“No water left to conserve!” and other profiteer myths debunked.

By John Earl, cross-posted from SoCal Water Wars (previously “Surf City Voice”)

One of the most frequently heard clichés invoked by hard-core advocates of big ocean desalination plants over the past 20 years is, “We can’t conserve our way out of this drought”—said without mentioning drought’s relationship to climate change or providing data to back up the assertion.

That assertion was largely but not totally refuted in response to a derivative question that forms the title of a public webinar held on Oct. 26 by the Southern California Water Dialogue, “Can we conserve our way out of this drought?”

The first of three distinguished speakers on the topic was Max Gomberg, the State’s former top water conservation manager for the state who resigned last July to protest the Gov. Newsom’s lack of resolve to battle climate change during “dark and uncertain times.”

He was followed by Tracy Quinn, a member of MWD’s Board of Directors, Chief Executive Director of Heal the Bay, and former Director of California Urban Water Policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

For perspective, Quinn’s article (NRDC, April 12), “Running on Empty: Is California Doing Enough on Drought?” is a must read, in which she laments “California’s unwillingness to adequately change how we manage water in our rivers and reservoirs in the face of ongoing and long-term aridification in California.”

Quinn focused on “Barriers to Water Conservation & Efficiency: Busting the Myths.”

The majority of Southern California’s water supply comes from the Sierras’ snow pack and the Colorado River. That supply is dwindling due to climate change. So, Quinn reasons, we need to use water more efficiently and that means conserving it to ensure better reliability.

Myth: “There is no water left to conserve.” TRUE? Hell no!

Fact: Greater water use efficiency (conservation) would save between 1.1 million and 1.7 million acre-feet of water per year, mostly in Southern California, according to a recently published study by the Pacific Institute.

[Download PDF: California Untapped Urban Water Potential]

CLICK to read the refutations of THESE myths, on SoCal Water Wars! (previously Surf City Voice.)

  • Myth: “Improving efficiency makes water less affordable.”
  • Myth: “If you recycle you shouldn’t have to use water efficiently.”
  • Myth: “Everyone can access water efficiency rebate programs.”
  • Myth: “Water agencies can’t have programs for low-income households [since, due to Prop 218, one class can’t ‘subsidize’ another’s water bills.]

About Surf City Voice

John Earl is the editor of the Surf City Voice. Frequent contributor Debbie Cook, a former Huntington Beach Mayor, is board president of the Post Carbon Institute.