A Plan to Finally Fix California's Water Problems?

California's Governor Jerry Brown unveils his administration's new plan in hopes of finally balancing the state's competing water interests. The cost? $14 billion over a decade.
July 29, 2012, 7am PDT | Andrew Gorden
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California's broken water distribution system may finally have a fix, so says Governor Jerry Brown. As reported by The New York Times' Felicity Barringer and Jennifer Medina, "[t]he $14 billion blueprint envisions both the physical and psychological re-engineering of California's plumbing, including the construction of twin 35-mile-long pipelines, each about as wide as a three-lane highway, that would tap river water from a more northerly, less polluted location. The pipelines would deliver the water straight to the conveyances in the south, largely replacing a system that pumps water from the murkier southern part of the 500,000-acre delta, disturbing the fragile ecosystem."

Ever-increasing water withdrawals and levee building have led to what one environmentalist called a "biological meltdown." At the same time, "Decisions in recent years by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and the courts to ensure there is enough water for fish have led to water delivery cutbacks in drought years." With the majority of stakeholders poorly served by the current situation, there is hope Gov. Brown's new plan will finally justly balance ecological, political, scientific, and industrial needs.

But lacking are details for the new plan. "Although Ann Nothoff, California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, is troubled by the lack of detail in the proposal, she believes, "The status quo is unacceptable."

Although key details of the estimated $14 billion plan were missing (ignoring essential elements such as how much water would go through the pipes and when and scientific goals for recovery of endangered and threatened fish), it's clear who will end up paying the tab. "Those who consume water will have to cover the cost of construction; buying land and creating new habitat will fall to the government," write Barringer and Medina.

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Published on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 in The New York Times
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