The Public Role of Engineering: The California State Water Project

by Keith Roberts, Attorney; McCray and Roberts, San Francisco, CA; also Member, Nader's Task Force on Land Use in California,

Serial Information: Engineering Issues: Journal of Professional Activities, 1973, Vol. 99, Issue 1, Pg. 19-38

Document Type: Journal Paper


Among the mistakes leading to an excessively favorable evaluation of the California State Water Project were use of an extremely low discount rate, failure to reduce demand estimates in the face of higher prices, failure to take additional sources of supply into account, and the inappropriate use of the next cheapest alternative method of estimating the benefit of water deliveries. The California Department of Water Resources and various independent consultants compounded the problem by presenting their evaluations and conclusions in deceptive and confusing ways. Excessive disdain for economic analysis applied to project evaluation, and institutional pressures account for much of the problem. Suggested solutions include better evaluation standards, more professional discipline, and better staffing and procedures for legislative consideration of technological questions.

Subject Headings: Public participation | Water management | Water demand | Water resources | Water use | Pricing | Consulting services | Economic factors | California | United States

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