California Deserves a Comprehensive Solution to Its Water Crisis

Tom Del Beccaro
Former Chairman of the California Republican Party and current candidate for U.S. Senate

Today, the number one issue for many Californians is water.  Meeting future demands for water arguably presents California’s most difficult challenge in the years to come. Simply stated, California deserves a comprehensive solution to its water crisis.

It is true that the drought, and what to do about it, presents a very complex problem. There are countless governmental and quasi governments entities, spanning local, state and federal jurisdictions, with at least some say in how to resolve this problem. It is also clear that there is not just one solution – instead, many options must be considered and implemented.

Regardless of how complex the problem is, we must be clear about three very salient points:

First, given that California’s groundwater supplies have been on the decline for over a decade, it is clear that our existing supplies of water are not enough to meet the current demand of our citizens, agricultural interests and industry.

Second, California’s population is expected to increase by as much as 33% in the decades to come.  A good deal of that growth is based on the rather expansionist immigration policies of the California governments. Given that we don’t have a enough water today for those living and working here already, we clearly do not have enough water for the projected population to come.

Finally, given the above, we cannot simply conserve, ration or fine our way into a prosperous future. While conservation and the more efficient use of water are essential, we must modernize our current water management system. We must also increase our current water supplies from a variety of sources.

Our current leaders would do well to remember that one of the greatest achievements of mankind, over the last millennium, was the ability of some nations to create such a surplus of foods that they could vastly reduce hunger in other parts of the globe.

The Western United States and California played an important role in that process.  Today, that historic and important role is in jeopardy.  It would be a historic wrong to simply walk away from that role.

It is also important to note that the troubles of California go beyond agricultural production. The housing, construction, landscaping and hospitality industries –just to mention a few – all face significant problems if California doesn’t increase its water supplies.  Even worse, the state could plunge into a frenzy of litigation over water rights if we don’t increase our supplies.

California deserves better. Fortunately, the technology to solve these problems, without prohibitive costs, exists.  Singapore, which is not blessed with mountains or rivers, has shown the world that, in an environmentally responsible manner, what can be done if a country or state demonstrates resolve.

California, in order to do that, will have to change its priorities and become the water technology capitol of America.

First, the state cannot afford a $70 billion high-speed rail service at the same time it seeks to resolve its water crisis.

Second, while conservation is an important element of dealing with this crisis, it alone will not solve our future problems – better water management and increased supplies can.

Better water management and increased supplies must come from a variety of sources including:

  • Vastly improved catchment and storage infrastructure
  • Reallocating funds slated for rail construction to significantly increased reservoir, desalination and recycling capacity.
  • We must also introduce market-based, public-private based solutions inclusive of importing water from other states.  It is wrong to suggest that such alternatives are too expensive. Let consumers, including industry, who already pay over $2.3 million an acre foot for bottled water, have a say in what is too expensive.

For too long California has ignored it aging municipal water pipe systems.  Estimates range as high as 10% of all water use in California each year leaks from municipal pipes.  In the same manner that California established a framework for groundwater management, the same should occur with respect to our aging municipal pipes. Our water districts should be equal partners in the renewed process of conservation just as every day consumers.

California can’t be prosperous in the future without more secure water supplies.  Given that there are more jobs in water infrastructure improvement than high-speed rail, and that a stable water supply will support jobs for years to come, better water management and a focus on greater supplies is a must at this time.

The good news for California is that the technology to reach these goals exists for California to resume it historical role.  This isn’t a question of a way; it’s a question of will.  California needs to summon that will starting today.

Tom Del Beccaro is the former Chairman of the California Republican Party and current candidate for U.S. Senate.

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