There is a real base of support here in California among ag and rural users for regional planning. At this stage, this is primarily to get the State Legislature out of the process. Politically, there remains the Arnold attitude towards water that “We can have it all.” This is simply because of the political control of the State Legislatures by urban users.
Establishing new geographical and political parameters for diversions would change this impulse. Coastal waters have not been included in the array of supply options in California. There remain untapped potential supplies that have been modeled elsewhere. “Desalination systems account for a fifth of the freshwater used in Israel and, according to existing plans, by the end of the decade that amount will be doubled.” The freshwater fetishness has provided other options not previously on the table. Wastewater has been tapped by Orange County as a source for municipal water supplies. Pacific Institute concluded in a 2006 study: “Is desalination the ultimate solution to our water problems? No. Is it likely to be a piece of our water management puzzle? Yes. In the end, decisions about desalination developments will revolve around complex evaluations of local circumstances and needs, economics, financing, environmental and social impacts, and available alternatives. We urge that such decisions be transparent, honest, public, and systematic.”
Point being: that the tax structure has too long defined the water debates for revenues. No discussion of a tiered water severance tax has been broached. No local revenue raising regional bodies are being proposed to provide collaborative adaptive governance for long-term regional planning. Diversions will always prove to be projects with enormous price tags attached. California’s state budget has been the source of its system of aqueducts throughout the state. But that party is over. In November 2012, the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2012 will be on the ballot in California. If passed, it will enable the state to borrow $11.1 billion for water projects. “The state makes yearly debt payments of about $10 billion on its $89 billion debt load.”
Fundamental questions to raise are: Will the charge of the project to users impact on local ag and urban water use in the Central Valley? Will this impact the economic situation and food production of the Central Valley? Are there any options that can address the issue of supply of water equitably for the Central Valley? I think I have included several of those options that have not been developed. A public planning process would certainly increase the options explored for their feasibility.
The concerns of the Delta residents are distinct and addressing them needs to acknowledge that existing political entities have not proven capable of addressing the complexities of infrastructure needs. As things stand the water war has benefited neither the Delta nor the Central Valley. It raises the question of whether the Central Valley Aquifer provides a hydrological linkage between the two regions that could bring them together in a regional water planning process. Is it possible for such diverse stakeholders to sit down together at the same table and map out a common future in regards to water management? Can they accurately gauge supplies, evaluate demand, establish a regional or sector-based annual water budget, improve measurement and monitoring, develop infrastructure, establish sustainable goals for conservation, maintain appropriate water quality guidelines based on the character of the usage, raise revenues, and work in conjunction with Federal and state agencies?