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California Fights Drought With Data and Psychology, Yielding 5% Usage Reduction

Unknown Lamer posted about 10 months ago | from the we-see-you-drink-too-much-water dept.

Earth 362

dcblogs writes with an article about hackers using technology to mitigate the effects of drought. From the article: "California is facing its worst drought in more than 100 years, and one with no end in sight. But it is offering Silicon Valley opportunities. In one project, the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland used customized usage reports .... that [compare] a customer's water use against average use for similar sized households. It uses a form of peer pressure to change behavior. A ... year-long pilot showed a 5% reduction in water usage. The utility said the reporting system could 'go a long way' toward helping the state meet its goal of a reducing water usage by 20% per capita statewide. In other tech related activities, the organizer of a water-tech focused hackathon, Hack the Drought is hoping this effort leads to new water conserving approaches. Overall, water tech supporters are working to bring more investor attention to this market. Imagine H2O, a non-profit, holds annual water tech contests and then helps with access to venture funding. The effort is focused on 'trying to address the market failure in the water sector,' Scott Bryan, the chief operating officer of Imagine H2O."

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heartfelt mercy to replace violent punishment? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286453)

what a gig? whose idea was that? early adapters are the very mother's milk of creation

compare water usage with "average"? (2, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 10 months ago | (#46286501)

So, how long before they start redefining "average" down below the actual average so as to make even more people feel bad about themselves?

After all, it's pretty much just a line of code to reduce the value displayed under "average use" to be, well, whatever the coder wants it to be.

Re:compare water usage with "average"? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46286575)

Since average, and the way to calculate it are defined in the industry, changing it arbitrarily will be noticed.

Re:compare water usage with "average"? (1)

Kardos (1348077) | about 10 months ago | (#46286765)

Who's going to notice? Are the numbers available such that an interested person could verify the computation of the average?

Re:compare water usage with "average"? (2, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46287139)

The industry takes the very seriously. You can bet people will point it out very quickly. I spent 8 years working with engineers and experts in that field. Like most trades, they like accuracy and professionalism with the engineers.

Re:compare water usage with "average"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286833)

Only if you have the original data.

Did you read the ATL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286877)

If this method has reduced usage by 5% on average, then the average has already been reduced. Which bit eluded you?

And why is it WRONG to stop wasting? After all, this seems to be the complaint you have, though you couch it in the opposite term, I just didn't take the one that made you the victim of someone restricting your use and made it your wanton desire to waste.

Re:compare water usage with "average"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286669)

The advantage of using an honest average is that as the households with the highest usage lower their water use, the average goes down on its own. This assumes that anyone already below the average line has their own reasons and will not respond to the data in an unexpected manner.

However, you are still quite right, even if 90% of the population has lowered their water use to the average and it reaches a stable point, nothing stops the utility from adding a "-2" on the line that calculates the average. It could even be in there already so no one will be able to notice a jump in the average consumption number. Unless the data was publicly available, neither residents nor paranoid Slashdotters could try to double-check the math.

Re:compare water usage with "average"? (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 10 months ago | (#46286703)

The advantage of using an honest average is that as the households with the highest usage lower their water use, the average goes down on its own. This assumes that anyone already below the average line has their own reasons and will not respond to the data in an unexpected manner.

Saving the most water could become a pissing contest ... oh wait!

Re:compare water usage with "average"? (1, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 10 months ago | (#46287271)

I'm trying to figure out why in the world I would lower my usage based on the usage of others around me?

I use the power and water levels I do, because I want to, and the serve my purposes in life, and I can afford to pay the levels I do.

I can't imagine myself lowering (or raising) my usage levels at all based on those others around me..??

Do people seriously keep up with the Joneses that much this day in age in everything?

They don't need to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286869)

If the drought continues they will just make usage reduction mandatory. As has happened in the past, they will probably define reduction in terms of last year's usage, meaning those who compliantly reduced their usage this year get punished and must reduce it below their needs next year, whereas those who refused to reduce it this year will be allowed to still meet their needs next year.

They could save themselves a heap of trouble and just tax usage, and let the free market sort it out.

Re:They don't need to (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286993)

You're right, we should let the free market sort it out. That way the water manufacturers will receive incentive to build more waters when the price of water rises to the level the oil companies are willing to pay to pump it into the ground to get $110 barrels of oil out.

