Diving into California Water Policy

As weather events across the United States have been increasingly volatile, regions grapple with completely different problems. The East Coast has been repeatedly battered by snowstorms over winter, and now they need to worry about potential flooding during the snowmelt. Meanwhile, on the west coast, California has been dealing with an extended drought.

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The drought has become such an issue that President Obama scheduled a visit to Fresno to announce the rollout of $160 million dollars in aid to beleaguered farmers. While the money will certainly help the farmers get by this season, what happens if the drought continues past these next couple seasons? Perhaps the farmers will get continued assistance from the $1 Billion ‘Climate Resilience Fund’ which was also announced during the President’s visit to the Golden State.

According to a recent press release from federal authorities, California farmers will be receiving no water from the largest water distribution system in the state, the Central Valley Project. An upcoming rainstorm may provide some relief for the Valley farmers, but won’t make up for the consecutive dry years California has experienced.

Interestingly, while Obama is pushing through monetary aid, he is also set to veto a separate resolution, H.R. 3964, which would allot more water to the Central Valley Project from the Bay-Delta. The rationale behind the veto is that there are already existing provisions to fix the solution within California’s state legislature.

California might be able to push through a similar provision on its own, but water politics have always been a tricky situation for California. Tensions always rise when there is a discussion of which regions deserve more water than others. California farmers are right to lobby for more access, since half of the nation’s produce is grown in California’s Central Valley. On the other hand, the urban areas host a huge population, and urban water shortages could lead to public health and safety issues.

The California water problems aren’t limited to just regional logistics either; corruption is also a major issue. California State Senator Ronald S. Calderon just surrendered to authorities after being indicted for corruption charges and his brother, Thomas Calderon, is also being charged with money laundering. Thomas Calderon was a former state assemblyman who recently served as a consultant for the Central Basin Water District.

California’s water problems might have something to do with its immense size, but a working solution has always been achieved. Imagine how difficult a solution would be if California were split into six separate states as venture capitalist Tim Draper has suggested. Would interstate water negotiations be more efficient than trying to talk out it in Sacramento?

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About the Author

Chris Wawra is currently living in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2011 with a degree in Anthropology and is currently working as Content Manager for 1WorldOnline. Chris also enjoys mountain biking, dance, and other fitness activities.

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