We all know that the foundation of human existence and life on earth is dependent on water. As the most common and abundant liquid in the world, water is at the heart of global environmental issues. Increasing demands for water by the world’s growing and increasingly more affluent populations threaten to create widespread shortages of freshwater. Water, in many ways, defines how we live and determines the limit of sustainable development. This is why Ellison, 2007) article focuses on public administration and policies that affect water resources management and development. One of the most relevant issues associated with water resources management and development is the construction of a dam and reservoir for the city of San Francisco in the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Groups like the John Muir and the Sierra Club opposed building of the dam, “which not only violated the promise of the National Park System but also brought national attention to the then preservationist movement” (Nash 2001 as cited Ellison, 2007).
This dilemma, at present, is that almost every river and reservoirs have mined groundwater at alarming rates to grow crops and build cities. Thus, if urban, suburban, and agricultural developments are going to continue in the western United States, there is an urgent need to find new ways to manage water resources. Problem is there is no new water sources left. However, “water can be directed toward new needs if management approaches and institutional prerogatives can be changed” (Ellison, 2007).
Ellison (2007) though that “many water resources management and development problems could be addressed by simply changing the law”. He cited the Colorado River Compact of 1922, also known as the “Law of the River” that “has a number of perverse incentives that force water managers and politicians to advocate the construction of odd projects” like the Animas-La Plata project. The project that amounted to almost $ 1 billion “could have been avoided by giving Native Americans the power to market their water out of state”. The law was not changed “because it protects developers and farmers and, most importantly, because it is part of the institutional maze that governs western water resources management and development: The Colorado River Water Compact, water rights, the doctrine of prior appropriation, the doctrine of beneficial use, state and federal water development agencies, and state constitutions were all designed to support development in a fundamentally different western United States”. Fact is that the laws have “institutional arrangements that are designed to radically favor farmers who grow surplus crops with subsidized water over urban and environmental interests”.
The impact of not having enough water can detriment everyone in the future. The distribution of water rights has had a tremendous influence on politics in such western states as Arizona and California. Water shortage is a permanent circumstance in Los Angeles, where the annual rainfall is a scant nine inches. Farms and cities from Salt Lake City to San Diego are literally guzzling the Colorado River dry. In many western states nearly 90 percent of water is used by agricultural interests. This can create strong conflict when, as in Arizona, urban populations outnumber traditionally powerful rural interests. In the face of water shortage in cities can cause numerous problems because it is a basic human need. Thus, policies on water resource management are a very critical issue that needs to be studied carefully by the federal and state governments.
For this issue, public administration concepts that can be applicable are public interest, public policy, regulation and implementation. Public policy making is affected by a variety of factors operating outside the formal structure of state and local governments. Even the state’s geographic characteristics, like water resources can influence political decision making. Geographically large states have huge rural legislative and congressional districts that make political campaigning and representation much different from those of the small districts. In changing these public policies on water management, an extensive cost-benefit analysis should be made to satisfy public interest. Since most people are living in urban areas, the water policies that have appropriated most volume of water in farms should be revised to deter water shortage in cities. For states that hold the water resource, the government should find ways in regulating the usage of these water resources so that this can be conserved efficiently and effectively. Lastly, when these water management policies are implemented, it should be assessed if it is a sound program to correctly identify what design conditions will get the all sectors in a win-win solution or compromise.
Ellison, B.A. (2007). New Thinking about Water Management, Public Administration Review, 67(5): 946-951.