Enjoy your bath at bottled-water prices.

Re:compare water usage with "average"? (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 10 months ago | (#46286997)

You don't have to redefine the average. If people lower their consumption then the average drops by itself.

Re:compare water usage with "average"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287013)

Hey, we try to conserve water. but if my usage is below the 'average' perhaps I might just relax and go the other way and use more water.

Reduce usage - pay more (5, Interesting)

careysb (566113) | about 10 months ago | (#46287041)

In Denver we suffered through a drought that lasted a few years. There was a big campaign to get people to reduce their water usage - and it worked! People significantly reduced their water usage - so much that the water board was no longer getting the revenue that it said it needed. So, the rates went up.

Funny how the rates didn't go back down when the drought was over.

Also, not surprisingly, the golf courses got all the water they wanted.

Re:Reduce usage - pay more (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46287251)

That's a classic conundrum in the industry.

Are you sure yo aren't in a drought? A drought simple means you have less water then demand.
More accurately, current demand will lower you water storage below a certain point. So if your population grows, you could get to a point where demand outstrips even a wet year.

Also, the may be using the money to fund work, like underground tanks.
I will assume you sewage is part of your water bill. They may have a large project that needs funding and your 'water bill' goes up.
You should shoot a professional email to the person in charge of water. If that doesn't get result, contact the appropriate elected official.

You should also ask what percentage loss they experience from leaks and main breaks. less then 20% is considered good. less then 10% is excellent.

Re:Reduce usage - pay more (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287291)

Ah, but Golf Courses are the red herring of California. It's what farmers, who are wasting massive amounts of water, like to point and scream at, to distract from the real issue - people growing shit where they have no business whatsoever growing shit. (And then shipping it to China. But that's another matter entirely.)

Meanwhile, neither golf courses or farmers will be penalized - nay, households will be put to the sword if they don't wring the drippings out of their laundry and drink them.

Amusing captcha: unionize

I started this at my company (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286513)

I had my T&E team start sending expense reports with a ranking compared to average, and a percentage of total.

I also publish the list on our internal Intranet, along with all of the expense reports, so everyone can see who the big spenders are.

Within 6 months of doing so, our expense spending dropped 50%. People are much less prone to spend company money unnecessarily when they'll be called out on it.

Power utility also (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286519)

Ah that explains the monthly 'here is your power usage graph' mail I get every month from my power company. My graph is higher than all the others. Yet I talk to my neighbors and my bill is 'waaaaaaaay lower'.

Contest (1)

unixcorn (120825) | about 10 months ago | (#46286597)

I might take the water use comparison as a challenge and try to use the most water. Isn't more better?

Re:Contest (1)

gnick (1211984) | about 10 months ago | (#46286817)

You didn't use the most water, you recycled the most water! I mean, you weren't breaking it down to hydrogen and oxygen, were you? Or hoarding it? No, you applied it for its intended purpose, and then gave it right back.

Re:Contest (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46286929)

No, it's used. In that it's not longer usable. i.e. not potable.
By you definition, nothing is ever used.

Re:Contest (1)

Sique (173459) | about 10 months ago | (#46287109)

I don't know about California, but in Germany, water gets used on average five times before running into the sea. As collecting and treating all used water is mandantory, and you have to pay for the sewers, the water runs a complete cycle from the well to the utility to your household, the water treatment plant and back into the ground- or surface water, and you pay for the whole cycle.

Re:Contest (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46287279)

I know. It's used, the its' unusable, then it's processed and then it's used again.

Hence, used. i.e. not potable.

Re:Contest (1, Insightful)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 10 months ago | (#46287005)

Yeah alot of ppl don't realize that residential use inside the home goes to the water treatment plant,
then back into the system. Things like lawn watering need to end though, its not practical.

Pool covers need to be made mandatory.

The top usage of water in California is agriculture, and a large portion of it is lost due to evaporation.

If they used a water method similar to wicking, they'd get much lower evaporation rates.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W... [wikipedia.org]

Myself and others have said a water pipeline from the Columbia river would solve their water problems,
but I don't think they want spend that much money.

I think the non-operating desalination plants could be brought back online but power them via solar
thermal as California has plenty of that in this drought.

