Editorial: Who's really to blame for big water
Published: August 31, 2012
HERE’S SOMETHING you need to know about
the news media: They think they know everything.
So when they discover something that’s news to them, they think
it’s news to everybody.
And that’s what happened over the last few weeks when the
Monterey County Herald started making a big deal out of
supersized water bills that have been showing up in a few local
mailboxes. Evidently the editors over there at Ryan Ranch just
figured out that the local water shortage is costing plenty of
people plenty of money. Meanwhile, as is their wont, the Herald
blamed Cal Am for causing water bills to spike, whereas it
should be obvious to anyone with the slightest objectivity that
our water shortage, along with all of its terrible impacts to
the local economy and individuals’ pocketbooks, is the fault of
the state and federal governments.
Consider, first of all, who’s being hurt:
- Even if you just use a normal amount of water, your water
bills have increased sharply and will soon be going up a lot
- If you own a business you would like to expand, but the
expansion would require more water, you can’t.
- Anyone who owns a vacant lot that has no water allocation is
not permitted to use the land for anything, and is forced to
accept a great reduction in its value, while still paying full
- If a drought strikes, hotel and restaurant owners may be
forced to close rooms or reduce hours to cut water use.
- Owners of properties that would be appropriate for more
intense uses — such as Pacific Grove’s Holman Building — are
denied access to the water main in the street, and if they can
somehow come up with a way to obtain water have to pay a very
high price for it.
- Anyone who has a leak on his property which he doesn’t notice
right away is going to be hit with a huge bill for the wasted
- All of the above add up to lost jobs, lower wages and
generally reduced levels of economic activity on the Monterey
Peninsula, which affect every working person’s wages, benefits,
savings and retirement.
And why are all these things happening?
- The federal government declared the steelhead trout
population in the Carmel River “threatened” (even though the
fish is very common around the world), thereby severely
restricting access to the river’s water for human use.
- The state government suddenly decided in 1995 that Cal Am
didn’t have the legal right to pump most of the water it had
been routinely taking from the river for decades and ordered the
company to stop pumping it. And the state made this order
without offering the slightest help in obtaining a replacement
- State environmental rules make it ridiculously expensive to
get permits for a new water supply — and may very well make it
- To encourage conservation of the water we’re not supposed to
be using, the state ordered Cal Am to charge extremely high
prices for water above “normal” use.
- Meanwhile, the state agency that ordered the water cutback is
demanding compliance with it.
We could go on and on. The point is that our water shortage,
with all its dreadful costs for individuals and the local
economy, has been caused by government and can only be solved by
government. Cal Am is at the whim of Sacramento and Washington
as to the amount of water it can produce, where it gets it, and
what it must charge for it.
So if your water bill goes through the roof, or you just don’t
like government hurting you and your community when it’s
supposed to be helping, please direct your ire to Sam Farr and