Mesa Water On Conservation: In Cuba Maybe, But Not Here

Note: The Surf City Voice website was destroyed by hackers in December, 2019 and is under reconstruction. This story was first posted Nov. 18, 2016.

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

To the five elected directors of the Mesa Water District, conservation is a Trojan horse, unleashing Cuban-style authoritarianism, drop by drop.

The answer to the worst California drought in 500 years, they say, is to sell more water and build more ocean desalination plants.

“The solution to drought is water,” opined Director Fred Bockmiller during a recent (Nov. 10) Mesa workshop. Conservation doesn’t solve the lack of water, he reasoned, “It just means you don’t use it.”

In 2014, after three years of severe drought and foot-dragging by the state’s 400 water agencies, Governor Jerry Brown mandated state-wide conservation standards designed to achieve a 25 percent reduction in overall water use.

The Governor’s plan increased water savings by 28 percent at little if any inconvenience to Orange County residents.

Fred Bockmiller on conservation: In Cuba, maybe, but not here.

Last May, the State Water Board relaxed mandates for water agencies that promised to conserve enough water for a three-year drought, but conservation rates steadily declined to 17.7 percent last August.

With foresight, the Governor also issued stricter monitoring and regulatory requirements on top of a previous (2010) state plan calling for 20 percent reduction in water use by 2020.

Starting in early 2017, the revised plan requires monthly reporting of increased water-use efficiency, and enforceable five-year storage plans to deal with more severe and increasingly frequent droughts.

But when Mesa Water’s General Manager, Paul Schoenberg, outlined details of the governor’s plan, his directors unleashed.

Director Fred Bockmiller best expressed their objections in the rest of his  convoluted soliloquy,  transcribed here:

So, in an extreme emergency if you’re out at sea and you’re on a life raft, you ration your water, then you are extending the time you have before you die and so you can get rescued. But that doesn’t solve the problem of not having water, it just extends the amount of time you have. To me, new sources of supply, intelligently used, maximizing things are the things that the State Water Resources Control Board ought to be focusing on, not on trying to tell people individually how much water they should use. It’s none of their business what people should use. It’s not the role of government to tell people in their individual daily lives what they should do, at least not in this country. In Cuba, maybe, but not here.

But the Governor’s plan will help the Orange County Water District, northern Orange County’s main water supplier for 2.3 million people, including Mesa Water, get its act together.

The OCWD manages the the County’s underground water basin.

If the OCWD had followed its own guidelines for water conservation and storage for the past five years, the basin would be 70 percent full instead of 18 percent, a dangerously low level that has already led to salt-water intrusion.

Instead of conserving and purchasing enough imported water to fill the basin at a safe level, the OCWD, with Mesa Water’s support, drastically increased its Basin Production Percentage (BPP) from 68 percent to over 75 percent today.

In the meantime, board members at OCWD and Mesa have stirred up public fear of the local water shortage–that they helped create–to justify building a (largely) taxpayer-funded $1 billion ocean desalination plant proposed by Poseidon Resources for private profit.

More on that and Mesa’s anti-conservation rants in my next post.

Note, the following edit was made 12/1/2016: The OCWD manages the the County’s underground water basin.

Note: This article was updated on 7/27/17 with a correction–the BPP upper rate is 75 percent, not 80 percent.

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