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Mon Dec 25 21:23:19 MST 2000
Private Sector May Sell Water to Southern California Agency
By JAMES STERNGOLD
CADIZ, Calif. - In an agreement that would introduce a new level of
market influence over the management of water in Southern California,
the government agency that supplies roughly 17 million people in the
Los Angeles area plans to buy large volumes of privately owned water
for the first time.
The decision, which effectively relaxes the tight government controls
that have always prevailed over this scarce and basic resource, comes
after a shift in federal policy and projected shortages of water in
the years ahead.
The proposed deal comes at a time when Californians are already
questioning the role of market forces in the delivery of basic
resources. An unprecedented spike in power and natural gas prices,
plus critical power shortages, have led many to wonder if the state's
experiment in energy deregulation was such a wise move.
But even as some state officials call for more government controls on
energy, Southern California's water planners feel they have no choice
but to head down the road to a freer market to overcome what they
describe as a sort of slow-motion supply crisis that will play out
over the next two decades.
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