Drought spreads, California water issues remain chronic

150 150 Ed Coghlan

Photo courtesty of Flickr user San Diego County Water Authority

When we were reading this CNN story about the spreading drought in the United States, we were stunned to see that 61 percent of the land mass of the lower 48 states is considered to be in drought. If you look at the U.S. map in the story, much of California is considered in drought conditions. A check with the California Department of Water Resources told a slightly different story. 

Their website says the answer to whether we are in a drought in California is “yes and no”. We are in a dry year, there’s not much doubt about that, (as of May 1 our snowpack water content was only 40 percent of normal) but Californians are still benefitting from the wet 2010-2011 winter during which reservoirs in California were literally brimming with water. 

However, another dry year this coming winter and there probably won’t be much doubt. It reminds us of the four chronic issues Governor Brown said California faces in his inaugural address in 2011:  Health, education, crime and water. Water is a constant issue in the state, and someone with Governor Brown’s long experience in public service understands that keenly.  

The California Economic Summit has identified water infrastructure as one of the 7 Signature Initiatives. 

The Summit Action Plan points out that our awareness of the water issue is pretty low. In fact, 78 percent of Californians aren’t aware of the Delta, even though 25 million Californians depend on it. We need to be better educated about water issues. Mostly, we demand that water is affordable and available. 

But the truth it is a complex issue.

We have to figure out where to store it, both surface storages like dams and underground storage called groundwater banking, how to move it from one part of California to the other (that’s called conveyance) and how we conserve it. 

The Summit’s Action Team is working on plans that can recommend how to integrate the big thinking that is being done on California water issues like the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and the Delta Stewardship Council. The neglect of our water issue has already caused damage to the Delta’s Ecosystem and to the state’s economy and water tables in one of the world’s most important agricultural regions (The San Joaquin Valley) have dropped. 

Voters were going to be asked to approve a multi-billion dollar state water bond this November, but they’ve pulled the bond off the ballot. Voter sentiment against piling on more debt and the perception that the bond issue itself had been larded with special interest pork were a couple of reasons why they’ve pulled the measure.

In the meantime, we encourage you to follow the progress that the Summit Action Team will be making on the water issue and to read the Summit Action Report. 


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan