Back to the Top 10 stories to look for in the coming year.

5. Water

The delivery, availability and even production of fresh drinking water will be a big issue in 2008. Anyone who studies water politics in Southern California and the Western United States, even just for a bit, can’t help but see the intrigue. Debates like the ones about whether to build new water desalination plants or recycle wastewater will rage.

But there remains a gulf between the interest many share in thinking about and planning for our water future and the broader community of users who may have a slight understanding that they should conserve but know so little about the great lengths this region goes to in order to send them fresh water.

This coming year may just be the time when that changes dramatically — when a shortage of some kind brings the desert we live in home. The seeds of such a crisis have been planted. A federal judge ruled that a small fish was becoming endangered in the State Water Project, which delivers much of San Diego’s water. In order to protect it, cutbacks were recommended. Combined with worries about snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains and in the Rockies, San Diego will be fortunate to get through 2008 without mandatory restrictions on water usage.

Local officials have merely advised and attempted to encourage conservation. A mandatory cutback, on the other hand, would force people to think about it in a way that advice simply can’t. The reality of our desert habitat can’t communicate itself more effectively than with an all out shortage. If and when that happens, expect conservation to be a much easier sell.

SCOTT LEWIS

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