Thursday, July 31, 2014

Three or four-hundred years?

All government agencies "need" more money.  This recent report by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's new GM notes that the agency is working with a 300-year pipe replacement cycle.  In fact, they had seemingly been planning for a 400-year cycle very recently.

This is not my field but one has to be impressed with the pipe technology of 100 years ago. Perhaps not. This week's big break, the one that cost the region 20-million gallons of water (and counting) happened to pipes that were less than 100 years old. And there is much more rot that we can not see.  The LA Daily News reported the following (but read the whole story):

At 93 years old, the pipe that burst in Westwood on Tuesday was younger and in better condition than many of Los Angeles’s brittle, corroding water arteries.
More than 1 million feet of the city’s pipes are beyond a century old — past their intended life spans — and this segment was not a high-priority replacement, according to reports reviewed and interviews conducted on Wednesday.
While the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has tried to ramp up water main replacements, it hasn’t met its goals. City officials and observers say the problem is money. Aging infrastructure is the largest problem here and at water utilities around the U.S., but unaware consumers are usually reluctant to pay. 
The story ends with the predictable "give us more money." More money has been going to employee pension funding -- and even then there is a reported unfunded pension fund gap. We get the gap, high prices, floods, and questionable service. There is never enough money when there is a politically influential and unionized workforce.

The pipes are not visible to the layman but the roads are. LA's potholed roads are third-world quality. This morning's LA Times includes an op-ed which notes that better use of available funds should come before new funds are sought.

California water policy has always been wrong-headed.  Gary Libecap notes that the State has been selling very cheap water to farmers growing crops that get USDA price supports. We now have reports of a "drought" but the policy reasons for it do not make it into polite discussion. Polite discussion, he notes, is informed by the plot of Chinatown.