Also a large amount of groundwater is available, but it needs to be used at a max rate matching the
recharge rate, and no more.

The groundwater could be pumped via solar and windpower to help with long term costs.

Re:Contest (0)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 10 months ago | (#46287323)

Things like lawn watering need to end though, its not practical.

So, how else do you propose to keep up your home value (and enjoyment) with a nice yard, and garden (for looks and for food).?

Do you think everyone should dig up all the grass and use astro turf?

Re:Contest (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46287329)

The desalination system, would need to be rebuilt. Their current state isn't very good.

"Also a large amount of groundwater is available"
sadly, much of it's isn't practically available.

Re:Contest (2)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | about 10 months ago | (#46286909)

Like when someone brings a breathalyzer to a party. You'd think reasonable people would make sure they didn't drink too much. Nope. It becomes a contest to see who can blow the highest reading.

Hey Californians. I live on the other coast and I have a hole in my back yard where I can pump all the water out I could ever want - for free.

Ther eis no market failre in thw water sector (1, Flamebait)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46286603)

It's goal is to get water to people, not make as much money as possible from people.

Only an idiot wants to put resources needed for the most basic survival in the market.

Re:Ther eis no market failre in thw water sector (3, Informative)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 10 months ago | (#46286737)

The real use is farming for out-of-state sales. Industry is second. Home use is a grotesquely distant and minor third.

Getting the home user panicked and guilty and whipped up was a knowing, admitted strategy to try to get legislation passed. Mathematically pointless limit discs are part of this.

Save a few percent -- put off the need for growth a year or two.

Ya wanna do something useful? Make it legal for people who develop alternate sources to preen and waste water luxuriously, sans limit discs and with 200 gallon toilet tanks.

Special taxes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286911)

Well, folks are used to paying too much for water. Walk down the beverage aisle in your local super market.

Markets can be good. There is so much water wasted due to inefficiencies and just plain stupidity - like having a lush lawn or golf course in the middle of the desert. If people really had to pay, it would be an incentive to be more efficient. Agriculture is not efficient with their use of water because it's so cheap and growing grass for lawns or golf courses are the dumbest uses of water I can think of.

Water use taxes are a better option because it won't make drinking and cooking water expensive but make stupid uses pay their way. I think there should be a special water tax on golf courses. They can afford it anyway. The same for lawns.

These old people move down to the Southwest for the desert weather and what do they do? Plant lawns and other water intensive plants that have no business being in the desert. And being old and rich, they put in golf courses, too. In the meantime, others have to deal with less water for drinking, cooking and agriculture.

Re:Ther eis no market failre in thw water sector (0)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 10 months ago | (#46287043)

"Only an idiot wants to put resources needed for the most basic survival in the market."

I think you need to replace idiot with sociopath/psychopath as most only care about
themselves, and they are hard wired that way.

The mental evaluation of most corporations in the film "The Corporation" shows them to
fit this mental make up quite often, as well as a large number of politicians.

Re:Ther eis no market failre in thw water sector (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 10 months ago | (#46287057)

There is a difference between selling water and actually getting the water to you. Are you saying it should be delivered to you for free?

Re:Ther eis no market failre in thw water sector (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46287345)

Nope, at cost +- 1%

I have a better idea (5, Insightful)

oic0 (1864384) | about 10 months ago | (#46286615)

Stop trying to farm and build huge cities in the desert. When you fuss about not being able to find enough water in the desert I just want to sit in my muddy, humid, rainy state... and watch you die of thirst.

Re:I have a better idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287207)

The drought has been caused by radical environmentalists promoting the interests of the delta smelt over the interests of people. The severity of the current drought is entirely man-made at the behest of eco-radicals.

P.S. CA's central valley is not Los Vegas which is a city truly built unnecessarily in the desert.

Re:I have a better idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287349)

...and has nothing at all to do with changing weather patterns and AGW, huh? Fuckwit.

Manufactured Crisis (4, Funny)

iggymanz (596061) | about 10 months ago | (#46286623)

so a group of peope had the brilliant idea of building massive cities and huge agricultural farmlands in a desert, made possible by unsustainable draining of acquifers and importation of water from other states.

and now they have a "drought"?

can't raise enough moisture for a tear over here....

Re:Manufactured Crisis (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 10 months ago | (#46286755)

So you're against watering crops then?

