California’s Water Resources Board announced on Tuesday that 379 of the state’s 411 water districts will no longer need to comply with state-imposed water standards, allowing the districts to set their own conservation standards. But the new targets are low — as low as zero in most cases. In this hour of Forum, we’ll discuss what’s behind the Water Board’s move. We’ll also bring you the latest on local conservation efforts and the state of the drought in California.

Related Links:

California Authorizes Zero Percent Conservation Standard for Most Local Water Districts 30 August,2016Michael Krasny

Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager, State Water Resources Control Board
Ellen Hanak, senior fellow, Public Policy Institute of California
Paul Rogers, managing editor of KQED Science; environment writer, San Jose Mercury News
Garth Hall, deputy operating officer, Santa Clara Valley Water District

  • sstanley

    Interesting to see this article on the front page of the Mercury along with two articles reporting massive wild fires in northern ans southern CA. Maybe we should be conserving to help fight these fires. I know, we’re a mess!

  • Jon Latimer

    What can we do to lower the level of water consumption by big ag users in the central valley and elsewhere? ALL of these conservation measures aimed towards consumers are a drop in the bucket compared to what they are allowed to use everyday, yet everyone continues to focus on what regular consumers like us can do to conserve. Makes no sense.

    • William – SF

      Most farmers have gone to drip systems. Used to be sprinklers were the water delivery system of choice. In my travels through the San Joaquin Valley I can’t recall the last time I saw sprinklers being used. (At different times of day, it could be beautiful to watch the spray of hundreds of sprinklers – why I look for them.)

      • Mood_Indigo

        During the height of the drought, I regularly saw farms in Watsonville (on the sides of Highway 156) using sprinkler irrigation in the middle of the afternoon. Just take a drive there and see for yourself.

        The point is that water needs to be priced correctly. Subsidies for agriculture need to be steadily removed so that only those crops that can be grown at competitive cost should be grown here in the desert.

        • William – SF

          Just saying I saw a notable change of water delivery which must say something about what farmers experienced.

          • Mood_Indigo

            I understand. However, the feeble steps they are taking is nothing compared to what they need to take when price the water becomes an issue. The Israelis have shown the way, and they need agriculture in their desert for existential reasons, unlike we in CA.

  • marte48

    Is it possible to fill some reservoirs with salt water for fire fighting?

  • Robert Thomas

    I never cease to be amazed at how unable many people are to estimate orders of magnitude differences between quantities in the natural world.

    The water that could possibly be lifted by all of the DC-10 Air Tankers available in the Western states put together, working continuously through the end of the year wouldn’t make a measurable dent in the state’s stored water levels, precarious as they are.

    • Mood_Indigo

      It’s a measure of the innumeracy of our society.

  • Mood_Indigo

    Santa Clara Water District is a very corrupt organization based on how many of its managers have been convicted.

  • Holly Nelson

    Speaking of water meters, I’ve stayed at a few hotels in California where the water pressure is way too voluminous! Is there a hotline to call and report water waste? One would hope that with the greening of hotels they could also make clients mindful of water consumption, and reduce the water output of their showers. (Claremont in Oakland, to name one of them)

  • Mood_Indigo

    This discussion is amusing because the folks here completely miss the basic problem with water in CA — the ludicrous pricing policy and the massive subsidies to the ag industry.

    The lady on Forum is clearly an ag industry shill. What she will not tell you that agriculture contributes only 2% of the state GDP. 98% of the GDP contributors use less than 20% of the used water. Ag industry is a business. Michael should ask her whether these ag companies are non-profits providing free services to CA residents? Massive amounts of fresh water in effect is being exported to other countries through these ag company products. Consider alfalfa to China. Another example — an almond takes one gallon of water to produce. Almond industry had the highest profits in the industry’s history during the last two drought years.

    There are still many cities in Central Valley where most houses have no water meters.

    • Jon Latimer

      Indigo, you just hit the proverbial nail on the head. I conserve water where I can, but it really pisses me off to hear these ‘industry shills’ as you put it telling us all how we need to try harder when NOTHING is being done to address the root of the problem. Makes me furious!

    • Brux

      The subsidy for agriculture needs to be updated, probably not done away with. No doubt we need to ag industry for all the great fresh healthy food we want at low prices, but we also need power. That 20% of power used to be covered by the tow nuclear plants we had … now both are shutting down and we are adding more carbon to the atmosphere. Everyone seems crazy, and the rich just keep getting richer and thinking it means they are so smart that they must be right all the time.

  • Mark Mollineaux

    The solutions proposed here aren’t using markets, even though that’s what markets are best at doing: rationing a scarce resource.

    Instead we’re pricing urban and agricultural users different prices by fiat, and on top of this, the profits go to historic water-rights holders through the doctrine of prior-appropriation.

    In short, if agriculture’s products are so valuable, they should be able to bear the burden of fair market water prices.

    • Mood_Indigo

      Exactly, the water legacy rights have to be bought by some sort of eminent domain.

  • sme

    This discussion makes me thirsty.

    • Mood_Indigo

      Maybe thirsty for accurate information? The amount of muddying of the water being done on this discussion is impressive, so to speak.
      I’m getting a coffee myself.

  • Tobias Perrino

    The drought surcharge in Oakland seems regressive. It looks like a flat fee per customer, not based on water used by customer. I’m happy to pay a surcharge to cover maintenance of our water distribution system. But I Think the surcharge should be per gallon, not customer. It would continue to encourage customers to use less.

    • Brux

      Yes … I am so tired of clever rich people figuring out ways to make poor people pay for everything.

  • Calleguas MWD

    Difficult to have a serious discussion re conservation when another 1,000,000 acre feet was allowed to flow out to sea under Golden Gate this winter, as opposed to replenishing critical storage. See the results – https://twitter.com/CalleguasMWD/status/765606160712040448 25 million Californians deserve better.

    • Mood_Indigo

      You mean every drop of water should be taken out of rivers before they reach the ocean, or am I misunderstanding you?

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Makes me livid that we do not have a permanent water restriction. This is a LONG term need and is yet another example of self centered Americans not planning long term but using band aid programs that do NOT fix the bigger problem.

    Here in the Angels Camp area we are all on wells and while we have plenty of water we do NOT waste it. We do Back To Eden (www.backtoedenfilm.com) vegetable gardening, have low water use washing machines, modern grey water systems to divert shower, washer, kitchen sink water to trees, rose bushes and grass areas which we need to keep green since this is a high fire area.

  • Brux

    I see reservoirs drying up all over the place … so I just do not understand this ??

  • Brux

    Seems to me that we need desalinization plants, and that requires a lot of energy, and then we need more energy to move the water around. Kind of stupid to shut down both nuclear power plants that have not had any problem that supplied 20% of our power in CA and now use natural gas and other carbon fuels. With enough power we can do almost anything, except if that power is generating huge amounts of carbon in the atmosphere.


Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor