PCL has stepped back from all the rhetoric in recent water wars to think about what common sense approaches can actually improve conditions. In our report, 8 Affordable Water Solutions (PDF) we outline eight common-sense approaches that can help solve California’s water problems without breaking the bank.

Three factors are driving California’s water crisis

  1. First, our fisheries are collapsing. Salmon, one of nature’s healthiest foods and a job generator, is endangered on all of our major rivers.
  2. Second, climate change is altering the amount and timing of snowmelt that feeds our reservoirs. This is reducing the reliability of the state’s largest water supply.
  3. Third, the fiscal meltdown is making old approaches impossible. With unemployment above 12 percent and a state budget deficit of over $20 billion, we cannot just keep asking taxpayers for more money to throw at these problems.

Eight Affordable Water Solutions for California

These practical proposals will go a long way to giving residents, businesses, farmers and the environment a secure water future, and will generate good new jobs that we can afford:

Funding

Use already approved bonds first. There is still more than $3 billion available from bonds already approved by voters. Before taxpayers are asked to approve more borrowing, existing funds should be carefully invested in the highest priorities. This includes ensuring safe drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Californians who cannot drink the water coming out of their faucets.

Recycle

San Jacinto Valley regional water reclamation facility and wetlands

Delta Tunnel Options

Analyze a smaller Delta tunnel. Instead of a massive $10 billion plus peripheral canal (slightly larger than the Panama Canal), we should be looking at a smaller tunnel to allow some water to be diverted from the North Delta along with some diversions from existing South Delta facilities. This would be far less expensive and would be less disruptive to prime Delta agriculture. The smaller tunnel’s screened intake could reduce fish death. The tunnel also would provide a reliable water supply if there was massive levee failure in the Delta.

Conservation

Require water-neutral development. California needs to accommodate another 10 million residents in the next 20 years without taking additional water from sustainable agriculture or the environment. One way to do that is by having new developments incorporate state of the art conservation measures to reduce their water use and then offsetting the remaining demand by additional conservation and recycling in the existing communities.

Farm Land

solar panels at the southern California Edison plant in Barstow

Future Funding

Consider a smaller water bond when the economy improves. If California’s economy rebounds in the next two years, voters should then consider a bond of about $3 billion to cost share innovative water supply projects, safe drinking water improvements and overdue restoration of the state’s most important fisheries.

Read the full report, 8 Affordable Water Solutions (PDF).