Published in the Kern County Valley Ag Voice – May 2014 Issue
The numbers speak for themselves. California is now in its third year of drought, with this year being one of the driest in history. Rain totals for most of the state are less than 50 percent of normal and snowpack in the mountains, the source that provides much of our water, is less than 33 percent of normal.
Without a comprehensive water plan that expands water storage, the people who feed this state and nation – the agriculture industry – will be denied a vital resource that this region so desperately needs.
This current water crisis has literally been decades in the making since the late governor Pat Brown proposed what is now known as the State Water Project in the 1950s. At that time California had a population of just over 20 million people. Today, the state’s population is approaching 40 million. The system that delivers water to farmers, businesses and residents throughout the state needs significant updating to create a stable water supply.
Despite what seems like a “no-brainer” when it comes to developing a plan to put before voters to expand the state’s reservoirs, a battle continues in the halls of the California Legislature.
Several plans are currently being proposed to replace an $11 billion water bond that was approved by the Legislature in 2009 but has been repeatedly delayed in going before the voters.
Legislation I co-authored with Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) aims at solving this state’s long-term water crisis. Senate Bill 927 offers a reasonable water bond for the November ballot. It prioritizes water storage and clean drinking water while at the same time, it helps protect the Delta.
The bill scales back the current water bond from $11 billion to $9 billion, maintains funding for important surface water storage and other projects that create “new” water. This legislation will also allow the state to more effectively move water around the state to those in most need and focuses on cleanup up of groundwater and creating clean drinking water supplies for our local communities.
By the time you read this article, the fate of SB 927 may have been decided. Whatever happens with this important measure, it’s clear to me that this bond isn’t the only solution to the state’s water crisis – but it is an important and crucial step that must be acted upon this year. The bill provides fairness and flexibility to local and regional water suppliers without creating unworkable requirements. It also ensures that Valley farmers, families and all Californians will receive needed amounts of water even in the driest of years, and will conserve water without harming our economy and costing workers their jobs.
The other plans being pushed by the majority party claim to expand the state’s water resources, but in the end they will not create any new additional surface water storage, because they can’t guarantee continuous funding from the bonds for the construction of additional water storage. Without that guarantee, it’s certain that with the environmental challenges these projects would face, the length of time it will take to build and future politicians who would like nothing better than to use the money for their own pet projects, these badly-needed projects would never get built.
Our Valley’s future, our economy, our jobs depend on a stable water supply. It is vital that we have a water bond on the November ballot. In the end, whatever version of a water bond that is put before the voters must have what I like to call the three “C’s.” The bond must create water store, must convey water and must provide clean drinking water to all our communities.