Drought Is Over But Not Money or News Droughts

Judge’s Reversal May Mean More Water for Pasadena But No Water Rate Relief

“Any party which takes credit for the rain must not be surprised if its opponents blame it for the drought.”

– Dwight D. Morrow

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2010/05/18/2295908/judge-reverses-stance-on-delta.html

Apparently missed by our local newspapers is a May 18 court decision that is likely to now bring more imported water to Pasadena. Oddly, the same judge who issued the order to shut down water deliveries to Southern California some two years ago is the same judge now opening up the possibility of more water for thirsty Southern California cities.

Judge Oliver Wanger issued a 134 page opinion on Tuesday May 18 stating that the science behind the lawsuit to protect the Delta Smelt fish was based on mere “guesstimations” that have had a “Draconian” effect on cities and farms that depend on water from the Sacramento Delta.

The implication is that more water will be flowing to thirsty cities in Southern California.

The judge’s opinion comes in response to water agencies that have requested that an injunction be issued against the prior rules restricting water deliveries to farms and cities. The judge has not yet agreed to an injunction even though he wrote that they “have a likelihood of success.” By issuing an injunction Judge Wanger would be countering his own 2008 ruling to protect fish by deep curtailments in water deliveries from the California Aqueduct.

It is unclear when water deliveries might increase and how much because the judge’s ruling does not affect a restriction that limits water deliveries to protect salmon from May 25 to June 15.

Also last week a new study released by the University of Maryland indicates that it is not the large pumps on the California Aqueduct that are harming fish populations but sewage from cities surrounding the Sacramento Delta. So Southern California is apparently not the major culprit in reducing fish populations in the Sacramento Delta – Northern California is.

Thus the legal drought may be over, and with northern California reservoirs still filling from this season’s rains, the physical drought may be ended as well except for it being officially declared as such. Notwithstanding the filling reservoirs, we should be reminded that drought is a permanent condition in California except when monsoon rains provide about three to five years worth of water storage. California has not experienced such a water storage surplus because of the lack of building water storage facilities despite passing two water bonds in the past few years that mainly went toward environmental studies and building a tourist aquarium in Monterey.

In Pasadena don’t expect water conservation regulations and water rate increases justified to Pasadena residents as necessary because of drought to be halted. What really caused the water rate hikes in Pasadena was a $4 million deficit in the city’s Water Fund from vacant owner and rental new housing in downtown Pasadena as a result of the bursting of the Real Estate Bubble.

Unfortunately, we’re still in a “drought” for money in California due to the state deficit and debt. So don’t expect the Governor or the Director of the state Department of Water Resources to declare the drought officially over any too soon. Raising wholesale and retail water rates keeps money, not merely water, flowing to various levels of government. As they say in the water industry “water flows uphill to money.” Put differently, in a Recession money flows uphill to government, drought or no drought. Remember a few months ago when the regional Metropolitan Water District wanted to raise water rates to fund increased pension benefits to help plug the state’s pension fund deficit? Droughts are convenient scapegoats for raising water rates whether there is a real drought or not.

It is odd how California politicians at every level have trumpeted the drought and the need for conservation and water rate increases but now that both the legal and physical droughts are all but officially over nobody is taking credit for the rain,talking about water rate relief, or suspending conservation laws that have been breaking water pipes in the City of Los Angeles.

Local water agencies have not issued any press releases about this legal reversal possibly because this decision may adversely affect the proposed $11 billion Water Bond on the upcoming November ballot. The local newspaper media is apparently obliging.