Taxpayers Shouldn’t Give a Dam, Much Less Two

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 9, 2007

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Spending taxpayer money to build new dams in California is a misguided policy, according to the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based nonpartisan think-tank. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to propose building two new dams in tonight’s State of the State address. Yet the Institute’s research shows that curtailing existing water waste would free up far more water for less money and with less environmental harm than new dams.

“New dams are an expensive and environmentally unsound source of water in California,” said Peter Gleick, President and Co-Founder of the Pacific Institute. “We applaud the Governor’s interest in dealing with the impacts of climate change on our water resources, but the best way to do that is through water efficiency improvements and better management, not asking taxpayers to build billion dollar projects that don’t help our water problems.”

Because of improved technologies, conservation measures, and changing industry, Californians use less water per person today than we did 50 years ago. Yet inefficient water use by industry, agriculture, and homes in California still wastes a tremendous amount of water, energy, and money. According to the Pacific Institute report “California Water 2030,” implementing existing water-saving technologies in the public and private sectors could cut water waste by 20 percent by 2030, while satisfying a growing population, maintaining a healthy agricultural sector, and supporting a vibrant economy. No new dams are needed.

“New dams are an outdated solution to California’s water needs,” said Gleick. “Today’s practical solutions look more like Assembly Bill 2496, a water efficiency bill that the Governor unfortunately vetoed in September. That legislation alone would have saved far more water, faster and cheaper, than any proposed new dams.” AB2496, a bill to improve overall toilet efficiency, would have ultimately saved California more than 130 billion gallons of water every year – more than the annual yield of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

“Smart water management can get us to 2030 and beyond,” said Gleick. “California needs to return to being a leader in the area of water conservation and efficiency, not a leader in implementing expensive, ineffective solutions. The reality is that the narrow interests that might benefit from new dams aren’t willing to pay for them. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize continued wasteful water practices.”

In 2007, the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security celebrates twenty years of providing research for people and the planet. Founded in 1987 and based in downtown Oakland, the Institute provides independent research and policy analysis on issues at the intersection of protecting the natural world, encouraging sustainable development, and improving global security.