If you have good land, but it lacks water, then you find a way to add water, and then you can grow food there. Useless land becomes valuable and people can eat. You are apparently against this. Why?

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286825)

if the amount of water required to irrigate the 'good land' isn't sustainable then i would consider that 'bad land'.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Kohath (38547) | about 10 months ago | (#46286981)

Please define "sustainable" in this context.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287335)

> Please define "sustainable" in this context.

"Can it be sustained". There you go.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (5, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | about 10 months ago | (#46286899)

I'm against watering a barren blazing desert in the west trying to pretend its "farmland"

Re:Manufactured Crisis (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 10 months ago | (#46286959)

There's no need to pretend. It's a farm when you water crops. It's not a farm when you don't.

Are you against planting crops too?

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287047)

I don't know about iggymanz, but I don't think crops should be planted in an unsustainable area.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Kohath (38547) | about 10 months ago | (#46287077)

Please define "unsustainable" in this context.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (3, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | about 10 months ago | (#46287195)

water levels in the aquifers are down 15 to 50 feet since year 2000, not being replenished as the absurd amounts of water on the pretend "farmland" and the too-huge cities are leading to the inevitable conclusion

Re:Manufactured Crisis (1)

evil_aaronm (671521) | about 10 months ago | (#46287265)

An area is unsustainable for farming if you can't get enough water to irrigate the crops.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46286967)

There aren't a lot of farms in Los Angels, and not all of Ca was desert.
How is producing almost all the tomotoes used 'pretending' to be farmland?

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286955)

If you eat, the terrorists win!

Re:Manufactured Crisis (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#46287015)

If you have good land, but it lacks water, then you find a way to add water, and then you can grow food there.

Like rice in the Sacramento Valley? Yeah, that makes sense in a semi-arid area.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (1)

jxander (2605655) | about 10 months ago | (#46287225)

If you have good land, but it lacks water, then you find a way to add water, and then you can grow food there.

Please define "good" as it pertains to land and growing food. Because I would think that lacking water is a pretty big impediment for good farmland.

Re:Manufactured Crisis - Oblig (3, Funny)

Havokmon (89874) | about 10 months ago | (#46286785)

Can't talk about a drought in/near a desert area without obligatory Sam Kinison.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286891)

What I don't understand is... how can a state that has max sunshine and borders the Pacific have a drought. SET UP SOME FRESNEL LENSES AND BOIL OCEAN WATER RETARDS! They just aren't trying.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287063)

Or maybe run ocean water inland. Use it to fill up lakes. It will evaporate and cause ... rain.

(then one must consider the cost of running the water inland).

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287053)

Re:Manufactured Crisis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287117)

You write "drought" in quotes as if it's artificial. California has received less rain in the last year than has ever been recorded since record keeping began. That qualifies as a drought. California has the infrastructure to manage their water with typical precipitation levels and the "regular" droughts. What California is not prepared for is mankind's disruption of the jet stream and the subsequent unprecedented drought.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 10 months ago | (#46287247)

Actually per the wiki on California water most of the groundwater is not being used because it requires
energy to pump it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W... [wikipedia.org]

I think they could setup solar thermal powered pumps.

Also the rights to the ground water are totally available to the farmer.

This is more about cheap water, then the totality of water.

There is enough groundwater to do what they need, but they will need to
mind recharge rates if they switch to a major pumping operation or they
end up like the Oolagah Aquifer which is becoming depleted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

If they switched to some type of wicking method for watering it would
massively reduce their evaporation losses.

Re:Manufactured Crisis (2)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 10 months ago | (#46287369)

In truth this is a 1 out of 100 year drought. It most certainly is not manufactured as it has not rain yet in southern California and the rainy season is almost DONE.

But to answer your post on why? The answer is easy. RAISE PRICES! Raise them high enough and then you can afford to pump them out with disiel powered pumps too. Keep in mind you can't just get the water out of the ground overnight.

You need to have infrastructure to move it, rights, plenty of capital while you wait to get paid, etc. These things take time.

Raising prices will also curb usage as well.

I think a HUGE crises will hit when Hoover Dam shuts down due to lake Mead drying up FIRST and it is a possibility that LA will have no water this fall. The state will be totally out :-(

Raising prices ensures there will be supply left.

flow = pressure/resistance (3, Interesting)

unixcorn (120825) | about 10 months ago | (#46286673)

Why not simply lower the water pressure by 10% to curb water usage?

