Environmentalists Respond to Sen. Feinstein Rebuke of Water Policy

Environmentalists Respond to Sen. Feinstein Rebuke of Water Policy

In response to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s rebuke last month that environmentalists “have never been helpful to me in producing good water policy,” the Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) and the Pacific Institute recently published a new report claiming that “drought-plagued California could stretch its available water supply as much as 30 percent by making more effective use of existing resources.”

In addition to glaring mathematical errors, the report fails to respond to Senator Feinstein’s concerns and just rehashes the left’s demands that agriculture eliminate growing vegetables, only landscape with native plants, and individuals learn to drink recycled “toilet water.

The NDRC’s report offers no new solutions to California’s historic weather cycles of extreme drought and torrential rainfall. The report claims that “water efficiency, water reuse, and storm water capture can provide 10.8 million – 13.7 million acre-feet of water in new supplies and demand reductions.” Despite the addition of revealing projected savings of 10.1-14.2 million acre-feet of water, the unrealistic NRD recommendations are:  

  • Expect 55% of water savings from farmers who should avoid planting high water usage crops, such as vegetables. But given that California produces 48% of America’s vegetable crop, this solution would seem to be a non-starter;
  • Expect 29% of water savings from businesses and individuals changing their landscaping to native plants. But UC Irvine’s prestigious “Center for Hydrological Modeling” seemed to debunk this common belief when they reported on May 17th: “People often think it’s best to plant native species because it’s believed they use less water. This study shows that native species don’t necessarily use less water.”
  • Expect 12% of water savings from individual “water reuse.” Breitbart California reported last month that Gallup polling found recycling “toilet water” might have more appeal. But the annual energy cost increase to produce 85 gallons of “toilet to tap” water per day to meet the average family of four’s consumption is about $400-$425. To an elitist this may sound modest; but it is about equal to the average annual cost to provide clothes and shoes for a child to attend school.
  • Expect 4% of water savings from storm water recapture. This concept has merit, but environmentalists want to increase taxes with a fee on commercial and residential property owners. But few believe that California, as the highest taxed state in the country already, would spend new tax money on water storage.

With a 100% rating in 2010 from the powerful California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV), Senator Feinstein had been one of the most strident supporters of the environmental movement. She had opposed logging, coal, and fracking; while supporting expanded EPA regulation, Kyoto Treaty, and Cash for Clunkers. That is why it was shocking to her green allies when she almost single-handedly led the effort to pass S. 2198 by unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate on May 22nd.

Passing the 16-page drought bill on a voice vote was considered a “remarkable political feat” for California’s senior Senator, because she used her political clout to eliminate all committee hearings, public reviews, and Senate floor debate. Feinstein abandoned Bay Area Democrats by crossing the aisle to engage Republicans in closed-door negotiations to pass a bill to override what the environmentalists considered settled law.

In response to press inquiries, Senator Feinstein argued, “You can’t have a water infrastructure for 16 million people and say, ‘Oh, it’s fine for 38 million people,’ when we’re losing the Sierra Nevada snowpack.” When asked about the risk of opposition from environmental groups, Feinstein said, “Well, that’s really too bad, isn’t it? I would be very happy to know what they propose… I have not had a single constructive view from environmentalists of how to provide water when there is no snowpack.”

Realistic conservation and efficiency are always good ideas to investigate, but the NRDC report fails to respond to the concerns of Senator Feinstein and the 22 million Californians that are paying a price for the environmental movement’s three-decade refusal to allow providing any new surface ground water storage as a cushion against future droughts. 

The author welcomes feedback and will respond to reader comments.