Thursday, March 3, 2011

ACWA and Tom McClintock Call for Cost-Benefit Analysis of Water Projects

I don't think I've seen two public calls for cost-benefit analysis of water projects all year.  While browsing Aquafornia tonight, I see 2 posts asking for cost-benefit analysis in a single day.  Even more amazing, it is coming from sources that I usually criticize: ACWA and Rep. Tom McClintock.  Tremendous.

I have given ACWA a hard time in many posts on this blog, especially for their PR efforts like their "National Geographic" magazine, and when they staged their own water=jobs march on Sacramento back in 2009.
Back to the point.  I was delighted by this excerpt in ACWA Executive Director Tim Quinn's comment letter to the Delta Stewardship Council.

The Delta Plan needs to include an assessment of the fiscal costs and economic impacts of the proposed actions...To the extent possible, the Plan and EIR should also disclose potential impacts (favorable and unfavorable) of each alternative on local, regional, and statewide economic stability. The plan should promote actions that, to the greatest degree feasible, encourage local and regional solutions.
Tim Quinn has a background in Economics and I think he knows what this means.  He certainly has incentives to be careful to keep his member agencies out of financial trouble and reasons to be concerned.  Maybe he can orchestrate an ACWA march to the next Stewardship Council with signs that say Cost-Benefit analysis now!  I would grab a sign.  Jokes aside, this is encouraging.  It's time for more economics and less PR.

On to Tom McClintock.  This paragraph in Rep McClintock's opening statement for the HouseWater and Power Subcommittee meeting was a surprisingly rational departure from the over-the-top political rhetoric.
We will seek to inventory all of our potential water and power resources, establish and apply a uniform cost-benefit analysis to prioritize financing for those projects that produce the greatest benefits at the lowest costs, and to restore the “beneficiary pays” doctrine that assures those who benefit from these projects pay for these projects, protecting general taxpayers of one community from being plundered for projects that exclusively benefit another.
Wow, I completely agree with an entire paragraph from a Tom McClintock speech. Unlike Tim Quinn and ACWA, I wonder if Rep. McClintock really knows/wants what he is asking for here. Real cost-benefit analysis of water projects could favor efficiency (aka "scarcity" mentality) over dams and the "abundance" agenda he is promoting.


  1. Before grabbing that sign, make sure we know what type of cost-benefit analysis they're talking about. I recall reading about a cost-benefit analysis argument put forth by some of our Fed legislative "friends" that might not be what one would expect from economists.

  2. Okay, so that was a month ago, and yesterday, Rep. McClintock seemed to abandon rationality in favor of rhetoric, no? What changed? A better understanding of just how improbable his rational position was? That would be my guess.

  3. Perhaps we can start by getting an agreed upon definition of"beneficiaries" of water projects when the water goes to Ag. Ag, of course, will claim general public is a beneficiary and should foot a big chunk of the bill.