In summary

As the Legislature approves more housing, it should consider the drought and water supplies for residential development.

By Rich Campbell, Pacifica

Rich Campbell is an environmental and land use attorney who served as a planning commissioner for the city of Pacifica. He is adjunct faculty at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and an attorney with the U.S. EPA.

Re “Will Legislature confront California housing crisis?”; Commentary, Aug. 22, 2021

To confront California’s housing crisis also means confronting its water crisis, because fewer homes get built when water supplies tighten. 

Yet, California’s Legislature has studiously avoided mention of this state’s megadrought as it approves housing legislation to meet a state goal of 3.5 million more housing units (conservatively, 9 million more people) by 2030. And there has been no debate of whether to prioritize building affordable housing over market-rate units as the pool of available water for construction shrinks.

The unplanned and unregulated dense housing contemplated by Senate Bill 9 and Senate Bill 10 (and particularly SB 9, which does not require development be near transit-oriented development) raises its own equity issues. 

Water will likely be purchased from irrigation districts, at the expense of farm jobs and the local economies of already struggling rural agricultural communities.

State legislators need to rethink housing legislation in light of the worsening megadrought.


Rich Campbell writes in his personal capacity and not as an EPA representative; his views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the EPA, the federal government or the law school.

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