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (3, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about 10 months ago | (#46286749)

Why not simply lower the water pressure by 10% to curb water usage?

That might be practical but it depends on geography. You might find that people in low-lying areas need a high pressure just to that the water reaches the houses on the top of the hill. Also it depends on usage - someone with a conventional shower may save water when pressure is reduced, but someone who takes a bath or had a power shower probably won't.

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 10 months ago | (#46286757)

...to which people would respond by letting the tap run a little longer. If I want to take a bath, I don't have a set time I let the water run and get in. I have an amount of water I'd like to have in the tub, and if it takes another 45 seconds to get there, I just might not notice.

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46286987)

Stop taking baths. Shower.

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286789)

Because it wouldn't be fair to people living in tall buildings...

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (1)

Kardos (1348077) | about 10 months ago | (#46286799)

Might work for showers, but not for people filling bathtubs and washing machines.

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 10 months ago | (#46287299)

85+% of water is used for Agriculture and Industry.

The majority of California water is used by the agricultural industry. About 80-85% of all developed water in California is used for agricultural purposes. This water irrigates almost 29 million acres (120,000 km2), which grows 350 different crops.[8] Urban users consume 10% of the water, or around 8,700,000 acre feet (10.7 km3).[9] Industry receives the remnant of the water supply.[10]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W... [wikipedia.org]

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 10 months ago | (#46286809)

Why not find a way to supply the water people need? Why shouldn't everyone who is willing to pay the transportation costs be able to use as much water as they want?

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 10 months ago | (#46286923)

Why not find a way to supply the water people need? Why shouldn't everyone who is willing to pay the transportation costs be able to use as much water as they want?

Because politics. Farmers want 80% of California's water.

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 10 months ago | (#46287007)

Lots of people want lots of things. So what?

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287069)

So they are trying to lower the usage of the other 20%? Makes sense....

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286999)

This is a 1%er argument. If I can afford the equipment and rights to blow the top off that mountain, why shouldn't I be able to? Forget the people at the base of the mountain...if they wanted to live in a clean environment, they should buy this mountain top and not blow it up. If I can afford 80% of the worlds resources, why can't I put on a 1.27 billion gigawatt lasershow in my family room that runs 24/7 powered by the fuel I extracted by blowing up the himalayas?

It's about encouraging thoughtful use of resources. It's like Kenny Powers in This is the End using the last remaining water to wash his feet...a horrible misuse of resources. And if there is ever a resource critical to the world, and collectively owed to the world, it is water.

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (1)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 10 months ago | (#46287353)

Good Point, one idea is a aqueduct/canal/pipeline from the Columbia River which has a discharge rate FAR beyond
all the other California aqueducts combined.

I'd say bring it down the coast at a flat elevation thus near zero energy requirements.

Would be a good project to put ppl back to work much like the CCC of the last Great Recession...

Re:flow = pressure/resistance (3, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 10 months ago | (#46286975)

Because building plumbing is built on the assumption that street water pressure levels are a certain figure. Decrease the water pressure and you find you have a lot of buildings in which the top floor doesn't get less water--it gets *no* water.

Why is there so much space and GRAY now??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286747)

What happened to slashdot's design? It's so much harder to read now. Bring back black text and white backgrounds! My eyes hurt reading here.

There's no "Market Failure" in California (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286759)

There's a government failrue [nationalreview.com] that's decided that 3" fish are more important than people.

The Central Valley’s woes began in earnest in 2007, when the hardline Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) won a lawsuit against California’s intricate water-delivery system, sending farmers like John Harris into a tailspin. In court, the NRDC’s lawyers contended that the vast pumps that help to funnel water from the reservoirs up in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta down to the Central Valley, to Southern California, and to the Bay Area were sucking in and shredding an unacceptable number of smelt — and, the smelt being protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1994, that this was illegal.

