Ready to share more of our precious water with the Southland?

Our water headed south? Disgusting.

Our water headed south? Disgusting.

No Northern California politician worth his special interest contributions would ever dream of sending a drop of our precious water to Southern California.

That captures the sentiment of many north state residents, some of whom refuse to drive Interstate 5 south of Sacramento because a long stretch of it parallels a canal carrying our water south. Disgusting.

But the reality is that two-thirds of the rain and snow fall in the northern third of the state, and two-thirds of the people (and voters) live in the southern half of the state. Whether we like it or not, they’re getting a share of our water.

Southland water interests are getting ready to tee up an $11 billion bond issue that, among other things, would build two huge tunnels to carry water under the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta on its way to filling Los Angeles swimming pools. (My brother, a resident of Playa del Rey, says that’s a myth: They use the water to hose off their tennis courts.)

Critics say the measure is too expensive and too loaded with pork to pass. Backers have delayed putting it on the ballot twice, and there’s talk they may pass on this year and shoot for 2016.

Northern California politicians are taking no chances. Assemblyman Dan Logue (R, Loma Rica), who used to represent part of Nevada County, has proposed a $5.8 billion bond issue that focuses solely on surface and ground water projects that would protect our share of the water.

Logue envisions two large reservoirs: The Sites reservoir near Maxwell and Temperance Flat near Fresno. The measure needs to pass both houses of the Legislature and get the governor’s approval to qualify for the November ballot.

Logue said he’s willing to work with Democrats as long as the bond measure isn’t “porked out,” but if the proposal isn’t passed by March, he’ll pull it and start an initiative effort.

Assemblyman Brian Dahle (R, Redding) is a big fan of increased water storage, and no fan of sending more water to the south state.

“California must build new and reliable water storage facilities, like dams and reservoirs,” he wrote to his constituents recently. “The north state needs solutions that prioritize water reliability, not ones that send water south through the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta.”

Conservationists throw cold water on such ideas, having fought the proposed Auburn Dam to a standstill and promoting the removal of several dams including Hetch Hetchy. Many feel Chinook salmon and Delta smelt take priority over the water needs of a state with a population of 38 million that’s heading for 50 million.

As that debate continues, the rest of us have to deal with the consequences of California’s first major drought since the early ’90s. The huge Metropolitan Water District has been told by the state to expect just 5 percent of the water they historically receive.

Some Central Valley farmers who get their water from the federal government got 20 percent of what they typically receive last year.  They’re expecting less this year and farmers in the Westlands Water District are going to fallow one-third of the 600,000 acres they typically farm.

Meanwhile, the San Diego County Water Authority is suing Metropolitan Water for $150 million in refunds for allegedly being overcharged to move water through Metro’s aqueduct system. As an anonymous observer said several years ago:

“In the rest of the country, you take water for granted. In the West, you take it from somebody else.”

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3 Responses to Ready to share more of our precious water with the Southland?

  1. Todd Juvinall says:

    As a county of “origin” we in the Sierra Nevada should be paid for the water and power by the urban areas. Our counties would become very rich.

  2. stevefrisch says:

    Just an couple of observations George.

    First, the $11 billion water bond currently scheduled to be on the November ballot does not include money to build the twin tunnels proposed in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The twin tunnels are proposed to be paid for in the BDCP by the ratepayers who use the water. (Just for the record, I am at this point opposed to implementation of the BDCP). All of the alternative Water Bond proposals moving in the California legislature this year (including the two you did not mention, SB 848-Wolk & AB 1331-Rendon) propose that the twin tunnels be paid for by ratepayers.

    Second, the statement “having fought the proposed Folsom Dam to a standstill” is inaccurate. The Folsom Dam was built starting in 1948 and opened in 1956. It was the Auburn Dam that was never built, partly due to environmental opposition.

    Finally, on an editorial note, the largest reservoir in California is the seasonal snowpack and mountains of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade, delivering approximately 17-25 million acre feet of water on an average year and delivering that water into the existing water system throughout the year. Even in drought years the rivers, meadows, wetlands and fractured aquifers of the Sierra/Cascade continue to deliver water throughout the year. Much of the groundwater recharge in the central valley comes from water filtering in from the Sierra, oftentimes taking five or more years to make it into the aquifers. On an average year California has more than 20 million acre feet of existing built storage that is not used. So we may invest in water storage, but the real infrastructure that actually delivers new water year after year, is the forested and wet meadow landscape itself. If we don’t invest in that all the new storage in the world won’t solve our long term problem.

    (By the way, in an ironic twist, I am right with Todd on protecting area of origin rights, and compensating upstream systems for water delivery, in my case through a state-wide public goods charge on water that could be used on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis to invest in water supply, quality, conservation and conjunctive use, without the need for bonded indebtedness).

  3. Todd Juvinall says:

    Looks like we are going to have some huge reality checks this coming year. With limited help from mother nature, the cities will be coming after us full steam.

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