Every day, I walk into the kitchen, turn on the faucet, and clean drinking water magically appears. It’s a miracle, really, and I’ll bet, like me, you don’t even think about it — the water always flows. Even in the years of drought we endured, good local water management and conservation got us through the tough times. The water always flows.

But not all of Orange County’s water is from local groundwater sources. About half the supply is imported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region in Northern California or the Colorado River from a system that is almost 50 years old, deteriorating and even detrimental to fish and wildlife. A major earthquake could leave Southern California without a reliable water supply for weeks, even months.

However, state and federal officials are now finalizing a solution that began in 2006 — the California WaterFix — that will act like a coronary bypass for an aging heart. California WaterFix, with three new intakes along the Sacramento River, state-of-the-art fish screens and twin tunnels to transport water to existing aqueducts in a way that protects natural flows in the Delta, promises a more reliable water supply and improved conditions for fish and wildlife.

How do we know this?  Water districts invested a quarter billion dollars for engineers and scientists to find the right project, subjecting it to one million hours of state and federal planning and environmental review. Partners in support of this project include tech communities of Silicon Valley to San Joaquin farmers to business and industry.

The cost is estimated to be $16 billion, but for a household like mine where it’s important the water always flows, an additional $2 or $3 dollars per month increase in my bill for long overdue system upgrades is more than worth it.

Yet, Californians are rarely united over water — from recreational and environmental uses, commercial and tourism, farming and community development — all have specific, sometimes single-focused objectives. The California WaterFix is about our ability as a state to solve a major problem, build partnerships with diverse communities hundreds of miles away, grow our food, enhance the environment and bridge political divides. It is about compromise that requires the best of us reach deep for solutions that can benefit all — not allowing any one stakeholder to hold California’s future hostage.

It’s also a test where Sacramento and Washington can, and must, find common ground.

Water agency leaders throughout the state, especially the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, are completing their review of California WaterFix. I urge their support to modernize the heart of the state’s water system and end its otherwise continuing deterioration.

Let the water always flow.

Originally published in the Orange County Register