...the more they remain the same.
I could have titled this post "Blast from the Past" or "Oldie but Goodie".
My former colleague, University of New Mexico professor David Brookshire, an extraordinary environmental economist, walked into my office about four years ago and handed me an eleven-page photocopy that looked like the table of contents of a report that had last seen the light of day about 30 years ago. Little did I realize that my assumption was correct.
What he handed me was the table of contents of the National Water Commission's June 1973 report, Water Policies for the Future: Final Report to the President and to the Congress of the United States. I remember perusing the report a long time ago, long before I was really interested in "policy stuff"; I was too busy trying to find another useful hydrogeologic analytical solution in Carslaw and Jaeger's Conduction of Heat in Solids.
David knew a lot about the report; he had worked on it as graduate student. While rummaging about his office, he had unearthed it, and took some time to flip through it. What struck him was the table of contents. With the exception of a heading for "Effects of Climate Change" or somesuch, the report could have reflected today's issues.
[A brief aside: there is a move afoot to reestablish the National Water Commission. Rep. John Linder (R-GA) and his Senate colleague Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) are big proponents of this effort. I know that some of the people involved with this legislation have read the entire 1973 report, almost 600 pages.]
You can purchase a used copy from Amazon.com (I just did).
You might be surprised to find that many of the headings and subheadings do reflect today's concerns, over 35 years later: environment, value of water; pollution, food and fiber, hydropower, M & I, surface water - ground water conjunctive use, water pricing, data needs, Federal coordination, Federal-state relations, floods, Indian water rights, water reuse, consideration of social values, etc. Yes, just about everything except climate change.
But I'm giving you just a taste of things; I have provided no information on the recommendations, or even the report's executive summary - just the T of C. So does the fact that the 1973 issues resemble today's indicate that we have not progessed since 1973? Not necessarily. However, my experience suggests that we have not progressed as far because of politics - or perhaps inertia is a better term.
One area that needs work is the coordination among Federal 'water agencies'. We are still not there. We still deal separately with water quality and water quantity (with a few exceptions). In many places there is still a disconnect between water planning and land use planning, although we have improved since 1973. And we tend to think in terms of 'hard' solutions instead of 'soft solutions'. And we have no national water strategy.
Will the T of C for the 2023 report look different? Or will it be, in the words of Yogi Berra, like déjà vu all over again?
“Things are never so bad that they can’t get worse.” – Bill Moyers