As long as people have lived in our region, water has been an essential element for the life-style, health and economy of our region. Now, however, Pasadena faces a severe water crisis. Water has never been an easy need to resolve, but now population, growth and Climate Change have made the development of a sustainable or resilient water program an even greater challenge.
It's not just a challenge for Pasadena, but also for all of California, and even the nation. Recognizing that, Governor Gavin Newsom has issued an executive order calling for the establishment of a resilient water program for the future, and last year California released the Water Resilience Portfolio.
What does resilience mean? Governor Newsom describes it as the ability "to cope with more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, declining fish populations, over-reliance on groundwater and other challenges."
Pasadena Water & Power (PWP) has unveiled a plan for the next 25 years called the Water System and Resource Plan (Plan). It is a $425 million plan, though, that is not resilient, and it relies heavily on continuing to drain the local Raymond Groundwater Basin, neglecting environmental stewardship and minimizing the impacts of Climate Change.
The Plan will be considered for approval by the Pasadena City Council in February 2021. We hope you will get involved.
There is some good information in the plan, such as much of the factual data it provides about Pasadena water and the emphasis on better management of local supplies and programs. It is worth studying carefully. Here is the link to the document:
Here's what's wrong with Pasadena's Water System and Resources Plan
- The Plan fails to adequately address the disastrous, declining groundwater levels in the Raymond Basin, our vital local water source;
- The Plan evaluates several alternative portfolios but ends up picking the worst alternative, the one that will "Maximize Groundwater Supplies" without stabilizing and replenishing the basin;
- The Plan evaluates alternative portfolios with a questionable ranking system that assigns a low value to cost (11%) and gives a comparable value to intangible factors like "community values" that are difficult to calculate and are often arbitrary.
- The Plan minimizes or ignores the impacts of Climate Change, using only past usage patterns that are overly-optimistic in the era of Climate Change;
- The Plan doesn't provide a detailed comprehensive conservation strategy, setting big goals sparse analysis and suggesting only minimum funding;
- The Plan fails to properly consider the potential for stormwater capture, recycled water, transfers and other 21st century water management programs.
- The Plan has largely been shielded from public review and input; it has only been shared with a small group of insiders and two poorly-attended public meetings held more than a year ago;
- The Plan has a whopping $425 million cost estimate over the next 25 years, which will drive water rates far higher, $250 million more than current revenues without solving key problems;
- The Plan neglects partnership programs with the Raymond Basin Management Board (RBMB), Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and other local water agencies;
- The Plan will likely lead to the demise of the Raymond Basin, an invaluable water resource and emergency supply.
Here's How the City Council and the Community Can Fix it:
- Conduct a comprehensive hydrological assessment of the safe yield of the Raymond Basin and commit to a program that will stabilize and replenish the groundwater levels;
- Develop a comprehensive conservation strategy that emphasizes reducing outdoor water use and wasteful or less-valuable uses of water;
- Ensure that PWP recognizes its environmental responsibility and becomes a steward of the Arroyo Seco and the Raymond Groundwater Basin;
- Foster Landscape Transformation in our city, based on native plants that use remarkably little water and have immense biodiversity benefits;
- Utilize conservation-based rates and incentives to reinforce water resiliency goals; develop a budget-based system for homes and businesses that will ease customers through the transition from the era of cheap water;
- Develop partnership programs with RBMB, MWD and other local water agencies for conservation, groundwater mangement, storage and transfers;
- Expand public input and draw the public into helping solve the crisis in an active way.
Pasadena can no longer be complacent and take water for granted. The era of cheap water has passed, and now everyone needs to pitch in to solve the water challenge. This can be our most important local response to Climate Change.