'Environmental Justice' Starts by Providing More Water for Everyone

If Californians are serious about "environmental justice," they need to find ways to pump more water into the state's remarkable infrastructure systems.


Environmentalists have won the latest battle in California's water wars, as California American Water just announced it is temporarily withdrawing its application to build a desalination plant on an old sand mine in the largely low-income town of Marina near Monterey.

The proposal faced a tough approval process at the California Coastal Commission after local activists complained about its effects on their community.

In a recent article, the Los Angeles Times asked this loaded question in its headline: "Is California serious about environmental justice? This water fight is a test." The issue is simple, according to a former coastal commissioner interviewed by the Times reporter: "Who's got the garbage? Who's got the landfill? Who's got all of it? Marina.…If the commissioners can't see that now, their environmental justice policy is meaningless."

Local communities have every right to be concerned about the siting of industrial facilities, but the worst way to promote "environmental justice" is to halt a facility that could provide much-needed water to a region that has, as even the article noted, "limited water options." Cal Am proposed the desalination plant a decade ago to mitigate other, pressing environmental concerns—and still keep the water flowing to its thirsty customers.

As the Times continued, the investor-owned utility has been over-pumping the Carmel River for several decades. That has obliterated the river's steelhead trout populations. The utility previously proposed building a dam and a larger, more intrusive desal plant, but environmentalists opposed those projects, also. (Big surprise, right?) As a result, Cal Am provides "some of the most expensive water in the country to cities that could not flourish without it."

Read that last line slowly and carefully, as it is an allegory for California's ongoing water problems. If California officials don't invest in water infrastructure and expand our capacity to meet a still-growing population, then water will become much costlier—or will end up being rationed by state edict. It's easy to pick nits with any potential project, but communities—and especially low-income ones—cannot flourish without abundant water.

The Marina project highlights the state's inability to make meaningful tradeoffs. We'd all prefer parks along the coast, but an existing industrial site seems like a perfectly reasonable place to put a new industrial facility. Any project must be analyzed for its cost and benefits ("desal" is relatively costly), but that's hardly what environmentalists are doing.

This fracas reinforces the theme of my forthcoming bookWinning the Water Wars. As summarized in its subtitle: "California can meet its water needs by promoting abundance rather than managing scarcity." California needs to build infrastructure that stores more water during wet years, so we have it during dry years. It must better maintain its existing infrastructure, lest we relive the near-disaster at Oroville Dam's spillways in 2017.

It needs to invest in desalination, water-recycling and allow private investors—such as those attempting to tap a Rhode Island-sized aquifer in the Mojave Desert—to find new water sources. We need a better pricing system that encourages sales and trading, so that companies can buy and sell water like anything else. Unfortunately, the state fights environmental battles over almost any attempt to accomplish those sensible goals.

California hasn't built major water infrastructure since the 1970s, when its population was roughly half its current size. Anyone who proposes a water-infrastructure system must spend years developing environmental reports and fighting environmental groups, which often function like litigation machines. I'd like to see those who oppose such projects be required to provide reports on where alternative supplies will come from.

As the Marina desalination project shows, stopping water projects in the name of "environmental justice" does nothing for poor people who face escalating water bills—and it often hurts the environment, as well. (Marina doesn't benefit directly from the plant, but will benefit if there's more water in the system.) Without the plant, the utility will continue to rely on the river.

It will not be able to, as the article added, provide discounted water to a local farming community. Current water limits harm California's farm regions the most. Those areas have the largest number of low-income residents. Certainly, a planned water-recycling plant near Monterey is a good idea—but it's wise to build multiple sources.

Environmentalists don't only oppose desalination plants because of siting issues, but because of concerns about their effect on a minuscule number of plankton in the nearly measureless Pacific. They oppose new dams—and the raising of existing ones—over concerns about rivers and fish. We must address legitimate environmental issues, but often they are a Trojan horse for opponents' real goals of limiting growth.

If Californians are serious about "environmental justice," they need to find ways to pump more water into our remarkable infrastructure systems. Actually, the current situation is unjust and environmentally destructive. A policy of abundance is the obvious fix.

This column was first published in the Orange County Register.

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  1. You think they care about the environment? They hate people and want them to suffer. I have suggested to someone I know that if they really believe that people are that bad for the enviroment they would man up and commit suicide. I ask why he is okay with have other people dieing but he is allowed to lack the courage of his convictions. Also asked why he doesn't put in the work to invent something better, but we all know the reason... All progressives and socialists are lazy evil retards that want everyone to be as miserable as them.

    1. They hate poor people, not right-thinking wealthy people with electric vehicles.

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  2. Investing in water infrastructure would be going against the too many people on the planet ethos that still threads through the environmentalist movement. The idea that our population could actually still grow and not destroy everything is hard for some to understand.

  3. One of my friends is running for the Water District Board here in Orange County, and the stories I hear are absurd. Water rights are so opaque and convoluted that this environment is rife with waste and probably no small amount of corruption. From water permits rubber stamped for developers to the fact that the Water District actually *owns* several apartment complexes- none of what happens here makes sense.

