A quick look at California's number one issue.
When you think of California you might think of our most pressing issues. Depending on your mindset those might include the recurring budget deficits, government waste, taxes, bureaucracy, environmental concerns, development, roads, or all of the above.
California's number one problem, however, is water. We don't have a lot of it.
Before we get into the current debate, lets quickly rundown the source of our problem.
In Southern California, we get a large portion (often a majority) of our water from up north, via the aqueduct. In Santa Clarita, half of our water comes from the aqueduct, the other half from our groundwater sources.
The aqueduct is filled up at the convergence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers in a place called the Delta. After decades of pumping water from the delta, the ecological impact has become so severe that a federal judge has issued a ruling that greatly restricts further pumping.
The impacts of this are huge for Southern California, as potentially half of our water supply is gone, with no return date in sight. The situation is even more severe in the agricultural areas of the state.
Why it's so bad
Make no mistake, this issue reaches far beyond outdoor watering restrictions.
Price: Currently Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA), our wholesale water provider, has a reserve stash of water for dry years, so we have some time, but if the water supplies do not loosen up in the future, look for the practice of supply and demand to kick in.
Economic recovery: When the state of California loses money, it affects local communities. California's agricultural industry is among the largest in the world, and it is facing possible annihilation without a steady water supply. The state has already lost most of the aerospace industry, and they nearly forced out film and television production. Allow agriculture to dry up, and the state's revenue projections take a massive hit.
No quick answer: While the debate over potential solutions has been going on for years in Sacramento, the fact is that a complete repair of the water delivery system could take years, even a decade to become operational. We are in for long, tough road to recovery.
No one cares: It's not as glamorous as Octo-mom, and it's not as immediate as state-issued IOUs, but it is important. Really important. However media coverage of the water issue has been paltry at best. Keep in mind though, that coverage is driven by interest. The more you read about water issue developments, the more stories you'll start to see spring up.
Solutions on the table
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been pushing for a water package for years. State politicians are currently discussing several ideas.
- Governor Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that he would not sign any bill that does not include above-the-ground and under-the-ground water storage solutions. Areas in northern California experience extremely high levels of rain fall, of which some estimate 60% runs off into the ocean every year. Capturing that rainwater could help reinforce supplies across the state.
Updated water conveyance system
- California's system for bringing water to southern California is old and undersized. Currently it can support about 18 million people, although the state is home to nearly 37 million according to 2008 U.S. Census projections. The current system has also proven to be harmful to salmon and other species as the transfer of water changes the environmental conditions downstream. To update the system, legislators have to debate which methods have little to no impact on the environment, while also providing the required volume of water. Bypassing the Delta altogether is an idea; however environmental challenges will still have to be addressed regardless of where the water is taken out. Either way, a complete system overhaul will take a decade to complete and would likely require a water bond to be passed by voters.
- The idea has been tossed about; having Californian's reuse their water after it has been disinfected. The process has come a long way in recent years and many support it. However convincing the public that the process is safe may take a while.
- This technology has been around for some time, although technological improvements have reduced the cost, so this may surface as a viable alternative. Like most solutions, it will require a good chunk of money to kick-start.
No single idea has proven to be a standalone winner, and state leaders may eventually decide to green light some or all of the current proposals to fill the need.
Something must be done about this, and soon. Just as a fire department wouldn't wait to fight a fire until it started destroying homes, we can't afford to wait until our mouths get dry, our lawns turn brown, and California oranges are nowhere to be found.
The preceding article represents the views of the author, and not necessarily those of KHTS AM-1220.