Opinion: California Could Have Water to Avoid Droughts, But Lacks the Political Will

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at parched Lake Mendocino. Courtesy of the Governor’s office

Droughts are a fact of life in California and shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Yet somehow we don’t seem capable of preparing for them.

We are now in the second year of severe drought, and much of California’s agriculture, especially in the Central Valley, is facing devastation.

The state Water Resources Control Board just voted on an “emergency curtailment” order that will prevent thousands of the state’s farmers from using major rivers and streams to irrigate their farms. Cutbacks on this scale are unprecedented and will affect our food supply.

California agriculture produces one-third of the country’s vegetables, two-thirds of its fruits and nuts, and generates about $50 billion in annual revenue. We are the nation’s breadbasket, but this bounty is endangered by a lack of political will to build the water storage and conveyance facilities we so obviously need.

This could have all been avoided. In 2014 voters approved a $7.1 billion water bond, which included $2.7 billion earmarked for new dams and reservoirs, but few projects are underway.

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