U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein gave Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger some help with the state's water problems last week when she signed on to what the two are calling a "compromise" on California's water future.
The compromise is possible primarily because it doesn't mention dams, which had been a sticking point for legislators concerned about what dams might do to the environment. The proposal does, however, set money aside for "water storage" improvements that could include dams but might also include underground storage.
Essentially, if the legislature accepts the Feinstein/Schwarzenegger compromise proposal the fight over dams will be put off to another day. This is not such a bad thing, as it will allow for advocates for all kinds of proposals to continue debating while the state, nonetheless, moves forward toward securing more fresh water.
And this state desperately needs to secure more fresh water.
In a recent press release, Senator Feinstein said, correctly, that "California is facing an unprecedented water crisis. The combination of drought, court ordered water restrictions, global warming, and an increasing population has placed a major strain on the existing infrastructure. We need to prepare now for the future."
This paper has gone on the record in support of diversifying and improving Southern California's fresh water supply, including embracing seawater desalination, recycling and improved conservation as parts of a balanced approach to water.
This compromise proposal is just the kind of forward thinking and balanced approach that is needed.
The governor and the senator set out four goals in their compromise:
"Increased water storage to ensure our water supply is more reliable year-to-year and we're able to capture excess water in wet years to use in dry years,
"Improved water conveyance to reduce water shortages.
"Restored Delta ecosystem to allow California to take control of its own water systems and
"Increased conservation and tools to use water more efficiently."
The Feinstein/Schwarzenegger proposal calls for $9.3 billion in bonds to help meet these goals. The bond funds would be spent as follows:
$2 billion for water supply reliability,
$1.9 billion for Delta sustainability,
$3 billion for statewide water system operational improvement,
$1.335 billion for conservation and watershed protection,
$800 million for groundwater protection and water quality and
$250 million for water recycling.
In her press release statement Senator Feinstein said, "The goal of this plan is to break the long-standing stalemate over water."
Certainly there will be haggling over this proposal, and likely there will be some changes made before any bond issue makes it before the people. That is as it should be, but the goal of breaking California's water stalemate is a worthy one, and the legislature should embrace it.
Senator Feinstein is to be applauded for putting her considerable political clout behind this vital issue that has far too often been kicked down the road.
Southern Californians who are concerned about the environmental impacts of new water storage and water conveyance should get involved now and lend their support to the many good ideas available to improve water availability.
And all Southern Californians should understand that this desert we live in does not have enough water to sustain us. If we want our children and grandchildren to live here and enjoy what we have enjoyed, the time is now to fix California's ongoing problems with water supply.