State, federal officials propose measures to help California's water crisis.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed a compromise plan to the Legislature on Thursday to update California’s water system by increasing storage, improving conveyance, protecting the Delta’s ecosystem and promoting greater water conservation.
“There is an urgent need for comprehensive water reform, and this bipartisan plan is offered as a potential compromise that puts us on the path toward restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, expanding water supplies and promoting conversation efforts that will ensure a clean, reliable water supply for California,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “I know that legislative leaders recognize the urgent need to address California’s water crisis, and I look forward to working with them to present a plan to voters this November.”
“The goal of this plan is to break the long-standing stalemate over water,” Senator Feinstein said. “California is facing an unprecedented water crisis. The combination of drought, court ordered water restrictions, global warming, and an increasing population has placed a major strain on the existing infrastructure. We need to prepare now for the future. This language is comprehensive, balanced and could help increase water supplies to meet the needs of the environment, our cities, and agriculture. I hope that all sides can come together around a consensus plan that can be approved this November.”
California is facing the most significant water crisis in its history. After experiencing two years of drought and the driest spring in recorded history, water reserves are extremely low and would not be able to meet public demand during a major disruption to the state’s water delivery system such as an earthquake or levee breach. With the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem near collapse, court-ordered restrictions on water deliveries from the Delta have reduced supplies from the state’s two largest water systems by 20 to 30 percent.
Drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin and a Sierra snowpack is now dangerously unreliable due to global warming and is leaving many communities throughout California facing mandatory restrictions on water use and/or rising water bills. If the drought continues into next year, the results could be catastrophic to our economy.
Last month, the Governor issued an executive order  declaring a statewide drought, which directed his state agencies and departments to take immediate action to address the serious drought conditions and water delivery reductions that exist in California. He also proclaimed  a state of emergency in nine Central Valley counties to address urgent water needs: Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern.
This year’s drought has already significantly damaged California’s economy. Agricultural crops are being plowed under, housing and business projects are being delayed, and regional water authorities are instituting mandatory water rationing to a reliable water supply. Due to California’s water shortages, thousands of jobs are lost and construction projects are on hold because a water supply cannot be guaranteed.
The crisis is no less severe for our fisheries and critical environmental resources. In two of the past three years, our once thriving Pacific salmon fisheries have been simply shut down as former salmon strongholds throughout the state have become dangerously imperiled. The populations of Delta smelt and other native Delta fish have collapsed to tiny fractions of their former levels. Threats from aquatic invasive species, toxic discharges and pesticides abound. Restoring our fisheries and our riparian ecosystems in the face of all these challenges will require bold action.
The $9.3 billion bond proposal that the Governor and Senator Feinstein have proposed includes the following elements from all stakeholders and is a compromise approach that will move California toward a reliable water future:
- Increased water storage to ensure our water supply is more reliable year-to-year and we’re able to capture excess water in wet years to use in dry years
- Improved water conveyance to reduce water shortages
- Restored Delta ecosystem to allow California to take control of its own water systems
- Increased conservation and tools to use water more efficiently
Local water officials have some recommendations to address the drought situation here  .