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THU | July 31
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For the past century, the phrase “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting” defined how Californians have dealt with the state’s water policy. Today, the major hub of California’s water supply, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is in critical condition and it’s time for us to put down our fists and move forward on a sensible solution.
Water is the lifeblood of our state. Here in Southern California, we often take for granted that much of our drinking water flows from hundreds of miles north in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The Delta, the heart of our state water supply, is an amazing combination of natural wonder and man-made ingenuity that pumps life into everything from our agricultural breadbasket in the Central Valley to the backyard lemon tree in San Diego.
The Delta’s diverse ecology and complex system of pumps, levees, and artificial islands has been in decline for many years. According to a report from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released last week, the Delta has reached the tipping point. Aging earthen levees are one major earthquake away from collapse in which an influx of salt water from the San Francisco Bay would ruin the ecology of the Delta, the fertility of adjacent farmland and the fresh water supply for millions of Californians.
So what’s the solution? First, let me applaud Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein for taking the lead in discussions to develop a comprehensive statewide solution to address the water needs of California. These two elected officials know the history of the water wars in California and they stand willing to defy politics to define a visionary future for our state.
As noted by the PPIC, a comprehensive water plan must focus on the Delta and an alternative conveyance system that offers the promise of a sustainable ecosystem and a dependable water supply. For some California residents, the suggestion of a “peripheral canal” conjures up images of Central and Southern California stealing water from Northern California. But when alternative conveyance of water through or around the Delta is combined with additional surface storage to regulate the flow of water into the Delta, and major efforts toward conservation and water recycling, you have a winning combination for the entire state.
It is important to note that an alternative conveyance of water around or through the Delta would not be designed to bring more water to Southern California and Central California. Rather, alternative conveyance would be designed to create a predictable and reliable water supply with the cost being paid by the water user residents and businesses located in Northern, Central and Southern California that are served by the State Water Project. Environmentalists who used to be opposed to the canal increasingly view this option as the best way to preserve the ecosystem and protect native species.
Southern California legislators can play a leading role in developing a comprehensive water plan. The Chamber and its members look forward to working with our legislative delegation and with Gov. Schwarzenegger and Sen. Feinstein to design a long-term solution that works for all Californians. Then, instead of fighting over water, we can all tip our glasses in celebration of a visionary plan to save our most precious natural resource and our economy.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
Gary L. Toebben
President & CEO
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
The Business Perspective is a weekly opinion piece by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, produced with the input of Samuel Garrison, Vice President of Public Policy.
Gary Toebben, President & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
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