Delta protection will require vigilance

Oroville Lake is one of the state’s supply sources that have hit low points during the four-year drought.
Oroville Lake is one of the state’s supply sources that have hit low points during the four-year drought. Associated Press file

We can all agree that California has been facing one of the worst droughts in recent history, and we must rise to the challenge. Our state has set the standard for innovative energy use, and we can apply those lessons to our water crisis.

The Sacramento Bee is correct that pointing fingers does not resolve the drought, but a crisis affecting the entire state deserves a consistently open and fair negotiation process and solutions that create a sustainable water future. (“Congress points fingers as it fails California again,” Editorials, Dec. 16)

I was happy to see recycling and desalinization included in proposed bills. Strategies such as these create new water and move us away from the same destructive approaches that would devastate the water supply and economy of Northern California and Western states.

Despite Republican claims to the contrary, GOP proposals do undermine existing environmental and water-rights protections and push our fragile ecosystem to the brink.

Federal and state agencies can take advantage of El Niño storms and maximize our water supply, but they need flexibility and more resources to do their best work. And although storage would play an integral role, newer projects must pass environmental reviews and prove their cost-effectiveness.

Similar to California’s energy transformation, this drought requires a comprehensive, innovative and technological approach. We need to capture and recycle water, conserve and fund water-infrastructure repair, all of which are solutions my colleagues and I have strongly supported.

These forward-thinking approaches could produce approximately 14 million acre-feet of water and should be prioritized in any drought negotiations resuming next year.

As the member of Congress whose district includes most of the Delta, I will remain vigilant against increased water exports that could damage our farms and communities and cause salt water to pollute the water supply for all of California.

To further my colleagues’ efforts, I will introduce a drought-relief bill this spring that will help advance more innovative and efficient strategies. If we focus on solutions that create a sustainable water future, we can beat this crisis together.

Rep. Jerry McNerney represents California’s 9th congressional district.