It’s clear that the state’s water infrastructure is broken –we haven’t made needed improvements to the state’s water project in 50 years; we’ve seen the largest court-ordered water restrictions in state history this year; and, after two straight years of below-average rainfall, Governor Schwarzenegger proclaimed a statewide drought last week.  

Thank goodness!

California must fix its ailing water supply system.  Southern California’s major water source is the convergence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, known as the Delta in Northern California.  And most Southern Californian’s don’t know how critical it is, let alone where it’s located!  Yet, failure to restore and protect the Delta severely jeopardizes our state’s economy, environment, tourism, recreation and tens of thousands of jobs and the future of our quality of life in this state.

About 30 percent of Southern California’s overall water supply flows from the Delta, and recently a federal court ruling halted as much as one-third of that to preserve endangered fish species.

Ongoing problems over how to "fix" the Delta and modernize it for safety, efficiency and environmental issues present some tough choices for California’s leaders.  But as Dan Walters wrote on Monday, "We haven’t made a major positive decision on water in this state for four-plus decades."  Well now is the time to get tough.

The business community understands the seriousness of this situation and proposes focused advocacy on a true solution.  Here is what it will take to achieve this:

Action.  The Governor’s administration should be applauded for recognizing the need to take action on this critical issue.  They should continue to move forward on issues and improvements that don’t require legislation with such measures as flood control improvements, repair of deteriorating levees, hatcheries for endangered fish, and other type of remediation aimed at addressing immediate issues.  Additionally, they should continue to press for thorough and expeditious processing of required environmental reviews in the effort to safeguard the Delta’s fragile eco-system and well as insure a reliable supply of water.

A Comprehensive Approach.  Republicans and Democrats also need to be praised for recognizing the need for action to address California’s water crisis.  Everyone agrees that something needs to be done on this issue but the question seems to be how to put together a bi-partisan agreement.  While there have some negotiations, there are some fundamental items that need to be included in a comprehensive legislative solution, including:

Balance.  We need environmental and economic fixes for the Delta to work as co-equals, not one over the other.  A "Dream Team" of Southern California business advocacy groups stands ready to support fair and sustainable plans.

Conservation and Innovation.  Under the best of scenarios, it will take years to complete the restoration of the Delta.  This means we have to implement conservation measures, innovative technologies, desalting, reuse of storm water, and a variety of diverse ways and sources to address this problem on a local level.   For example, the Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenishment System is just the kind of innovation we need. 

38 MILLION Californians–expected to grow to 50 million–are depending on our leaders to make the tough decisions and move forward today.