I had an interesting email exchange with a guy in north Florida who was trying to educate the Legislature on why planners are always wrong with their projections and their studies should be ignored as a result. His specific issue was water supply, but it could have been any number of issues. His argument was that the projections for water use made in 1976 were incorrect and in fact total water demands in the State had been basically flat over that period. He’d be unhappy to know that Florida mimics the rest of the country.
Ok, I admit that in addition to being an engineer, I have a minor in planning and a degree in public administration. I attempted to communicate with him about the purpose of planning, not that it helped. Planners outline projections of what things will likely be IF not changes are made. The reason is to prompt policy or behavioral changes prior to reaching critical tipping points. The argument in 1976 was that Florida would run out of cheap water if current trends continued. In the intervening years, there have been major efforts toward water conservation, low flow bathroom fixture and major changes to irrigation practices. All of which made the water picture far better than the 1976 projection. See the planners were not wrong – the projections indicated the problem if nothing was done, and acted in part as a catalyst for change. This is what planners dealing with water supply needs, sea level rise and a host of other planning issues are supposed to do. If we understand what the potential problems are, maybe we can take action to avoid tipping points. This is not to say all projections are perfect or even correct, but the idea is to avoid reaching a point of no return. Isn’t that what smart people should do? Apparently not to the guy on the other end of the email. Happy Halloween. Er, no this was just scary because it was real!!