Category Archives: Decision Making

Water Issues on the Ballot in the 2016 Election

With Election Day upon us, are you getting voter fatigue? If so, you are not alone. In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted between October 28th and November 1st, one question asked, “Has the 2016 campaign made you feel more excited, disgusted, or neither?” An overwhelming 82% of respondents said that the 2016 campaign cycle made them feel more “disgusted,” with only 13% saying the election made them feel more “excited.” Also, the poll is telling because only 3% were undecided by answering “neither.” Regardless of your political affiliation, this has been a long and divisive campaign cycle. We have witnessed much drama at the top of the ticket, from Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” to the multiple FBI reviews of Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server. These issues as well as the in-fighting within the Republican Party which escalated when House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow House Republicans in early October that he would spend the last month before the election “focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities” have distracted the American public from some of the real challenges that our nation faces. Continue reading

What Lessons from the Long-term Drought in the West Can New England use to address its Current Drought?

Over the last few years, when we think of drought in the United States, the western US and California in particular have taken much of the spotlight for exceptional drought conditions. While California’s drought conditions across the state have not ameliorated significantly, other areas of the country have slipped into severe drought. Parts of New England in particular are facing extreme drought conditions that rival the severity of California. Continue reading

Beyond Flint: The Future of Water Quality Issues in the United States

In my last post, I wrote about how the water problems in Flint, Michigan may not be an isolated incident in the United States. While a series of missteps and mismanagement led ultimately to the water crisis in Flint, the situation there highlights a much greater problem in the United States: We have generally under-invested in our water infrastructure, and water quality may continue to suffer in other parts of the nation as a result. The water system in Flint has pipes in it that are in some instances 100 years old, and many main lines contain lead. But Flint is hardly alone in facing the problems that aging infrastructure cause. Cities on both coasts, from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles all have lead and cast iron pipes in the ground that will need to be replaced. In 2013, the American  Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) created a US infrastructure “report card” which assigned grades to a host of infrastructure types. ASCE’s report was not kind to the various water categories. Drinking water, waste water and dams got “D” ratings, and our levees got a “D-“ rating. The report estimates that the drinking water system alone will take $1 trillion in investment to bring the US as a whole up to a satisfactory level of service. Continue reading

California’s Urban Water Management Plan Updates: Planning for Growth in an Uncertain Environment

California received some good preliminary news last week following the initial snow surveys for water year 2016. Unlike last spring’s snow survey at which Governor Jerry Brown stood on a bare field, this year’s first survey showed more promise. The survey found 54.7 inches of snow at the Phillips Station plot, about 16 inches more than the average depth measured there since 1965. The snow had 16.3 inches of water content, 136% of the average for that site. However, while the initial snow survey represents a good start, state water officials warned that we are still facing drought conditions, and the precipitation during the remainder of the winter will determine if the drought will break. Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program said, “Clearly, this is much better that it was last year at this time, but we haven’t had the full effect of the El Niño yet. If we believe the forecasts, then El Niño is supposed to kick in as we move through the rest of the winter. That will be critical when it comes to looking at reservoir storage.” Continue reading