Given that the NRDC has long wished for farming operations in the valley to be curtailed on the peculiar grounds that it isn’t native to the area, this struck many observers as rather too convenient. Nevertheless, the outfit managed to convince Oliver Wanger, a George H. W. Bush–appointed federal judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, and with so much authority over matters environmental having been delegated, centralized, and put in the hands of judges and bureaucrats, that was all that mattered. Wanger ruled that the protections afforded to the smelt were insufficient and ordered the federal Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a new “biological opinion” on the matter — this time without deciding that the smelt was in “no jeopardy.” And that, as they say, was that. What the NRDC could never have achieved legislatively, it achieved via the good old American tradition of lawyering up and smiling at a man in a robe. In 2007, the pumps were turned down; the Delta’s water output was lowered dramatically, contingent now upon the interests of a fish; and the farms that rely on the system in order to grow their crops were thrown into veritable chaos. Predictably, a man-made drought began.

This is a classic tale of activist government run amok — and, too, of the peculiarly suicidal instincts that rich and educated societies exhibit when they reach maturity. Were its consequences not so hideously injurious, the details would be almost comical. As a direct result of the overwrought concern that a few well-connected interest groups and their political allies have displayed for a fish — and of a federal Endangered Species Act that is in need of serious revision — hundreds of billions of gallons of water that would in other areas have been sent to parched farmland have been diverted away from the Central Valley and deliberately pushed out under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Pacific Ocean, wasted forever, to the raucous applause of Luddites, misanthropes, and their powerful enablers.

Re:There's no "Market Failure" in California (2)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | about 10 months ago | (#46287373)

The funny thing is they could use a sand filter to 100% stop the fish being killed
and transfer the water thru the sand into the system.

Sand filter is old tech and requires zero power.

Privacy, Cost (1)

knightghost (861069) | about 10 months ago | (#46286841)

Does anyone else see another annihilation of privacy here?

If you want to reduce water use then eliminate the corporate welfare for agriculture. Better yet, reduce the number of people in the strained geography. It's simple math: Total Resources Available = Resource Consumption Rate x Number of People

What's the best way to control this? Cost. Remove all the subsidies beyond a minimum X gallons per person. Let people and markets drive the rest.

Re:Privacy, Cost (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46287001)

Another step towards third water nation status. Just make it too expensive and let people live in squalar.

Re:Privacy, Cost (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46287045)

Market drive water fails. I mean, it makes money, but you end up with more squallier.

Which is fine if you plan is to drive the country into 3rd world status.

It's not like you can have competing markets with a water system.

Re:Privacy, Cost (1)

pepty (1976012) | about 10 months ago | (#46287059)

It's simple math: Total Resources Available = Resource Consumption Rate x Number of People

What's the best way to control this? Cost. Remove all the subsidies beyond a minimum X gallons per person. Let people and markets drive the rest.

"Corporations are people, my friend"

So now on top of everything else farmers will have to buy and administer hundreds of shell companies to get enough water to keep going.

There is no drought in California. (4, Insightful)

Snufu (1049644) | about 10 months ago | (#46286871)

There is merely a shortage of raw materials (H2O) for big agriculture.

Agriculture consumes 80% of the water in California and contributes 5% of the economy. There is sufficient water in California to supply the cities 5 times over.

But before you fly-over states get all self-righteous, think about this the next time you buy fresh salad greens in January.

Re:There is no drought in California. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286941)

Hard to eat the other products and services though. We still need food, and bankrupt farms aren't a good thing.

Re:There is no drought in California. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287213)

They are if you make your money by importing produce from Mexico, Brazil, and Chile.

Re:There is no drought in California. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 10 months ago | (#46287021)

"There is merely a shortage of raw materials (H2O) for big agriculture."
that's the definition of drought. Not enough water for your needs.

Re:There is no drought in California. (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 10 months ago | (#46287159)

think about this the next time you buy fresh salad greens in January

Or the next time I get rice grown in the Sacramento valley - the perfect crop for a near desert.

BTW, were you under the impression that CA and the Southwest are the only places that are warm in the winter and within easy reach of CONUS? Please check your map. The whole thing, including so-called "water rights", is a big subsidy to farmers, who also yell for cheaper labor because, bottom line, they wouldn't be competitive without these subsidies. Want to ship all our industry to China? No problem - just save us from foreign lettuce!

Re:There is no drought in California. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 10 months ago | (#46287351)

But before you fly-over states get all self-righteous, think about this the next time you buy fresh salad greens in January.

I only buy moles' asses in January. I don't ask why the moles raise livestock, but they sell the stupid ones for extra cheap (which is great because they're less stubborn).

