Water is the most essential natural resource we have. Without it to drink, or to nourish our crops, we cannot even meet our most basic needs. In 2011, California had record rain fall levels. Every storage facility in the state was filled to capacity with water spilling over their edges. Millions upon millions of gallons of precious water flowed into the Pacific Ocean because we simply didn’t have enough space to store it.
This year (2012), with little rainfall, many farmers have seen their water allocations cut down. This feast or famine method is not working for residential, industrial, or agricultural water users. California must expand its storage so we can save in the good years to weather the bad ones.
Despite our population almost doubling since the 1970s, California has not constructed a major water storage facility in decades.
A new peripheral canal plan was recently unveiled to allegedly "solve" all of California’s water problems. It calls for building two huge 35-mile tunnels underneath the Delta in order to transport water to Southern California and the lower Central Valley, while completely ignoring the needs and water rights of the Delta communities themselves.
The plan is estimated to cost $23 billion dollars. It is an ambitious plan that has taken years of studies and counter studies. And for everything this plan includes, it lacks one critically important component: COMMON SENSE!
It appears that the plan is nothing more than an opportunity to send more water south without solving the underlying problem of expanding our water supply. The centerpiece of the plan is to move water from Northern California to Southern California through giant tunnels, and then worry about building more storage later. But if we don’t have water to move, it doesn’t matter whether or not we have the canals to move it. This plan is not the answer to our water problems.
Solving California’s water storage and shortage problem begins with additional capacity. The most important infrastructure need facing California today is water storage. We must address this need not only for today, but for tomorrow and for future generations of Californians throughout our entire state.
One key principle in this policy area for me is: User Pays. The people of Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties should not be charged for the water needs of Southern California. We all benefit from storage so statewide funding makes sense for that, but those who benefit from conveyance structures and infrastructure should pay for them.
Finally, we should devote more attention, study, and exploration into water technologies that have been used successfully in other parts of the world for many years. For example, the success of desalination plants is increasing while their costs are decreasing. This is just one of several examples of emerging technologies that could help expand our water supply.