Saturday, March 22, 2008

Water Policy in California

Nice look at the development of water policy in our state.

Steve Wiegand: California water war follows a decades-old flow
By Steve Wiegand -
Published 12:00 am PDT Saturday, March 22, 2008

In today's historical epistle, we provide some admittedly simplistic background for the current tussle over addressing California's water woes:

Edmund G. "Pat" Brown probably wasn't the most eloquent chief executive California has ever had. He's the guy who, after touring a North Coast flood in 1964, exclaimed, "This is the worst disaster since I was elected governor."

Still, Brown succinctly defined the state's water dilemma just after taking over as governor in 1959.

"We do not have enough water when and where we need it," he told legislators in unveiling what would become known as the State Water Project. "We have too much water when and where we don't need it."

Of course Brown wasn't the first Californian to notice this problem, nor the first to try to resolve it.

In the early part of the 20th century, Los Angeles officials put together a plan to build an aqueduct that would carry water from the Owens River Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra to the growing, and thirsty, metropolis. San Francisco officials did much the same thing in the north, building a dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley to store water from the Tuolumne River.

In the late 1920s, a combination of private, state and federal interests pushed through construction of a dam at Boulder Canyon in Nevada to store water from the Colorado River, much of it to be used by California farmers in the Imperial Valley.

And in the 1930s, legislators and voters narrowly approved the Central Valley Project, a $170 million plan to re-engineer water distribution through the heart of the state.

But the "second Gold Rush" swelled California's population after World War II and necessitated another major undertaking.