Western View: Drought Crisis Response Is Too Little

Taylor Hillman Features, Western View

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Len Wilcox explains why the governor’s drought crisis package needs to go much further to find solutions.
Water Crisis

The governor and state legislators unveiled a billion-dollar program to deal with the drought this year. The program funds emergency assistance for workers, expands water conservation programs and builds infrastructure. As far as it goes, it’s a good and responsible reaction to the drought emergency. But it doesn’t go far enough.

As Assembly member Kristen Olsen of Modesto said, “It’s an important band aid, but we need to go beyond temporary fixes. Nothing in the legislation gets us back to farming by bringing more water in to the Central Valley. We’re still watering lawns in LA and saving the smelt while fields lay fallow, which is costing everyone in higher food prices and widespread unemployment.”

There are options. They are costly, but good investments for the future. We need Temperance Flat built. We also need to improve water recycling, and explore other sources of water, such as desalination.

In Carlsbad, near San Diego, a huge new desalination plant will come online later this year, and it will provide up to 56 million gallons of drinking water daily. It cost a billion dollars and 15 years to build. Six of those years were spent getting approvals and permits from various government agencies.

The water from this plant will cost consumers more than $2000 per acre-foot. This is twice as much as the water San Diego gets from the Delta. Expensive, yes, but it is water, at a time when there just isn’t enough to go around.

About a dozen desalination projects are in the planning stages around the state. Some are big, as big as the San Diego facility. Let’s fast-track these plants, as they provide a new water source that literally is as big as the ocean. And let’s fund more research on cheaper ways to desalinate. That’s the sort of action that will bring about a permanent solution to California’s growing water needs. But we need action now.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.