Newsom administration wildfire, water policy facing criticism amid worsening fire season
Reformed policy objectives that focus on abundance over scarcity can present a solution, Steven Greenhut, Pacific Research Institute author and R Street Institute director, told the Northern California Record by email.
“Embracing abundance means a state policy that is focused on meeting the water needs for residents and farmers – and not being focused simply on promoting conservation and even rationing,” Greenhut said. “There’s nothing wrong with conservation, of course, but only 5.7 percent of the state’s water is used by residences. It means building more water infrastructure, developing desalination and other projects such as water recycling.”
Greenhut noted that California hasn’t built significant new water storage since the 1970s, when the population was roughly half its current size.
Water storage projects approved by voters have not yet been built, and reservoirs have hit record lows.
“Although the state’s reservoirs are frighteningly low on water during the current drought, it will indeed rain again,” Greenhut said. “The key is capturing more water in wet years so we have it in dry ones. This takes planning.”
The administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom has faced criticism for its progress on wildfire prevention methods.
“That’s a pretty incredible story, as was CapRadio’s underlying story about the governor’s statements on wildfire prevention,” Greenhut said. “Dan Kolkey penned a fabulous chapter in Saving California that details real solutions to the raging wildfires that actually aid our climate-change efforts – such as using funds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for forest-thinning efforts.”
Gov. Newsom signed a $536 million wildfire bill package this spring.
“Wildfire mitigation involves several crucial but mundane-sounding topics such as utility regulation and insurance rules. But unfortunately our state leaders tend to ignore the nuts-and-bolts issues until they have a crisis on their hands,” Greenhut said. “Our state is totally savable. We simply need to focus on practical policy solutions.”