Opposing the California Water Fix Is Courting Disaster

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

During the recent five-year drought, residents and businesses in Los Angeles were saved from disaster by water that was imported to Southern California from the mountains and rivers of Northern California via the State Water Project and the Metropolitan Water District (MWD). In fact, imported water from MWD is the reason we have averted disaster twice during the last 10 years.

During the drought of 2012 to 2016, MWD provided L.A. with 69 percent of all the water that residents and businesses used. During the previous drought of 2007 to 2009, L.A. relied on MWD for 65 percent of its water. We’ve all made a concentrated effort to conserve water and that has helped lower overall water use, but imported water from MWD kept you and your family and the place where you work from austere water rationing during both droughts.   

The State Water Project was approved by the voters of California in 1960 to grow the economy of our state and protect Californians from drought. The first construction project was the Oroville Dam. The State Water Project is the primary water conveyance system in the State, and in hindsight we know that it is a major reason why L.A. is the second largest city in America and Southern California is one of the great economic regions of the world.

The State Water Project is more than 50 years old and it is deteriorating. An earthquake like the one in Mexico this fall, could render the State Water Project unusable for an extended period. Gov. Jerry Brown understands the urgent need to repair and modernize the SWP and to accomplish that, he has proposed a plan called the California Water Fix.  The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce applauds the Governor’s leadership and yesterday the Los Angeles Times took a similar position of support in its Sunday editorial titled “Southern California Needs Water. Stop Waffling Over the Delta Tunnels and Dig.”

To our chagrin, Gov. Brown is getting pushback from some elected and appointed representatives of the City of L.A. who are saying, “We don’t need to modernize the State Water Project because we can conserve, recycle and reclaim enough local water to make it through any future drought.” The Chamber vehemently disagrees. We consider this strategy alone, without the California Water Fix, to be similar to Russian roulette for the four million people and the thousands of businesses who call the City of L.A. home. Choosing not to support the California Water Fix is like choosing not to buy insurance for your family. It is dangerous and can lead to disaster for residents and businesses alike.  The City of L.A. should be leading the charge in support of the California Water Fix.

Originally published at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce website here.

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