We Have Water -- Let's Use It!

California is once again in a serious drought, the second in a decade. This is a recurring problem in the arid West, but even in dry periods, we should have enough water to meet our needs. Voters understood that in 2014 when they approved a $7.5 billion water bond, which included $2.7 billion to fund construction of new dams and reservoirs. Unfortunately, few projects are underway, or even in the planning stage. 

Our largest dams and reservoirs were built before 1979, most between 1945 and 1968, when our population was less than half its current size. My caucus and I have long supported efforts to increase water storage and conveyance capacity, to expand water recycling, and increase use of desalination.

The Governor has announced a new water plan for the state that would create storage for up to 4 million acre-feet of water to capitalize on big storms by storing water for dry periods. Desalination of seawater and salty groundwater would expand, and recycling would be encouraged.

Many can remember the 14-year struggle to build the Poseidon desalination plant in Carlsbad.  The plant, which now supplies roughly 10% of San Diego County’s water, was almost derailed by lawsuits and bureaucracy on several occasions. Recently, a new desalination plant proposed for Orange County was blocked by the Coastal Commission, despite the Governor’s support.

Recycling, desalination, storage reservoirs, reliable groundwater and sensible environmental regulations – all must be part of a comprehensive solution guaranteeing a secure water supply for California. But without changing the bureaucratic and legal hurdles blocking new projects, efforts to create additional storage capacity and water resources will continue to stall.

It’s been eight years, through two administrations, since voters allocated billions for water projects, with almost no results. We need those projects, and we desperately need that water – now!