• Judge Jim Gray

On Government-Caused Water Shortages

We have the wrong systems for delivering water to consumers. They are mostly decreed and run by various governments, thus they are deeply susceptible to politics and, far too often, ridiculously large salaries for too many public water board officials. But if the systems had been run by the private sector, we would years ago have constructed ample storage and water generating facilities. In fact, if these water districts were in the private sector almost all of them would have been driven out of business years ago. Fortunately Governor Newsom here in California has (finally) gone on record saying that we should have made three big changes a long time ago. First, we should have created more reservoirs to store water from the wet years so we still have it during the dry ones. Second, we should have built water desalination plants, which have been used safely and effectively in Israel and thousands of other places for decades. And, third, we also should have built facilities to recycle water. No kidding! Basically this is an admission that it’s actually the governments that have caused the water shortages! So now we must not only build these facilities, but also be more effective at reducing the delays and added expenses caused by governments and their red tape. Nevertheless, we should all also understand that emphasizing a private sector approach does not at all mean that environmental concerns will not be addressed. But bringing the profit motive behind water delivery systems would both streamline the process and re-introduce more of a “cost/benefit analysis” approach, just like we use in making most other intelligent decisions in the real world.

For example, had a cost/benefit analysis been pursued, the Poseidon Desalination Plant in Huntington Beach never would have been held up for so long and eventually vetoed! What a mistake! What were the reasons it was not approved? Basically there were three. Dissenters argued that the plant would have placed lots more salt back into the Pacific Ocean, microbes would be drawn into the plant from the ocean and killed, and the resultant clean water would have been somewhat more expensive. Well, what do you think happens when the sun evaporates water from the ocean? Surely thousands of times more salt stays in the ocean when the sun evaporates its water than the Poseidon plant would have contributed! And, yes, probably some microbes would have been drawn into the plant from the ocean and killed, but what would a cost/benefit analysis have said about the trade-off in that matter? And would we not rather have somewhat more expensive water than not have sufficient water for our needs? Let the pricing system take care of that issue. Of course we need government involvement so that environmental concerns can be addressed. But, as reported in the Orange County Register on August 12, 2022, our present approach adds new problems instead of addressing old ones. First, politics slows every new project down to a crawl and, second, politics often allows labor, business and other special interest groups to use our environmental laws to oppose projects that they don’t like because, for example, they will not hire union workers or they will allow new economic competition to some existing, politically-connected companies. So governments are a primary reason why we are deeply short on water today. We all should demand better!

This article is a reprint of an original post published on Judge Jim Gray's site. The views expressed in it are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, and presently works as a private mediator and arbitrator for ADR Services, Inc. He was also the 2012 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and can be contacted at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net, or through his website at www.JudgeJimGray.com.

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