Friday, March 23, 2007

A plan does not a project make

The state's recent rejection of San Joaquin County's water rights application for the Mokelumne River is a good reminder of this simple fact: until it’s approved and built, a plan for a water project is only that — a plan.

This is especially important to remember as we plan for our county's future. The recently developed regional Integrated Water Management Plan includes a long list of water and wastewater projects, some of which are highly speculative.

Some of the projects in the IRWMP are as likely to fail as succeed. They may be too expensive. They may damage the environment too much. There may not be enough water in the rivers for them or enough land suitable for wastewater disposal. Or people may just find them unacceptable.

On Thursday night, Jim Abercrombie, general manager of the Amador Water Agency, told the Amador County General Plan Advisory Committee that water "will not be a limiting factor in the life" of the new general plan.

Now Jim may have meant: we have plenty of water to supply growth for the next 20 years -- which is true. We can add at least 30,000 to 40,000 people to our county's population based on current water supplies, even without water conservation, efficiency, or reuse programs.

However, what Jim said may have been interpreted as meaning that we can have unlimited growth, which is obviously not the case.

It all depends on whether we plan based on existing water sources or count on speculative projects that may never be built. Considering San Joaquin County's recent experience, as well as Amador County's failed Devil's Nose Project of the 1990s, we'd do well to focus on what is real today.

No comments: