Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and California Governor Jerry Brown made a unique appearance on Monday at Stanford University.
“The answer is not to go back to a presumed utopia, we’ve got to manage what we have. In a state of 38 million people, we’ve got a management challenge that will take all of the innovation, collaboration and magic of the marketplace.”
California is a “canary in the coal mine” for the world as the state faces an unprecedented drought, combined with new reductions on its critical water supply from the Colorado river. Water scarcity is devastating the economies of the Western US: California agriculture lost $2.2 billion in 2014 alone Texas has lost $25 billion since 2011 because of drought, and Las Vegas is spending $1 billion for a third pipe and a lower level into Lake Mead to tap into its dwindling waters.
There is a fundamental mismatch between the US water infrastructure and the water services requirements for the next decade. As water supplies dry up, water pollution will become more concentrated. In order to tap into the estimated 5.2 to 7.1 million acre-feet of water supply from storm water and reclaimed sewage, California will need to build a second water utility system– onsite and community water systems. The state will need to move fast to set policy and monitoring for these remote systems.
If he wins in November, Brown promised to “put water up front and center.” With over a century of brutal politics around water, California water policy is not for the faint of heart. In what many expect to be Brown’s last term in office, changing the face of California water would set a promient place Brown in the history books.