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By Steve Levy

The Drought: Shared Inconvenience, Shared Responsibility, Shared Solutions

Uploaded: Apr 16, 2015

Water allocation and pricing has always been a contentious issue in California and the drought has escalated both the need for solutions and the age-old conflicts.

The theme of this blog is "shared inconvenience, shared responsibility, shared solutions".

Here are some basic facts and website resources from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

One, urban water uses are about 20% of the state's total uses. The other 80% is split between agriculture and various environmental uses.

Two, about half of urban water use is for outside irrigation?lawns, parks, golf courses and the like.

Three, farmers and urban users have made reductions in their water use. Farmers have reduced acreage devoted to crops, focusing mainly on lower value crops. Urban users have installed low flush toilets, more efficient appliances and have made some progress in reducing other uses?full loads for laundry and dishes, shorter showers, less outside watering.

Here are a couple of recent PPIC articles and a link to their water website.

web link

web link

Here is a link to the Pacific Institute website?another perspective on water issues.

web link

The immediate economic impact of the drought is small but that does not mean that the need to adapt is small or that inconvenience is necessarily small. The farming sector will have small losses in output and jobs as farmers react to reduced supply and higher prices. But farming and food processing is less than 3% of the total economy and the cutbacks will be modest in relation to total output.

There will likely be continuing increases in water prices and some small increases in food prices. But overall the major components of consumer prices are housing (rising rapidly) and energy (falling as a result of oil price decline). Overall inflation is running below 2%.

But it does make sense to do the short term adaptations fairly and prepare for the best approach to a continuing drought.

Technology, broadly viewed, can help as it has in energy. Desalination may become economic. More efficient toilets and faucets are now required on new construction and we have more scope for improving efficiencies in existing structures. I am not an expert in water so there may be more technology/conservation measures.

Higher water prices will lead to adaptations. Farmers will continue to move production from low value water using crops to higher value crops. In 20 years we may produce little cotton, rice or hay. Urban users may find it economic to rethink outside water use by converting some green areas to less water using coverage.

It will be interesting to see if the drought brings forth more finger pointing and asking "the other person" to make all the adaptations or will, instead, the drought lead to a sense that we are all in this together with shared responsibility and seek shared solutions.

Thoughts on responding to the drought as individuals and as a society?