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Water Weekly 3: Erin Brockovich moving to Michigan?

What were the three biggest California water stories of the past seven days?  Well, the news-heads and policy wonks here at Laer Pearce & Associates have compiled them for you here.  You’ll find the Big Three here every Thursday, or you can follow LPAWater on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and analysis. You can also sign up to receive the Weekly 3 via email here.  This week:

Your Wake-Up Call, Ms. Brockovich!

The town of Hinkley, made famous when Julia Roberts played crusading almost-a-lawyer Erin Brockvich, was sadly back in the news this week when the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board reported the notorious PG&E chromium 6 plume was back. It’s bad stuff, for sure, but let’s at least try to report the facts and not get into cancer-causing hysterics.  PG&E responded wisely, offering to purchase homes in affected areas – a pretty cheap solution, given Hinkley home prices.

Read the Regional Board’s “talking point” document

Read a typical “cancer causing” media over-statement

From EPA, the health effects facts – see page 5


New appointments make Coastal Commission an even tougher hurdle

We know of at least one land developer whose due diligence questions include, “Is the property in the Coastal Zone.” If the answer is “yes,” forget it; no acquisition.

Two new Coastal Commission appointments by Assembly leader Karen Bass have made that approach seem even more justified, as two open-minded and reasonable Commission members have been replaced by two who raise red … make that green … flags. Let’s let the head of San Diego Coastkeeper frame it up for us:

I think we have a chance to have the ‘greenest’ commission that we have had
in a long time.


Recent court decision says what you can and can’t say in your advocacy

Let’s say … and I’m just hypothesizing here … that the state legislature decided to raid a water districts’ coffers in an attempt to bail itself out from ballooning deficits. Or that a group of ratepayers placed an initiative on a local ballot that would rescind a water rate increase. Could you, as a public agency, actively campaign against these moves?

Thanks to a recent court decision, Vargas v. City of Salinas, the answer is yes … but only if you define “actively campaign” correctly.

“Express Advocacy” is still out, so what’s in?

In the Salinas case, a few Salinas residents placed an initiative on the ballot,  Measure O, that would have repealed the city’s utility users tax. The city   launched a communications effort to let citizens know the devastating   effect Measure O would have on city finances. The voters voted down the   measure,  and the citizens group sued, claiming the city unlawfully  interfered and used public funds for political purposes. They sought $250,000 from the city.


To “Save the Planet,” California must be America’s growth leader

If America’s greenest metro areas are in California, why do environmentalists make it so hard to build here?

The answer may benefit your project.

It may come as a surprise to you, but you’ve probably been indoctrinated by the environmental movement. Don’t think so? Well, just answer this question: Is LA – sprawling, smoggy, freeway crisscrossed LA – a “green” city or a “brown” city?

If you answered “brown,” you’re wrong. It turns out that Los Angeles is the fourth greenest metropolitan area in the country. Why’s that? Because the climate here is temperate, so LA’s carbon footprint for air conditioning is less than Atlanta’s or Houston’s, and its footprint for heating is smaller than that of Minneapolis or Chicago. So says a study by Edward Glaeser and Matthew Kahn, UCLA and Harvard profs respectively.


Are your conservation messages in line with today’s decision?

I’m here at the highly anticipated board meeting of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, where they just decided to declare a “Water Supply Allocation Plan Level 2.” This means Met will reduce deliveries to member agencies by 10 percent beginning July 1.

You can hear a collective sigh across the Southland, because this represents a considerable improvement over what water wholesalers and retailers in Met’s service area were anticipating just one month ago.

What Does This Mean For Your Conservation Message and Outreach?


Have We Over-Sold the Drought to Encourage Conservation?

Dear friends,

Here’s the lead on a recent LA Times story about snowpack levels in the Sierras:

“The warnings have been ominous this winter: California is headed into the worst drought in modern history. The water supply is drying up. Or, as one water association declared last week, ‘Things just keep getting worse and worse.’

“Is it really that bad?”


Communicate your green claims carefully!

Big Brother’s watching … and so is the marketplace

A lot has been written lately about whether “green” still sells in today’s struggling home marketplace, but precious little about what you can and can’t say about green elements in your community and home plans.

Big Brother is about to fill that void. The Fair Trade Commission is taking comments right now on its revised Green Guides, which will define what can and can’t be said in green marketing claims. Here’s what’s proposed to be required, synthesized from the Federal Register:


Possible Pick of RFK, Jr. for EPA Head Signals a New Age of Regulation

Tougher water quality regulations and higher energy costs may be on the horizon for the water industry.

The ballot-counting hasn’t even stopped and we are seeing signs of increased regulation ahead for the water industry under the administration of Barack Obama.Politico reports:

President-elect Barack Obama is strongly considering Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to head the Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet post, Democratic officials told Politico.


Communications that Change Behaviors

If you want effective communications, be an authority first and foremost – not a cheerleader.

In this issue, let’s look at the peripheral canal debate to see how different communication styles can have a huge impact on behavior.

In July, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) published Comparing Futures for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which concluded that a peripheral canal was the most promising strategy for saving the Delta and meeting the state’s demand for water. In September, the Pacific Institute countered with More with Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California that found that reduced water use by California agriculture could negate the need for a canal.


Which is the better conservation messaging strategy: raising fears or relying on trust?

The San Diego County Water Authority’s “Save it or Lose it” campaign takes an aggressive approach to promoting water conservation, as you can see.

The campaign’s dry sand and sun-bleached skull are certainly attention-getters, and that’s a good thing. Commanding attention is a considerable challenge in this era of information overload.


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