    I grew up in Colorado, where much of their water is already legally owned by other states like Kansas. But over the past 50 years they have been improving their water infrastructure. Each time a company gets a lease for a gravel pit, they are required to post a bond for turning the site into a lake. It took time, but today Colorado can much more easily deal with short term droughts, because all of these lakes hold excess water during the wet years, to be drained off during dry ones. This process was developed specifically as an alternative to dams, which were increasingly expensive and disfavored by the public.

    The problem with the Colorado method is that it is a slow, low impact process, without enough opportunity for graft or big PR wins.

  4. Haha California.

    1. don't get Ben all riled up.

  5. Environmental justice?...

    I'm really hoping that the Chiefs achieve some superbowl-streak justice this year. Also society needs nice-truck justice because my vehicle's well over ten years old and could be replaced. Could have used some dove-number justice earlier this month when season opened.

    I think that's how this works; just put justice at the end of anything and it makes it righteous and beyond reproach.

    1. "Justice" has become the retard word of the 21st century. People can now imagine any construct of society, and then demand delivery of their ridiculous fantasies because, justice.

      Of course, this type of thinking quickly leads to conflicting and contradictory justice models. Now, where in the world can we see the likely outcome of magical justice conflict, lasting for thousands of years?

      1. It's equity now. Get with the times, boomer.

        1. Equity is a misnomer, as the people who bandy it about are neither fair nor impartial. Justice is a universal, but is often degraded by dipshits adding their preferred prefix, 'social' being the most common.

          1. ^^ EXACTLY!!!
            Justice is getting stolen items back from a robber and punishing the robber for committing crimes against his fellow man.

            "Social Justice" = The robber gets to keep all stolen items and gets off scot-free due to the "poor, any-ism, excuse, excuse, excuse" exception.

          2. When you add a qualifier, like "social", "political", 'substantive"...it usually means "not".

    2. If you hear someone using the phrase, "Environmental justice," you know that they're not serious about environmental policies, nor justice. You can't try to broadly merge two completely unrelated concepts into a cogent proposal.

      It's not to say you can't be concerned about the environment and also concerned with justice, but that doesn't mean there's one policy that addresses both of these at the same time.

    3. As a lions fan I think you need to share some of that super bowl justice.

      Check yo privlige dawg!

  6. 'Environmental Justice' Starts by Providing More Water for Everyone

    WTF? You're insane. Environmental justice demands that if one person doesn't get water then nobody gets any water. It's about choking off the water supply to people who are getting more than their fair share of water, not about increasing everybody's share. Where have you been hearing this sort of bullshit?

    1. Except for movie stars. They can use water for pools and nice lawns.

      1. And washing their personal jets.

  7. Don't worry. Left-wing magical thinking will provide all the water they need!

    1. Science!!!!

      1. 'Science is real. Black lives matter. No human is illegal. Love is love. Women's rights are human rights. Kindness is everything.' The current cult stickers and banners. All their virtue signaling in one treacly sickening spot. And utterly free of rational thought or attachment to fact.

        1. Al Gore's swimming pool is always full and he leaves the heater on so it will be warm when he returns from jetting around the world attending Water Justice conferences.

  8. "We'd all prefer parks along the coast, but an existing industrial site seems like a perfectly reasonable place to put a new industrial facility."

    And we'd all prefer lying around all day instead of working, and getting all the stuff we wish for from magical unicorns owned by the state.

    Any other retarded ideas we can institutionalize?

  9. The environmental whackos don't care if the state has enough water to support its population. The answer to them is fewer people, not more water. They want all the dams dynamited and all the reservoirs drained. They don't want the abundant ocean water desalinated, or the tides used for generating electric power. They think than can enjoy their museum style air conditioned houses and drive their Teslas with wind and solar power, and everyone else can pound sand. In this case, literally.

    1. Some thing the author fails to mention is that California mandates that HALF of the water that comes into the state, from rivers or rain, must be allowed to flow into the ocean.
      If they managed their water better, there would be no water problems.

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  11. It is no coincidence that California is so aggressive in population control measures.

  12. >>more water for everyone

    outside of "we can't get it from outside our atmosphere yet", is water not infinite?

    1. Look if we just screw around with demand, supply is sure to do what we want...

  13. This isn't a problem As more people and industry leave the state, they will end up with more water than they need.

  14. Environmental Justice is an actual oxymoron. The environment doesn't give any fucks whatsoever about you, justice, or actually anything at all.

    Justice is a human construct. Go ahead, try and sue the sun for it's output of energy heating the planet and see how far you get.

    I know that isn't what they actually mean, but the fact they label themselves this is an example of how well they're able to think. I.E. not at all.

    1. In order for there to be justice there must first be grievance. And when the planet is the plaintiff we are all guilty.

      Everything is so terrible and unfair.

  15. If you add a modifier to justice, you no longer have justice!

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  18. The Marina project highlights the state's inability to make meaningful tradeoffs.

    Correction, it highlights Democrats inability to make tradeoffs. This isn't limited to California Democrats.

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