Divide Water Fairly. Use It Efficiently.
By: William Bourdeau
For forty years, not a single new state-funded dam or reservoir was built in the state, even as California’spopulation doubled.
Rather than build critical water infrastructure, California turned instead to its legislature and administrative bureaucrats to ration the state’s water resources to Californians. Now they regularly impose mandates restricting how we can use water.
Their choices created a patchwork water system too top-heavy and inflexible for Californians to live their everyday lives.
Citizens are packing up and leaving the state in droves, businesses are staggering under the burden of regulations, and many family farms — the starting point for our famous “farm to fork” renaissance in fresh dining — leave some of their fields unplanted and their orchards to die.
Over six million acres of farmland have been taken out of production since 1992 when California’s regulatory overreach began.
California’s people, businesses and farms have long proven they are good stewards of the water they receive. The Central Valley’s cities and farms already conserve many millions of gallons of water annually. California’s water use peaked decades ago and has dropped ever since. We’ve learned how to live in our rural towns and grow more crops with less water.
Now, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) — a body in Sacramento appointed to protect the health of the state’s water resources — stands poised to force on us new rules that would vastly increase how much more water the state can take from everyone.
Californians’ efforts should be recognized with a new measure of fairness from the SWRCB, not threats of added punishment. Sadly, there’s little evidence the SWRCB considers the Central Valley’s plight important to their decision.
They say they will hit us hard and fast, dry up faucets, push water and sewer bills higher for everyone, force extreme water rationing on many, and threaten the businesses, jobs and livelihoods of millions of Californians.
The SWRCB will turn off the tap to the entire Northern and Southern California Central Valley and Southern California for months on end every year. Areas already contributing significant water for the Delta’s health must contribute even more water for endangered salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt and other threatened species.
It may soon become cost prohibitive to live and continue growing food in vast areas of the Central Valley. California may threaten national food security for our state and for all the other states that depend us. It may even give the state’s economy a $40-billion black eye.
It all boils down simply to this: While California’s constitution prohibits water waste, the Board plans to take water from the people to use for the environment and fish, and it forces those who have long held rights to use thatwater to waste it instead.
Californians must tell the bureaucrats at the SWRCB to divide our water resources fairly and allow Californians to use them wisely. They should reject the proposed Bay-Delta Plan rule and listen to facts, not ignore compelling evidence that they are on the wrong path.
William Bourdeau is Chairman of the California Water Alliance, a statewide nonprofit policy, advocacy and governmental watchdog group. He can be contacted [email protected].