Water is the lifeblood of California and action needs to be taken to ensure we will have enough water to satisfy the needs of the people and to keep the economy humming. The water bond plan put forth by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Diane Feinstein yesterday is a good proposal worthy of consideration.
California has experienced drought-like conditions for a number of years. In addition, the nearly 50-year old state water infrastructure did not anticipate a population of 38-million people and more.
Improving the water project is one of the crucial improvements the state must undertake – and soon. Conservation is part of the plan but will not be enough to satisfy water needs.
Make no mistake about it, water is vital for economic activity, and not just for farms and corporations but for small businesses and to maintain many jobs. Without adequate water supplies, construction jobs, housing, fishing and other business projects cannot go forward. That’s the way Governor Pat Brown saw it when he put forth the California water project in 1960.
Brown felt supplying adequate water to the state was helping the working people of California. In his biography of Pat Brown, California Rising, Ethan Rarick noted that Brown’s thinking was in line with progressives of the time who argued that water was “turning our darkness to dawn” as an old Woody Guthrie song put it. Brown, himself, said, “Unless we act now to take care of the trouble, the growth and future of California is in mortal danger.”
Today, of course, the environment is a major consideration when putting together a water plan. The Schwarzenegger-Feinstein proposal is sensitive to the environment with plans to restore the ecosystem of the Delta and protect watersheds.
As to the contentious issue of building dams for water storage, the plan is a compromise allowing some money to be spent on groundwater storage and other storage projects. All kinds of water storage projects, including dams, will be necessary to deal with water shortages.
Putting a $9.3 billion bond on a crowded November ballot is a political risk. But, solving the water problem can’t wait.
Stalling over finding a solution to water troubles is an age-old problem in California and the West as the famous quote on water attests: “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”
But, it is best to keep in mind a different quote on water as this effort to solve the current water crisis goes forward. Benjamin Franklin said, "When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water."