California officials shed spotlight on state’s water woes

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From Green Right Now Reports

Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

While the rest of America has seen plenty of video footage of recent drenching rains in Southern California, some state officials are seeking a longer-term solution to assuring water remains plentiful in the Southland. At a congressional hearing earlier this week, water authorities insisted that the problems of farms and cities across the state will not be solved by the occasional freak storm.

“A couple of days of rain are certainly a nice relief, but they are a reflection of weather impacted by variable ocean conditions and are not the long-term solutions to addressing the issues that underlie our water dilemma,” said Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Santa Fe Springs, who held the hearing.

Even before the effects of climate change, getting enough water from the Sierras to crops, people and businesses across the rest of the state had been problematic.

“Our water management system is no longer keeping up with our needs as a result of climate change, environmental degradation, and lack of sustained investment in the system,” said Lester Snow, director of the state Department of Water Resources. “Our water system can no longer meet the needs of the state. We need a long-term sustainable solution.”

Snow and others support an $11 billion bond scheduled for November that would fund a variety of water projects, from reservoirs to recycling efforts. More than $2 billion of that money would go to improving the ecosystem in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Scientists report that pumps in the Delta that push northern water south are threatening several endangered species of fish in the rivers and their confluence. In the wake of those findings, judges ordered limitations on pumping for more than a year.

Those limits, Show estimates, resulted in Central Valley farmers receiving only about 60 percent of the water they normally would have seen following recent rains. The cut in water deliveries has resulted in more than 500,000 acres of farmland being fallowed and more than 21,000 jobs lost, lawmakers from that region have said.

While the legislature and judicial system wrestle with the Delta issue, Snow says there will be no panacea.

“We are long past the point that a single project or strategy can bail us out. Some might like to say all we need is more conservation. Some might like to say all we need is to build one more reservoir. The fact of the matter is we have to implement all of those options.”

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