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California's water systems are broken; the blame is on the bureaucrats

By Wes Rolley

California's water systems are broken.

In some cases, it is the physical system such as the long delayed upgrade and seismic retrofit of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct or the many miles of threatened levees in the Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta.

But mostly, the breaks are in the bureaucratic processes by which water is governed, metered out, charged for and frequently fought over.

California's Little Hoover Commission has previously issued reports on water. The most recent, in January 2009 was Clearer Structure, Cleaner Water Improving Performance and Outcomes at the State Water Boards.

Its conclusions start with the recognition that California has an outdated system for dealing with a crumbling infrastructure, a growing demand and a raft of threats to clean water.

Their solution involved a total re-structuring of the system of State and Regional Water Control Boards, making them appointed by and responsible to the Governor.

Following that, the Commission has taken on the challenge to change the total governance of water in California beginning with a new hearing that was held April 23, 2009 in Sacramento.

At that hearing, Phil Isenberg, Chair of the Delta Vision Foundation, testified that the sum total of documented water rights in California is 8.4 times the average water flow through the Delta.

Even if the State Legislature were willing to undertake the task of reforming water governance, no matter what it decides to do, someone will challenge it in court. California's bureaucracies have some 200 different agencies and boards involved in the process of managing our water resources.

Much of the power over water use is devolved into a long list of local water districts, each with its own set of directors and regulations. As far as I know, there are only four greens on any of these water district boards in the State of California. If there is any office that may be attainable, and which might have a long lasting effect on life in California, it is that of Director of a Water District.

The Green Party of the United States recently passed a resolution (#380) that outlines a new process of dealing with water issues.

While Resolution authorizes action by the EcoAction Committee, GPUS, this will not happen without Greens everywhere becoming involved. We must all become active participants in solving California's problems.

We have seen that the California State Legislature is incapable of coming to any hard decision regarding anything of importance. If they can not enact a budget on time, how will they be able to deal with the restructuring of priorities between Central Valley Agriculture and Southern California urban users.

The problems associated with water, its management and its governance in California cry out for Green solutions.

California needs the active involvement of Greens who will take bioregional approaches to the management of watersheds, who will involve the public in the decision making rather than relying on entrenched bureaucracies and special interests to determine our future.

Join the GPCA and the GPUS EcoAction Committee in creating fundamental change.

EcoAction has set up The Green Party Water Works, a public blog at http://gp.org/committees/ecoaction/blog/ That is one place to start. Another is to contact local Green Party councils and to tell them that you are willing to help protect California's future.

It is clear that neither major political party is going to do that.