Exciting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286927)

As someone who lives in Alameda County, I have been greatly saddened by a reduced rainy season...I love my rain. I'm trying to be aware of my water usage, and have been looking at ways to reduce. One key place, that I think is dramatically impactful on the water I use is in how I clean my dishes. Rinsing dishes, pots and pans, right after use is a huge water saver...no need to waste water soaking them to make them easier to clean.

Moderate flushing, as well, is another area.

Was it really the usage reports? (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about 10 months ago | (#46286949)

Did the usage reports really result in a 5% drop in water usage, or is it the fact that for the past 4 months, you can't watch the news without hearing all about the drought conditions and how people have to stop flushing their toilets so much. Meanwhile, residential use accounts for only 10 - 15% of California's water use, so even if everyone cut their use by 20%, it really wouldn't solve the problem.

San Fran wastes water (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46286973)

San Francisco dumps water into the ocean. Wasteful hippies.

Psychology? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 10 months ago | (#46286985)

"These are not the faucets you are looking for."

Drought is politically created (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287137)

CA is suffering a lack of water because billions of gallons of fresh water have been dumped into the ocean in order to supposedly "save" an insignificant fish.

Latino immigrants vote Dem to get gov handouts which keep Dems in power. Dems in power cater to extremists in their own party resulting in CA's drought and CA's brainwashing of kindergarteners with the radical politics of alternative sexual lifestyles. CA is in bad shape now, but it is going to be one truly f***ed up place in 20 years.

Residential use is a drop in the bucket (3, Informative)

masman (811765) | about 10 months ago | (#46287155)

I find residential usage citations vary from 5-13% of total California water usage. Let's say it's 10%. I'm having a hard time figuring out how cutting my usage by, say, a big 25% along with every other California resident is going to solve the problem when that represents maybe 2.5% of total water usage. Don't get me wrong, I see no reason to waste water unnecessarily, but I just don't get all the emphasis on residential usage when it's a drop in the bucket. What am I missing?

Meanwhile, in Toronto... (2)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 10 months ago | (#46287177)

Water saving measures have drained funds from water taxes that are used to maintain the infrastructure...

http://www.theglobeandmail.com... [theglobeandmail.com]

Re:Meanwhile, in Toronto... (1)

rtaylor (70602) | about 10 months ago | (#46287301)

Right. Save a couple billion on expanded water treatment facilities but you need a little extra per litre to cover the pipe maintenance.

It's not a net loss.

market failure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287209)

uh, the invisible hand won't make it rain. predatory capitalists suck more than water.

A drop in a bucket. (4, Interesting)

wcrowe (94389) | about 10 months ago | (#46287239)

Meanwhile billions of gallons of water from California are, essentially, being exported to China [wsj.com] .

NB: I apologize if the article is paywalled. The first look is free.

YoU FAIL it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46287269)

be in a scene and The most. LLok at

Raise PRICES (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 10 months ago | (#46287297)

I do not understand why politicians wont do this. Raise the rates 400% and water usage will drop and in the end a true crises of NO WATER by the summer will be avoided.

The laws of supply and demand benefit everyone even including the consumer. Why don't the left wing politicians see this? It benefits the consumer as Lake Mead wont dry up totally.

When next winter when the snow and rain returns then you lower prices or keep them high while the reservoirs recover. ... oh heck who am I kidding. The top 3 big farm corporations will cry foul and go lobby some money to use up everyone's water at prices below demand and then freak out when no water is left. I hope I am not being too cynical but corruption is pissing me off.

Re:Raise PRICES (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 10 months ago | (#46287393)

You'd have to make a progressive pricing system if they don't have it already: basic usage (what an average family would need for cooking, drinking, and hygiene) is very cheap, a band of usage above that costing more per unit, the next band of usage costing quite a bit more per unit, and so on, about how income taxes are figured.

You'd also want to promote xeriscaping and using graywater for your plants and toilets.

Re:Raise PRICES (1)

bunratty (545641) | about 10 months ago | (#46287397)

I think the left-wing politicians do see this. But when they talk about raising prices or increasing taxes, right-wing politicians complain about tax-and-spend. It's the right-wing that want to keep their hands off the market and let the market do what it will and complain about the left-wing interfering in the free market.
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