Looking into a crystal ball a decade ago, San Diego water officials expected dramatically rising demand for water. The region would be using 242 billion gallons of water a year by 2015, they thought.
They were wrong.
In reality, the recession hit and growth stalled. Droughts came and Californians learned to save water. San Diegans are using far less water than expected – just 176 billion gallons last year.
Demand will remain flat for the next five years and then grow only gradually, according to a draft of the San Diego County Water Authority’s latest long-term plan.
These Urban Water Management Plans must be updated every five years. They help determine if there’s enough water for new development and help decide which multimillion-dollar water projects customers will be asked to pay for next.
Inaccurate projections are costly. If water officials underestimate water needs, we’ll be rationing water. If water officials overestimate demand, we’re left paying for expensive projects that aren’t needed.
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I find the task of the water authority difficult indeed when it comes to predicting demand. Despite this county having no shortage of supply, the state mandated the cuts, then the increased costs, we all experienced. That state action was unprecedented, and unlike other state actions on water, took no local situations into account. How does the water authority attempt to predict illegitimate actions by government? Include the almost "no growth" attitude of some activist organizations, often under the guise of restrictions on what you can build, where you can build, and what you can plant, and I find predictions based on realistic metrics and people's freely chosen values essentially impossible. As Derek mentions, freedom is a good thing, and if we were less regulated, I think the water authority could do a better job. History has many examples of state or central planning failing to improve, or even sustain, the quality of life present when instituted. That we should be overly concerned about drought is in error. We can reclaim, or recycle, desalinate, and enjoy the weather in this marvelous place. We have the largest body of water on the planet off our coast. Let's use it to our benefit.
"If water officials underestimate water needs, we'll be rationing water."
I can't think of a clumsier response to a shortage, can you?
A much, much better one would be to evaluate water levels once a quarter and set water prices accordingly: when the water level is high, lower the price, and when the water level is low, raise the price. This would stabilize water levels, and people would voluntarily conserve during times of drought in order to lower their water bills. Then we wouldn't need water restrictions. Freedom is a good thing, right?
@Derek Hofmann "....stabilize water levels''. Say, what? I don't know about you, Derek, but my water usage isn't very sensitive to price changes. If you cut my rate 50% I doubt I'd use 5% more.
@Bill Bradshaw So you're saying is that water for you has a low price elasticity of demand. That's fine. The only way pricing water inversely with water levels wouldn't stabilize water levels is if water's price elasticity of demand were exactly zero.