This week, in California’s state capital, Sacramento, lawmakers and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have had many tense, private meetings to deal with the state’s chaotic water crisis. Recent tactics of Governor Schwarzenegger include a mass veto of over 700 bills currently on his desk, most of which are not water related bills. Schwarzenegger is attempting to push lawmakers into finding a reasonable plan to deal with the states current water shortage and deal with the environmental degradation of the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta. California is in its third year of a drought, restricting water allocations for all state residents as well as farmers in the Central Valley. In addition recent restrictions of water to protect native endangered fish have led to more water being withheld from residents and farmers. There have been several new bills proposed by California lawmakers to deal with the delta issue in recent weeks after a statement by President Obama encouraging California lawmakers to resolve the issue soon. These new bills range from improving water management to removing the dams in the delta and restoring the watershed to its former state. Estimates for the cost range in the $10-12 million region. Over 25 million residents and thousands of acres of farmland rely on the water from the delta.
The proposal for the new canal has meet two different reactions from farmers. In general those in the Delta oppose the new canal plan because they believe it will siphon health, fresh water out of the delta to Southern California. Farmers in the Central Valley favor the plan because they want more water rights, especially those that they lost to protect endangered fish. Native fish populations like the Chinook salmon and the Delta Smelt have seen significant declines in population since the major dams and canals were built in the 1960s to supply arid drought stricken Southern California. Recent projects like one in Friant Dam in Fresno, California, have aimed at restoring original flow and enticing fish populations back into their native breeding habitats. While project, which was just started recently, has yielded no results, salmon populations are expected back with in ten years, and eventually a sizable amount will inhabit the delta again, after 60 years.
I propose the lawmakers and individual consulting groups take a look in the plausibility of restoring all of the original Sacramento San Joaquin Delta’s ancestral river channels. This would not only promote the cultivation of native fish but also restore the watershed to its former capacity. While our fellow residents in Southern California still need drinking water to survive (and water their emerald lawns and fill their Hollywood pools) I propose a new, low impact canal be built to divert water to the southern portion of the state. However, in addition to dealing with the big picture of California’s water problem, I propose there be a water metering on private residents. Reducing water waste could be one of the simplest ways to deal with water shortages, especially with the large population in California. Not everyone needs to take a 10-minute shower everyday of water the lawns multiple times a day.