It doesn't make headlines or lead the evening news. You won't see it on a bumper sticker or splashed on a billboard. But right now, in communities all over the state, people are working together to resolve one of California's biggest challenges: our water future.
As leaders of two local water agencies one in Southern California and one in Northern California we see signs of that cooperation every day. Water agencies from Siskiyou County to San Diego are advancing local projects to upgrade pipelines and reservoirs. On a regular basis, they are joining forces at the regional level to plan and construct water recycling facilities and treatment plants, invest in conservation and protect water quality.
And the collaboration does not end there. From our vantage point as leaders of the state's largest water association, we see water managers from every region of the state working to resolve long-term water supply and ecosystem problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta an area vital to our economy and environment.
Whether your community is blessed with abundant local water supplies or situated at the end of a long aqueduct, we care about the same thing: a secure water supply system. That means looking decades into the future and taking steps now to ensure that communities, farms and businesses will have a reliable water supply system for generations to come.
The record shows that Californians have been making steady progress over the past decades. Water managers are working to stretch every drop, diversify their water supply sources, protect water quality and plan for uncertainties in a changing climate. But there is more to be done, particularly when it comes to improving our statewide system of pipelines, canals and reservoirs that allows us to capture water in wet periods for use in the inevitable dry times.
That system, built by previous generations of leaders, has allowed us to prosper but it's increasingly insecure under today's environmental rules. It needs to be modernized to improve water supply delivery and reduce environmental impacts.
This is where a statewide perspective is critical. Resolving long-term water supply and ecosystem problems in the Delta is not a matter of one region vs. another. It's about recognizing that the status quo is not working for the state as a whole and finding solutions that work for all Californians.
In short, we must understand that we are one state. We can't perpetuate the notion that our natural resources "belong" to a particular region, or that one region's economy or quality of life is more deserving of water than another's. We cannot be satisfied with actions that shift the problem from one region to another or that preserve the status quo because it benefits one region in particular. Such measures cannot qualify as solutions over the long term.
In our state's long and colorful water history, the most significant and lasting progress has been made when leaders emerged to articulate a broader vision and encourage others to look for mutually beneficial solutions, compromise where necessary and act in the best interest of the state as a whole.
That must happen again if we are to succeed today. The Brown administration has made a firm commitment to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a collaborative process to develop a long-term solution to the Delta's water reliability and ecosystem problems. Though specific elements of the plan are still being refined and studied, the process is stressing the need for comprehensive actions and approaches that put the needs of the entire state first. That is good.
Members of the Association of California Water Agencies have long called for such a comprehensive, collaborative approach. We have also identified principles that must be part of any Delta solution to protect, and where possible advance, the interests of all Californians.
These include protecting Delta interests and respecting existing water rights, including those of water users upstream of the Delta. We must also develop local surface and groundwater storage projects and other programs to assure that all regions of the state, including those upstream of the Delta, have adequate water supply security. Water use efficiency and other local strategies that maximize water supply reliability must also be pursued.
True solutions to our biggest problems come when we act as one state. We have the leaders, the knowledge and the opportunity to come together as a state on water again. It's time to put those ingredients together and move on solutions that improve water supply security for the entire state.