GOP says dras­tic wa­ter rules not the an­swer

Ur­ban con­sump­tion in Cal­i­for­nia just 10%

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

For Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Jerry Brown to crack down on shower-tak­ing and toi­let-flush­ing to save pre­cious quarts of wa­ter as mil­lions of gal­lons flow into the Pa­cific Ocean doesn’t make a lot of sense to Travis Allen.

The Repub­li­can As­sem­bly mem­ber from Or­ange County is among those de­cry­ing the specter of dead lawns, dirty cars and neigh­bor­hood wa­ter watches as Cal­i­for­nia braces for its first manda­tory wa­ter re­duc­tions on ur­ban con­sump­tion, which ac­counts for about 10 per­cent of the state’s us­age.

“For the gover­nor to come out and say, ‘Look, we all have to now take shorter showers and kill our front lawns and stop wash­ing our cars,’ that is not the an­swer,” Mr. Allen said. “Forty per­cent of our wa­ter is go­ing into the Pa­cific Ocean. The an­swer is, let’s stop send­ing that wa­ter into the Pa­cific, and let’s send it into our cities, into our homes.”

With ev­ery­day Cal­i­for­ni­ans now on the hook for dras­tic con­ser­va­tion mea­sures, Repub­li­cans say the time has come to fo­cus on the real cul­prit: a state and fed­eral reg­u­la­tory frame­work, fu­eled by en­vi­ron­men­tal lit­i­ga­tion, that re­quires a cer­tain aquatic en­vi­ron­ment for at-risk fish while mak­ing it nearly im­pos­si­ble to build dams and other wa­ter-stor­age projects.

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy de­scribed Mr. Brown’s April 1 ex­ec­u­tive or­der as the “cul­mi­na­tion of failed fed­eral and state poli­cies that have ex­ac­er­bated the cur­rent drought into a man-made wa­ter cri­sis.”

“Sacra­mento and Wash­ing­ton have cho­sen to put the well-be­ing of fish above the well-be­ing of peo­ple by re­fus­ing to cap­ture mil­lions of acre-feet of wa­ter dur­ing wet years for use dur­ing dry years,” the Bak­ers­field Repub­li­can said in a state­ment. “Th­ese poli­cies im­posed on us now, and dur­ing wet sea­sons of the past, are leav­ing our fam­i­lies, busi­nesses, com­mu­ni­ties and state high and dry.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have long blamed agri­cul­ture for ab­sorb­ing more than its share of wa­ter, but fig­ures from the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Wa­ter Re­sources show that farm­ing ac­counts for about 41 per­cent of ap­plied wa­ter us­age. Fully 48 per­cent is re­served for en­vi­ron­men­tal pur­poses, which in­cludes im­prov­ing the health of the Sacra­mento-San Joaquin Delta and its most fa­mous in­hab­i­tant, the delta smelt.

So far Repub­li­cans, farm­ers and busi­ness in­ter­ests have been un­able to drum up much out­rage over the sit­u­a­tion, but that may change with the Demo­cratic gover­nor’s his­toric re­stric­tions, prompted by a record low snow­pack and fourth year of drought.

The or­der calls for ur­ban wa­ter agen­cies to achieve a 25 per­cent re­duc­tion through meth­ods such as in­creased rates, re­duc­tions in kitchen and bath­room faucet flow rates and con­vert­ing 50 mil­lion square feet of lawn into “drought-tol­er­ant land­scap­ing.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists laud the stricter con­ser­va­tion or­der.

“The days of ca­sual waste and inat­ten­tive con­sump­tion are over in Cal­i­for­nia,” Steve Fleischli, wa­ter pro­gram direc­tor of the Nat­u­ral Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil, said in a state­ment. “Now ev­ery­one will be ex­pected to do his or her part to help save wa­ter.”

Cal­i­for­nia As­sem­bly Speaker Toni Atkins called the gover­nor’s move “the right step at the right time. Now it’s up to all of us to do our part.”

But Mr. Allen says he al­ready is get­ting calls from his con­stituents, who see such mea­sures as a drop in the bucket.

“I think the big­gest back­lash is ac­tu­ally com­ing from just nor­mal peo­ple, who are tak­ing a look and say­ing, ‘Look, ur­ban con­sump­tion of wa­ter in Cal­i­for­nia is 10 per­cent or less. And so how does not wa­ter­ing my lawn or tak­ing a shorter shower, how is that go­ing to

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