Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The California Water Reliability Act


Earlier today, I unveiled a new legislative package that will provide long-term water security to the people of California. The bill, titled the California Water Reliability Act, would immediately restore the flow of water to dry San Joaquin Valley communities. At the same time, it will provide the infrastructure needed to deliver long-term water reliability for rural, urban, and environmental purposes.

We need a sensible approach to water policy in California. Infrastructure built in the middle of the last century cannot meet our long-term needs – particularly when radicals in the environmental movement are demanding ever increasing amounts of water for their own misguided purposes.

When the state and federal water projects were built over 40 years ago, more than half of the water was dedicated to satisfying the needs of communities throughout California, including San Joaquin Valley farms. This water made it possible for the largely arid State of California to grow into an economic powerhouse and spurred the development of the world’s most diverse and abundant farming region.

Over time, lawsuits and the actions of liberal lawmakers in Congress have fundamentally changed the operation of California’s water projects by diverting large amounts of fresh water. This is most prominently exposed by the fact that more than 75% of the water that enters the Delta is now being wasted to the ocean in a vain effort to prop-up the faltering Delta ecosystem. The result of these changes is an artificial water shortage; one that I and others have labeled a government-imposed drought. It has also vastly magnified the impact of periodic dry conditions that are part of life in the Golden State.

At some point, families and California communities will have to become the priority of our government again. New dams, new canals, and a renewed commitment to serving the needs of the people are what we require. The California Water Reliability Act will deliver results while others continue to offer lip service.

The bill is both common sense and comprehensive. It will fast-track construction of a Delta bypass, as well as new surface water storage (including Temperance Flat) and a number of water circulation projects. In addition, the plan will rewrite the San Joaquin River Settlement to focus river restoration on a more financially feasible and environmentally sustainable warm water fishery. Finally, it will reform and improve the Central Valley Project Improvement Act to ensure the law attains measureable environmental goals.

We can and will have responsible environmental policies when the California Water Reliability Act becomes law. Radical environmentalists should never have been allowed to decide the terms under which water is allocated. Their record is clear. They take as much as they can get and come back for more. That’s why the San Joaquin River Settlement must be re-written – so that the eastside of the valley isn’t subjected to the same ongoing attack as farmers and communities on the Westside. And that’s why Delta pumping must be restored by Congress until new infrastructure is built to deliver the needed water around the Delta.

For more information on this issue and the California Water Reliability Act, please visit