Thursday, April 9, 2015


    Dear Sirs,
          California and the federal government have an opportunity to partner in problem solving while advancing technology, creating employment and improving quality of life. The state and federal government should design and build ocean desalination plants and a network of pipelines to deliver water to communities and the agricultural zones including of course the Central Valley.
          California abounds in technological and engineering knowledge and has been the crucible of innovation. California produces food that feeds America and much of the world but we can't make it rain nor end an historic drought. However we can respond with imagination and progress.
          A state and federal partnership accomplishes a great deal; regulatory compliance and clearance and a capacity to get it done. Think such a venture is impossible? Consider the extraordinary response of this nation to the crisis of WW II. Consider also the zeal and achievement of the American space program when the nation was committed to a moon landing. This nation could benefit from a good swift kick in the butt to get back on a path to excellence. This project would do that and you can make it happen.
          More good happens in California than in Washington DC. Bipartisan government occurs and while it is not perfect, things get done and problems are managed and solved. Aside from the public business of California, there is also the extraordinary success and life changing impact of technology, communication, transportation and space businesses. But we cannot make it rain. 
          Life depends on water and entering the fourth year of  historic drought clouds are on the horizon and they are not rain clouds. Historically this part of the US has sustained life altering droughts. There is meteorological and climate science now that suggests we could be in another such  period and that it could extend decades. It is arrogance to forget it has happened, repeatedly. Unlike previous eras and epochs we have science and technology to interact with the Ocean.
          The Pacific must be protected and proper environmental and ecological management is mandatory. A state and federal oversight can work to those ends. The peril is too severe to leave such things to a free market, profit making set of values.
          The design and implementation can be founded on the best science and engineering and most of that is already here and could be augmented by others in a critical review and project management.
         As the project(s) move forward each community could  undertake an ascertainment of need including the calculation of a sustainability index. i.e., how much water is needed now vis a vis anticipated growth? how is that water used-commercially, in homes, for agriculture, etc.? what are optimum growth and expansion frames? what are fair water rates in a tiered system?  What is a community's sweet spot to be truly sustainable? All of this would be managed and navigated by an oversight process that is long on academics, scientists, economists, planners and engineers with project management expertise drawn from the best and brightest in business-e.g., Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison and such peers. Think of that quality of individual to be your managing partners.
         Notice who is peripheral to all of this?  Elected politicians. Once the public's business was the trust of the United States Congress and Senate. Recent history only disqualifies them from running and likely delaying or destroying such a venture. Of course this will take funding and in that way they will need to be stakeholders, but how to affect that and how to contain their negative influence  is what you both are being paid to do as Chief Executives.
         Private investment could be tapped, in lieu of tax or other incentives. All business has an interest in the viability and sustainability of life and agriculture.
         Mr. President, Mr Governor you wield power and influence and have the ability to summon the "best and brightest" and to establish and pursue vision.  Even if we can water ration and restrict and even if it suddenly starts to rain laying siege to the notion we are in extended drought or climate change, we know that on a strategic world stage, water supply is a critical pointer. We even plan for future wars being fought over water. California and the federal government could evince a scenario that tends to a present need and allows for good options in future need.
         Executives lead, this is your way to lead us through problem solving and to create a legacy that includes a better way of doing things.


   See you down the trail.


  1. Your letter might better have been addressed to the law blockers in the House and Senate..beginning with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Of course, those two b------s don't care what happens to California.

  2. Perhaps if California were a red state the Republican-dominated Congress might do something. Your letter is wonderfully articulated and worthy of being appreciated by a wider audience than this blog. Have you submitted it to any newspapers?

  3. California's cyclical drought related weather concerns have been going on for hundreds if not thousands of years. Some decades have been significantly worse than others. Thus, government leaders on the state and national level have known about these dramatic fluctuations for long time. What's going on? That is the "64 dollar" question! Maybe our representatives have been focusing too much on their own "pet pork" projects allowing themselves to continually get re-elected. Their short term objectives are our future generations loss!

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recently reported that government waste for 2014 has reached $125 billion. Federal agencies are continuing to waste tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on duplicative spending efforts, even after Congress‘ official watchdog has made hundreds of recommendations for cutting back.

    The GAO has made some 440 recommendations over 180 areas in the last five years. Yet the wasteful spending continues apace. Yet as of November 2014, only 29 percent of the actions were fully addressed, according to the latest GAO report.

    Imagine if just a small percentage of these wasted billions of dollars had been spent years ago investing in the development of technological advances in desalination plants as you have suggested Tom.

  4. There are heavy-duty atmospheric water generators (AWG) already in production and used for industrial, military, and disaster relief applications around the world. In the future, and if municipal water supplies consistently continue to fail to produce enough water, could a future soon arrive where communities create water generating cooperatives alongside an increasing number of energy cooperatives?

    Entire nations, primarily in the Middle East where desert terrain prevails, have managed to supply significant amounts of water by taking it from the sea for years. California with its entire west coast bordering the Pacific Ocean, could address a high percentage of its current water shortages with similar strategies.

  5. Beautiful shots.
    I hope this letter would come to their attention.

    Have a fantastic weekend!

  6. I would add only one modest proposal to your excellent blueprint: Pipelines. We move oil and natural gas across the country, why not water from rain-soaked areas to arid areas? Soon the (true) price of water will approach that of fossil fuels, making water lines economically feasible.
    Let KeystoneXL build their pipeline if they build a water pipeline also. The Romans moved water across vast distances via stone aqueducts, surely we can update their system.

  7. Good ideas and excellent pictures. I agree it's the 'duty' of chief executives to spearhead such initiatives. However the American voters have seen in their wisdom to also elect senators and representatives that pledged to block anything the president says, no matter the consequence.

    One commenter above suggested piping water from water-rich areas to those suffering drought. The problem is that there are few areas that are 'water-rich' now. The Pacific Northwest, thought of as rainy, is also in drought, though not as bad as California.

  8. The fact remains that much California farmland is in a desert where it rains under twelve inches per year. Massive irrigation projects have made farming economical in the region, but it’s unlikely that the status quo can continue forever if California dries up and cities begin to compete for more water.

    When crops like pecans, which are native to Louisiana where it rains over fifty inches per year, are being grown in central California, we will have to ask ourselves if there is true comparative advantage at work here, or if the industry is really sitting upon a shaky foundation of government-subsidized and -allocated resources.

    The rhetoric that’s coming out of the growers, of course, is that California growers are essential to the American food supply. Some will even suggest that it’s a national security issue. Without California growers, we’re told, we’ll all starve in case of foreign embargo.

    But let’s not kid ourselves. North America is in approximately zero danger of having too little farmland for staple crops. In fact, one can argue that some of the best farmland in the world — in Iowa for instance — is underutilized because policies like farm favoritism send the message that California will prop up its desert agriculture no matter what.

    No, if California farmland continues to go dry, this only means that Americans will have to turn to other parts of the US or imports. After all, many of the crops grown in dry parts of California are much more economically grown in more humid environments, including citrus plants, avocadoes (which are native to Mexico), and various tree nuts. And of course, it’s these crops, which are already fairly expensive and water-intensive that get mentioned when we’re told that California growers must be given what they want until the end of time. This will likely mean higher prices for some of these crops in the short run, the correct response is not government favoritism, but free trade, and letting comparative advantage work. In a world with market prices, it’s simply not economical to grow everything under the sun in the California desert. If markets were allowed to function, with real water prices and free trade, this would quickly become abundantly clear.