Why are Californians surprised when after three years of drought we don’t have the water we need? Why do we think it’s strange that our current reservoirs can’t meet that need?
For years, more demands have been placed on these public structures, which are not up to the task. Yet, we don’t seem to listen until our water agencies have to turn off the faucet.
The University of California, Davis estimates the 2014 loss to the state economy due to the drought to become $2.2 billion, including $1.5 billion in agriculture and 17,100 seasonal jobs.
Statewide, average water use is divided roughly as 50 percent environmental, 40 percent agricultural and 10 percent urban. While some efforts have been made to expand storage capacity, environmentalist activists have Californians on the threshold of removing as many as five storage dams.
For the past few years, even with reduced rain, we saw Folsom Lake management, months before the rainy season, opening sluice gates and allowing up to 10,000 cubic feet of water to escape because the reservoir had to be drained to ensure enough space available for the next rainy season’s flow.
Do management policies need review?
The California State Water Project is a water storage and delivery system of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants and pumping plants. Its main purpose is to store water and distribute it to 29 urban and agricultural water suppliers in Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast and Southern California. The project is also operated to improve water quality in the Delta, control Feather River flood waters, provide recreation, and enhance fish and wildlife.
The project includes 34 storage facilities, reservoirs and lakes; 20 pumping plants; four pumping-generating plants; five hydroelectric power plants; and about 701 miles of open canals and pipelines.
Funds from the sale of general obligation and revenue bonds have provided about 78 percent of financing for construction of the State Water Project. Full repayment of these bond funds is being made by project beneficiaries, rather than by the general taxpayer.
Our Legislature managed to approve a ballot proposal now signed by the governor. The water bond awaiting voter decision in November totals $7.1 billion, not including $400 million to be transferred from previously unused bond funds. Major investments will be only $2.7 billion for additional storage dams, $1.5 billion for environmental purposes, $900 million to prevent contamination of drinking water, $0.7 billion for water cycling, $500 million for improving water quality, and $400 million for flood control.
Five reservoir sites have been proposed. Obviously money is not available for all. The estimated cost in billions of dollars / added thousands of acre-feet / cost per acre-foot follow:
California’s average annual rainfall exceeds the amount of water to meet all needs – agricultural, environmental and urban. All that is needed is storage capacity to contain it until use is needed.
Why have our Republican and Democrat representatives in government failed to build a storage dam for more than 30 years? Why have our state representatives spent more than five years and $200 million of taxpayers’ money to study a plan that would not increase a gallon of available water? Only they can answer that.
The good news is that a less-than-perfect bill has been passed for voters to express their opinion. That act will provide additional water availability – after several years to build. In the meantime, we will live with uncomfortable conservation measures and pray for long rainy seasons.
Remember this record when you vote in November.
Jim McCully is a Vacaville resident and member of The Right Stuff Committee, a committee of the Solano County Republican Party. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.