All Politics Is (Kind of) Local
Apparently the long-simmering conflict over who controls the water of California is boiling over in San Diego. I don’t really have any particular opinion on the merits of this case in particular, although of course as a new Northern Californian I wish these people would stay away from our water.
It is a pretty illuminating story, however. Basically, the San Diego contingent in the water fight has decided that having exhausted their other options, they want to throw the fight into the court of public opinion. They’re launching a website that showcases the documents of their opposition as obtained through a public records request. It’s actually somewhat heartening, as it really does show a modicum of innovation in the drab world of local government.
In bigger-picture terms, however, this is worrying. Water is a high-stakes political issue, and we should consider ourselves lucky that the United states has the kind of institutions that can handle this very sensitive issues peacefully. Elsewhere in the world, it’s very easy to imagine this sort of conflict very quickly ceasing to be peaceful. Not necessarily in terms of interstate war- I think it’s unlikely (but possible) that there will be full-fledged “water wars” between Israel and Jordan over the Jordan River Watershed. The two states have established protocols for avoiding such a possibility.
However, as global warming accelerates sub-state actors in weak or failing Third World states will likely tear each other apart over water rather than follow San Diego’s example.