Schwarzenegger’s Romance with New Water Sources Misguided

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Proposed water bond flawed financially, environmentally, and politically, Gleick testifies

Contact: Ian Hart, media(at) or 510-251-1600

(Sacramento, Calif.) The Pacific Institute’s Dr. Peter Gleick had no love for new water sources in his testimony before the State Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water (Chair, Senator Sheila Kuehl). In a Valentine’s Day hearing on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed water bond, Gleick touted the positive consequences of improving water efficiency in California as a cheaper, easier, and less destructive way to meet California’s current and future water supply needs, compared to the Governor’s effort to find billions for new, unnecessary dams and reservoirs.

“[T]he Governor’s proposal to request money early in the bond process for new water infrastructure, specifically new dams and reservoirs, is a serious financial, environmental, and political mistake,” testified Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute. “The same amount of money spent on reducing water waste would be far more productive.”

The Pacific Institute’s statewide water efficiency analysis suggests that the state’s total water use could actually decrease 20% by 2030, even with expected population growth, a healthy economy, and a vibrant agricultural sector. This conclusion is supported by the state’s modern history. Between 1975 and 2001, the state’s population increased 60%, gross state product increased 2.5 times, yet total water use decreased. Efficiencies in urban and agricultural water use offset the demands of population growth. What is needed is new policies and programs and political will, not new sources.

Even the California’s Department of Water Resources suggests that new sources are not needed. DWR’s analysis projects that state water demand will decline over the next 25 years, despite expected population increases.

“We have limited water in California, limited money, and competing demands,” testified Gleick. “We have no limit to our ingenuity. We must capture the water savings that are the most cost-effective and environmentally smart, and not build new infrastructure that we do not need and cannot afford.”

Read Gleick’s full testimony: html or PDF.

Other resources:
California Water 2030: An Efficient Future
California Water Plan Update 2005

The Pacific Institute is dedicated to protecting the natural world, encouraging sustainable development, and improving global security. Founded in 1987 and based in downtown Oakland, the Institute provides independent research and policy analysis on issues at the intersection of development, environment, and security.