December 29, 1991

Board of Directors

East Bay Municipal Utility District

375 11th Street

Oakland, California 94604

Re: Trucking Water to the Bay Area


I read in the newspaper the other day that EBMUD is considering trucking water to the Bay Area from up north. You must be pretty embarrassed that such a crazy idea found its way into the newspaper. It's not surprising -- the newspapers seem to be having a hard time lately making ends meet, and will turn anything they can (our dreams, no doubt, if they could discover them) into "news".

But just in case there is any doubt, I would like to explain exactly why I think this idea is bananas. Our current water shortage is caused by Global Warming. Most scientists won't say that, because they are pledged to adhere to a high level of certainty in their work, and earth science is not yet that precise. But the rest of us don't deal on such an ideal plane, and are free to tell the obvious truth: most of recorded history's hotest years and days have happened recently. California's climate is getting hotter and drier, with foreseeable consequences that will dwarf what we have seen so far. By far the worst is that the extinction of species will accelerate far beyond its current, already unacceptable, rate.

Global Warming, in the United States, is caused mostly by the automobile and other vehicles that burn petroleum products and yield carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases". According to the United Nations, we need to reduce our fuel consumption by 50% below current levels (as of 1988), in order to prevent a warming of 5-9% Fahrenheit by 2040 (and concomitant rise in sea level of about 5 feet). If we assume that every source of greenhouse gases will be expected to contribute its share of the reduction, then we will need to reduce auto and truck traffic by 50% (or more, since much of that travel will be replaced by train travel, which is more energy efficient and hence produces less greenhouse gases).

In other words, it is time for us to stop looking for short term "solutions" that are not really solutions at all, and think about what will be best in the long run. Carrying water by truck may supply some water immediately, but it will also contribute to Global Warming, which in the long run (maybe not even so long) will mean that we will end up with less water.

There are many ways to "create" more water, and I would like to see EBMUD more involved in making them happen: Encourage "infill" development west of the hills, where water goes farther (my usage is about 40 gallons/day). Help everyone convert to "water saver" toilets (mine uses 1.5 gal./flush, and works better than my old "water waster" toilet). Eliminate all lawns and golf courses; replace them with native species and open space (we especially need more wildlife habitat, connected by passable, safe migration corridors). Put an end to the expansion of our auto-dependent infrastructure: Stop building and expanding roads, parking lots, and airports (beginning with the so-called "Cypress Replacement", which I understand will take some essential EBMUD land!). Begin replacing parking lots with housing, businesses, and other productive uses. Identify cotton that has been grown under arid conditions, stop buying it, and stop producing it. Wear our clothes as long as possible, and then give them to Goodwill for recycling/reuse.

I could go on and on, but I'm sure you understand the point.


Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.