“bronze buckshot” at the MWD

There are no silver bullets for dealing with the west’s water problems. There is instead, as several speakers said last week at a workshop I attended, “bronze buckshot”.

The Metropolitan Water District board yesterday handed out 16 grants to local Southern California water agencies that looked very much like what this metaphor implies – lots of small projects targeted at funding preliminary work on lots of little local solutions:

  • $180,000 to Glendale to study technology for removing hexavalent chromium, cleaning ick out of existing groundwater reservoirs
  • $200,000 for an Orange County study of conjunctive management of storm water, desal and other techniques in basins with impaired groundwater
  • $125,000 to the San Diego County Water Authority for work on indirect potable reuse
  • a scattershot of money to a bunch of different agencies to develop direct potable reuse communications strategies

And the list goes on (staff report in pdf here).

This is the sort of thing that makes me hopeful about our ability to cope with western water’s supply-demand imbalance. Southern California has long confronted the reality of growing demand and constrained supply. They were among the first to come up with aggressive joint management of their groundwater basins (pdf), they built extraordinary water importation systems (this isn’t going to all be “soft path” stuff), and they managed far better than anyone expected when they had their Colorado River supplies curtailed a decade ago.

When you face the prospect of running out of water, you do stuff. Sometimes big things, sometimes lots of little things. But you do stuff.