| Oct 21 2007
California needs every drop of water possible to ensure a healthy future for our state.
Yet - unless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez come together on a single water bond proposal - California may be left high and dry.
So I'm urging both sides to sit down, find a compromise and work this out.
Here's the good news: Both sides in Sacramento recognize the need for action. Schwarzenegger has a plan to rebuild California's water infrastructure, as do Perata and Núñez.
Both plans provide for conservation, recycling and local solutions to water quality and supply issues. Any effective plan needs these features.
But the key difference is this: The governor's plan allows for surface water storage - where it is economically feasible and beneficial - while the Perata/Núñez plan does not.
Given our uncertain water future, I believe you've got to allow for surface water storage.
This could help increase our water supplies and help restore the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Three of the projects contemplated - Sites Reservoir, Los Vaqueros and Temperance Flats - have the potential to produce new fresh water to help the deteriorating delta water ecosystem.
I've spoken to both sides and urged them to reach an agreement.
I'm no water expert. But I've legislated long enough in the field - rebuilding our levees, restoring the San Joaquin River and ensuring adequate water for farmers - to have learned that there are certain significant facts that must be grappled with:
- California is largely a dry state. To be sure, we get bursts of precipitation in the northern part of the state during winter months. So it's absolutely critical that we be able to save that water from the times when it is wet, and be able to move it to the places that need it when it is dry.
- California has an insatiable thirst for water. We've got 37 million people now, and more and more people come every day. Yet, we essentially have the same water infrastructure that we had when we were 16 million people. Where are we going to find enough water for residents, for fish, for farms? Conservation and recycling are critical, but will not be enough.
- I just visited Santa Clarita, a booming city just north of Los Angeles. A developer came up to me at a town hall event and said he is building a new community of 20,000 homes. I asked the question: Where does the water come from? And this question is being asked in every fast-growing community across the state.
- We've got a melting Sierra Nevada due to global warming, which will only reduce our water supplies. As a result of global warming, two-thirds of the Sierra Nevada snowpack may disappear. That's an amount sufficient for 16 million people. Where, in the future, will this water come from if we can't store water from wet years to use in dry years?
- Lake Tahoe is a harbinger of what's to come for the rest of the state. A recent report found that, since 1911, the percentage of precipitation that falls as snow has dropped by 18 percent. And we will see similar trends across the state.
So what should be done?
This fight can't turn into one based on political, regional or economic differences - north vs. south; west vs. east; farms vs. fish; Republicans vs. Democrats.
We need to see the state as a whole. That means protecting all those things that make our state great - our precious environment; our agricultural industry, the largest in the nation; our great cities; and our economic growth.
If there are two conflicting proposals, the likelihood is that both will go down to defeat.
So my message is this - find a solution that ensures that California has an adequate water supply for the future. Doing nothing is not an alternative.
So we must have a plan that includes conservation, recycling, desalination, groundwater recharge and, yes, surface storage. There is no one silver bullet. All must be done to ensure that California is not left scrambling for water.