California Water Issues

While water in California is just about the Holy Grail, it is so complex and arcane as to leave most Californians glassy-eyed when it is discussed. Nevertheless, it is important to try to understand what this latest effort by the legislature means to those of us who believe the environment needs to be protected, water not be squandered to the
wealthy and influential at the expense of the rest of us, and those who stand to benefit most financially pay their fair share of the cost.

Discussed below are responses to those specific issues by two very knowledgeable sources: Assembly Budget Chair, Noreen Evans, and citizen water maven and activist, Carolee Krieger.

While the legislature and others (see George Skelton’s take on the bill here) are spinning this as a great victory, others see the compromises that have been made as untenable.

We’ll be doing more on this—trying to explain the water wars and commenting on it from a progressive perspective in the days and weeks ahead. Because the issue is bound for the 2010 ballot, with an $11B bond attached, the discussion and debate on this deal are far from over. — HBJ

Statement by Assemblymember Nora Evans:

Evans Comments on Passage of State Water Bond

— The State Legislature passed an $11 billion water bond, along with a package of policy bills addressing water conservation and groundwater monitoring.  The following is a statement from Assemblymember Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, about the bond.

“This water bond is an historic achievement for all the wrong reasons.  It was crafted behind closed doors, never received a public vetting, and was passed on the fly in the middle of the night by legislators who lacked an adequate analysis of it.  It brings our debt burden to historic new levels.  And, for the first time, it requires the public across the state to finance half the cost of new dams and reservoirs benefiting
private interests.

By passing this bond, the Legislature is flirting with financial disaster.  Already, the state is unable to pay for services demanded by Californians.  We’ve just gone through three horrific state budgets to close a $60 billion gap.  And, more troubles lay ahead.  We face an $8 billion gap next year and a $15 billion gap after that.

When discussing recent state budgets, the governor and others said the state could not afford to fully maintain its universities, community colleges, HIV/AIDS services, poison control centers, domestic violence shelters, state parks, health care for children, and in-home care for seniors and the disabled.  Paying back this water bond will come at the expense of these services that Californians expect.

It’s the same tired story all over again.  The Central Valley and Southern California plan to take water from the North by building a peripheral canal.  The rub is that they want Northern California to pay for it
too.  All Northern Californians get from this bond is the privilege of paying the bill.”

Response from Carolee Kreiger, President California Water Impact Network (C-WIN):

completely agree with Assembly member Evans, this water bill package
will be financially devastating for the California taxpayers; and that
it is only going to benefit private interests…corporate agriculture
on the Westside of the San Joaquin River and developers in southern
California like Newhall Ranch and the Tejon Ranch. 

this package goes even further; it is attempting to turn 150 years of
water rights law on its head…giving the most junior water rights
holders (the State Water Project contractors and the Central Valley
Project contractors) the ability to take water away from senior water
rights holders (the Delta farmers and the Sacramento Valley farmers and
the area of origin stake holders.)  This will assure a generation of
lawyers a lucrative future.

Moreover, this package will put another layer of bureaucracy into a system that doesn’t fund or allow the existing bureaucracy, the State Water Resources Control Board, to do its job.  Will they allow the new bureaucracy to function if it doesn’t give them what they want?  I don’t think so.

And the salmon will continue to go down-hill toward extinction; the
fisherman and the lucrative sportfishing industry will continue to crumble.  And all this for a sector of California agriculture that is less than 1% of California’s economy.  This does not make sense.

And perhaps most chilling; it will not produce any more water.  The $11 billion is the down payment on a $80 billion bill that will not produce any more water; just take water away from farmers with senior water rights but not enough power to protect them and give that water to junior water rights holders who have bought off the legislature.  And it will decimate the Delta and the environment.”

Carolee Krieger, President, founded C-Win in 2001. She helped lead the campaign to prevent delivery of State Water Project water to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. On behalf of the Citizens Planning Association (CPA), Carolee also led the fight against the Monterey Amendments to the State Water Project contracts. These amendments attempted to deregulate the State Water Project, give away public assets to private special interests for profit and make “paper water”, water that doesn’t exist, legal.  C-WIN has led the fight to stop speculative development in Southern California based on “paper water.”  C-WIN is currently focusing its efforts on the fight to save the San Francisco Bay Delta and keep the salmon from going extinct.  She brings to C-WIN her passion for protecting public trust resources and stopping wasteful use of water in California..

1 thought on “California Water Issues

  1. A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money… How about we all take a look at the least expensive form of “new” water known to man, and long used by man without a single known problem. I’m talking about greywater irrigation. Ranchers in the Wild West used it. Rural folks use it. Even movie stars in Malibu use it. Greywater irrigation is everywhere, legal and illegal systems alike. It’s half the water we already took from some watershed somewhere else, probably hundreds of miles away. Simply promoting its legal use with practical ideas like streamlined permitting and financial reimbursements to the owners, instead of water districts reaping windfall profits from them, can practically balance the state’s water budget without another massive bond and its crippling debt load. Greywater irrigation is an idea whose time has always been here. It’s time to recognize greywater irrigation as a big part of the solution we all seek.

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