Fresh perspectives of water series concludes with economics

Rhiannon Ripley, Editorial Assistant


Where there is water, there is life. California is facing a drought and our state and local governments advocate for conservations.

To assure conservation, water rates have risen across the state.

CSUSM held the final forum in the Fresh Perspectives on California’s Water series on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

The first forum in the series discussed the psychology of water, the second covered the politics of water and Wednesday’s conversations focused on the economics of water. This event also spotlighted a new certification program of Water Resource Management and Leadership.

The discussions were moderated by Dr. Tim Quinn, executive director at Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA). Panelists and speakers of this event were Paul Wenger, the executive director of the California Farm Bureau Federation, Dr. David Tuthill, former executive director of Idaho’s Department of Water Resources and current president of Idaho Water Engineering and Tom Scaglione, the assistant general manager and chief financial officer to Vallecitos Water District.

Discussions began with Dr. Quinn, who explained how California’s water infrastructure and policies have changed since the state was settled. Water management began with little government involvement. There was growth in supply. Companies invested in large projects. Their purpose was simple: Bring water to the people at a low cost.

Doing this has become more difficult with government and policies controlling projects. According to Quinn, sustainability and efficiency of our water infrastructure are major concerns, and so are its impacts on endangered species and ecosystems.

It is expected that water will become more expensive, better management strategies will be needed and the market of water will become more vital in economies. The water market had little visibility but now it has evolved into a more complex business.

Dr. Tuthill then addressed basics of the current water market.

Demands have been increasing while supply is diminishing, said Tuthill. Demands have increased over the years due to urbanization, crop production, creation of energy, protection of species and flow of water.

Snow caps act as natural water storage, but California’s melt before the water can be used. Water is also stored in the ground, which in California has been tricky to allocate due to legislation policies regarding ownership. According to Tuthill, the most effective way of managing water and bringing it to people is through collaboration of public and private partnership.

Scaglione explained that their goal is equity, meaning they wish to distribute water fairly and not only make profit. Due to legislation of props 218 and 26, however, fees are “charge what it costs,” not “charge how they behave.”

Charges have been increasing faster than inflation itself. Part of the reason is that, according to Scaglione, though we need to conserve, we have enough water supplied. It is agencies that must conserve and control their supply of water to people. To do so, rates should be raised so only those who can afford it will use it.

Paul Wegner was the final speaker, who represented the farmers in California.

California creates more food than the next two leading states in agriculture, combined. Though the drought has affected behavior and food production, California has still been able to create a good amount of crops, said Wegner. With an increased demand of organic food and disinterest in GMOs in agriculture market, however, more water is needed to meet these needs.