California Forum

Delta tunnels aside, California’s approach on water is already ‘all of the above’

Water flows through an irrigation canal to crops near Lemoore, Calif. Southern California's largest water agency has agreed to pay for much of the state's ambitious Delta tunnels water project. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Water flows through an irrigation canal to crops near Lemoore, Calif. Southern California's largest water agency has agreed to pay for much of the state's ambitious Delta tunnels water project. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File) AP

The Sacramento Bee’s editorial makes an important point about why California needs to embrace an “all-of-the-above” approach to a sustainable water future, resisting the impulse to focus entirely on Delta conveyance (“The Delta is dying. The planet is warming. Is California too focused on the tunnels?” Forum, April 6).

It’s a valid point, especially given the recent decision by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to fund the lion’s share of the Brown Administration’s California WaterFix plan. Without a doubt, Delta conveyance is a big and essential piece of the puzzle and likely to become even more important with a growing population and changing climate. But regardless of how one feels about the tunnels, we cannot lose sight of how to address the multitude of other interconnected challenges between our present and future water security.

California voters will soon have an opportunity to support this ongoing “all-of-the-above” process. In 2018, two water bonds will go to the voters seeking to continue funding for this comprehensive approach.

California water agencies recognize that an “all-of-the-above” approach already exists and is essential to future water supply reliability. The California Water Action Plan, released by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014, provides a framework for ten actions that span every water issue in our state.

Local and state agencies are already working to implement new storage, Delta conveyance, water conservation, drought preparation, flood control, groundwater management and achieving the co-equal goals in the Delta – water supply reliability, and restoring and protecting its ecosystem. So far, the water plan’s “all-of-the-above” approach has produced some remarkable results that should encourage anyone sharing a vision of a sustainable California water future.

Conservation is now becoming a way of life in California, as local agencies throughout the state implement programs to reduce the need for imported water. Not too long ago, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was as controversial as today’s WaterFix, if not more. But today, more than 99 percent of local water authorities charged with managing high-and-medium-priority groundwater basins have formed groundwater sustainability agencies. This is a great success story of how ideas, however controversial, can eventually lead to action.

This summer, the California Water Commission is scheduled to allocate $2.7 billion for new storage projects thanks to overwhelming support by the public in the passage of Proposition 1 in 2014.

We are also taking critical steps in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento to assure significant funding to restore California’s ailing forests and upper watersheds – the beginning source of our water supplies.

California voters will soon have an opportunity to support this ongoing “all-of-the-above” process. In 2018, two water bonds will go to the voters seeking to continue funding for this comprehensive approach.

Passage of Proposition 68 in June and a second bond in the November ballot would mark another significant step forward in securing the state’s water future. Combined, this funding would cover a wide spectrum of needs, such as safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities, better forest management, groundwater sustainability, and continued progress through conservation and local resource development in response to climate change.

Success will depend on California’s ability to look beyond any one single issue and see it within a larger picture. The Bee correctly took a cautious approach in supporting WaterFix.

It can work, but only if designed as part of a comprehensive plan, leveraging the value of other elements in terms of water storage, water quality, ecosystem restoration and water market efficiency.

Collaborative work is challenging. And comprehensive solutions do not come easily. But there is proof the public’s choice of an “all-of-the-above” approach is taking hold in California as the responsible path forward.

Brent Hastey and Steve LaMar serve as president and vice president on the Board of Directors of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA). Hastey is president of the Yuba County Water Agency Board of Directors and LaMar is vice president of the Irvine Ranch Water District Board of Directors. Reach them at brenth@acwa.com and lamar@irwd.com.

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