with “all of the above” water management that leaves no one behind. Leave the threats behind and we’ll all share a drink when our work is well underway.