Disjointed Water Management

Kelly Zito has an intriguing look at California water managemente in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, looking at the incredibly disjointed way urban-suburban Northern California’s system is managed as compared to the relatively centralized role of the Metropolitan Water District in Southern California:

Ana Sarver jogs 5 miles along the Contra Costa Canal every day. But water from the 10-foot-wide channel, just a few steps from Sarver’s front door in Pleasant Hill, doesn’t flow through her taps.

Her water comes from the Mokelumne River basin – 100 miles away in the Sierra Nevada.


Unlike Southern California, where one giant agency – the Metropolitan Water District – oversees the distribution of water from a few sources across 26 cities from San Diego to Santa Monica, the nine-county Bay Area landscape is a broad patchwork of local, state and federal water systems – with various jurisdictions controlling each.

This line of argument has interesting parallels here in New Mexico, and in particular the Middle Rio Grande. Nominally, the Office of State Engineer and Interstate Stream Commission offer centralized institutional management over the state’s waters. But because the basin isn’t adjudicated, we instead have this strange patchwork of institutional relationships with which the various individual entities sort of muddle through.