August 12, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

State’s Big Water Deals Looking Shaky:

“In California, whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.” Often attributed to Mark Twain, circa 1870.

Regardless of whether America’s greatest author and wit of the 19th Century actually made that pithy comment, and some Mark Twain scholars question whether he did, the remark is at least as true today as it was when Twain allegedly said it.

Just look what’s happening now between San Diego County and one of its two leading water suppliers, El Centro’s Imperial Irrigation District. Then check out the confusion and possible deception surrounding the perpetually troubled Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

These are two of the state’s prime water sources, and their futures are both in considerable doubt, with legal and political wrangling over them rampant.

The more surprising of these quarrels is over Imperial Valley water – actually not water rising in that parched yet fertile area along the Colorado River just north of the Mexican border, but water from Imperial’s allocation that’s now being taken out of the river considerably north of any valley farms, then shipped to the San Diego area. To make this possible, more than 5,000 agricultural acres in the Imperial Valley have already been fallowed, their owners receiving payments for water they no longer use.

That water now flows through the Colorado River aqueduct operated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and is relayed to the San Diego County Water Authority, a flow slated to increase over the next few decades under a 75-year agreement signed in 2003.

Even though the water now flows – while San Diego County money flows in the other direction, to the Imperial district – so do the lawsuits. At issue are things like fish die-offs, possible dust storms, and the salinity of the Salton Sea – a man-made lake southeast of Indio that’s a major stopping point for migratory birds.

There’s also the not-so-small matter of the state having committed in 2003 to fund work to save the Salton Sea, something it no longer can afford.

Meanwhile, nothing much has visibly changed in the Delta, from which flows much of the water used by cities in Southern and Central California, as well as farms in the Central Valley. Several cities in the East Bay and Peninsula suburbs of San Francisco also get supplies from the state Water Project, whose fluid originates in the Delta.

But there’s still plenty of action. An environmental impact report paid for by water suppliers like the MWD and the Westlands Water District was labeled suspect even before its writing begins, with five Northern California Democratic members of Congress claiming the funding arrangement gives the big water agencies “unprecedented influence over the process.”

The report will evaluate effects of a current plan to move water south via a tunnel under the Delta or a canal (some call this a “big ditch”) around it. That’s a concept roundly voted down in a 1982 referendum overturning a law passed early that year which would have built a large, concrete-lined waterway around the Delta, called the Peripheral Canal.

The vote against that canal was based on Northern California fears of a big “water grab” where farms and cities south of the Delta would dam or otherwise tap the few remaining wild rivers to the north.

Any new Delta plan would have to shore up earthquake-damage-prone dikes that now protect thousands of homes in the Delta area from flooding. Altogether, there are now ten options for simultaneously making Delta water supplies more reliable, fixing dikes, and restoring the area’s ecosystem by protecting threatened fish populations and assuring high water quality in the face of continual threats of salt water intrusion from the San Francisco and San Pablo bays.

Accomplishing all that is a tall order that has stymied politicians and water experts for decades, especially with funding low and suspicions high in these bad economic times. No one is quite sure where money for any work would come from, even if work is approved.

Put it all together and you get a picture of water insecurity in many of the most fertile and populous parts of California. No one knows what might happen if an earthquake cut off supplies from the Delta. Even less certain is what might happen if the Imperial-San Diego agreement were called off before such a quake might strike.

All of which makes the current wrangling over both Colorado River and Delta supplies more crucially important than most Californians know, as vital as any issue now confronting the state.

in Opinion
Related Posts

OpED: Santa Monica Police Officers Association on Downtown Presence

August 12, 2022

August 12, 2022

By The Santa Monica Police Officers Association Recently, there has been increased public dialogue around the topic of crime and...

Review: A Santa Monica Restaurant’s New Happy Hour is Top-Notch

August 10, 2022

August 10, 2022

By Dolores Quintana Birdie G’s in Santa Monica has a new Happy Hour and it is something special. For one...

SMa.r.t. Column: Ode to the Future of My City

August 8, 2022

August 8, 2022

How sad it is to journey to Santa Monica and I can’t find it.The open blue sky hides behind canyon...

SMa.r.t. Column: Why Native Gardens?

July 22, 2022

July 22, 2022

Voltaire said it best at the end of his 1759 novel  Candide: “We must cultivate our own garden”. This simple...

SMa.r.t. Column: We’re All Wet – Not!

July 15, 2022

July 15, 2022

Don’t you think that if you heard, or read, statements from controlling government agencies that said you were threatened by...

Affordability Answer: A New Tax on Housing Speculators?

July 8, 2022

July 8, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist The TV commercials and online ads are fast becoming ubiquitous: “We’ll buy your house as is,”...

SMar.t. Column: Has the Promenade Turned a Corner?

July 8, 2022

July 8, 2022

In large complex systems with dynamically balanced forces, it’s paradoxically often hard to tell when something has actually happened, For...

Column: Groundwater Law Has Not Stopped Subsidence

July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

By Tom Elias Drive almost any road in the vast San Joaquin Valley and you’ll see irrigation pipes standing up...

SMa.r.t. Column: It’s Time to Look at the Facts of Santa Monica’s Housing History

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

The Narrative: Santa Monica’s decades-long housing construction “shortage”  The Narrative endlessly repeats the refrain that for decades Santa Monica has...

SMa.r.t. Column: The Mansionization of Santa Monica

June 17, 2022

June 17, 2022

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in print in 2016.  In the 1980s, Santa Monica’s single family zoning code was...

OP-Ed Response to DTSM Board Chair Barry Snell and Plea to City Council Regarding Safety Ambassadors and Ambassador Program

June 14, 2022

June 14, 2022

I am responding to the OP-ED (dated June 7, 2022, Santa Monica Mirror) by City-appointed DTSM Board Member and now...

SMa.r.t. Column: Wheeling Electrically

June 9, 2022

June 9, 2022

A recent weekend visit to Dana Point, on the Orange County coastline, revealed a curious scene: dozens, if not hundreds...

Population Loss: New Era or Pandemic Glitch?

June 3, 2022

June 3, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist The numbers suggest a major change is underway in California. It would take a Nostradamus to...

SMa.r.t. Column: The Sound of Silence Is Big & Tall

June 3, 2022

June 3, 2022

All too often these days we find ourselves wondering how we could have been so correct about so many planning...

OP-Ed: DTSM Chair Barry Snell on Safety Ambassadors

June 2, 2022

June 2, 2022

By Barry Snell Chair, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Board of Directors  The Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) Board of Directors...