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California Water Policy: Driest Year in State History Leads to Debate

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The year 2013 marked the driest year recorded in California history. December is typically a wet month in the state, but the Summer-like Winter in 2013 was both a blessing and a curse. A serious debate on the state’s water future is imperative.

The Independent Voter Project organized and hosted a summit on California water policy, which included a panel that consisted of several experts and legislators in the state’s struggle for sufficient water supply. The event can be viewed below:

The panel included the following members:

  • Anthony Cannella, California State Senator – 12th District
  • Adam Gray, California Assembly Member – 21st District
  • Mario Santoyo, Executive Director of California Latino Water Coalition
  • Ara Azhderian, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority
  • Mike Wade, Executive Director of California Farm Water Coalition
  • Ron Jacobsma, Eastside Water District

Senator Cannella gave opening remarks and noted that California’s water infrastructure was built to accommodate a population of 10 million people. The state is now approaching a population of 40 million. He also stated that water isn’t just about California itself, it’s also about every state and country that gets food from California agriculture.

The 2014 election cycle will present a state water bond measure of $11.14 billion on the ballot for water supply and infrastructure. The details may change as election day approaches.

The panel weighed in on the water bond and what can be done to solve years of drought. Mike Wade explained that if a bond is put in place where public funds are used, that there needs to be more accountability with how it’s used. Ron Jacobsma noted that ecosystems and wildlife need to be considered when making a decision on water infrastructure and sustainability.

Assemblymember Adam Gray, who like Cannella represents key parts of the Central Valley, explained that the water supply situation is nuanced:

“Some type of serious investment, not just in infrastructure for conveyance and storage, but also conservation. A combination of all of the above is necessary. Certainly the bond printed today has a lot of improvements needed to be made in order to get support on the ballot, I think we all want to see that happen.”

Mario Santoyo pointed out that the bond is not just about water, but it’s also about the creation of jobs. The bond estimates $11 billion from the state to build infrastructure, but Santoyo states the construction would roughly cost another $30 billion:

“The way you look at it from an economic perspective is that 40 billion dollars-worth of jobs could be generated with the passage of the bond.”

Ara Azhderian took into account that the bond is going to be placed on the ballot during a gubernatorial election year, which may affect whether or not the bond is passed:

“Throw in the complication a gubernatorial election, the dynamics of what the size of the bond should be, and under normal circumstances in 2014, I would say not likely…but the pressure will be felt up and down the state to do something in the face of something that is largely out of our control.

How do you think California should approach its water policy?

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.

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Restoring our topsoil is the best way to buffer through droughts for agriculture, as the earth itself can hold more liquid the deeper the topsoil. Think of topsoil as a sponge, the bigger the sponge the more water it can hold. Then agriculture isn't competing as much with consumers for water. 


One potential use for drones I've heard mentioned is cloud seeding. Could certainly help is mother nature continues to withhold rain / snow to the Sierra Nevada. 


Water is becoming a serious challenge throughout the entire western US and no political effort is going to produce more rain/snow, so whatever we do to alleviate the issue must include very strict conservation laws.

Here in Henderson and Las Vegas, new homes must include xeriscape landscape indigenous to the Mojave desert or some other form of water-conserving landscape such as rock.  Homeowners with landscapes which use large amounts of water (such as grass, flowers, etc) are receiving substantial incentives from the city governments to replace their landscapes with xeriscapes which can survive on the region's natural climate without additional water.

Take a look at this article about Lake Mead.  It has dropped 90 feet in level since 2000 with almost 30% of it's volume now gone.  A bit unsettling.

Alex_G moderator

Desalinization technology is a promising but expensive technology. I think any water solution will need to invest there.