Home California Progress Report Schwarzenegger-Feinstein Water Bond Would Mean More of the Same

Schwarzenegger-Feinstein Water Bond Would Mean More of the Same

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“Attention should be called to the fact that the water is required for the irrigation of thousands of acres of land, and is also required to meet the domestic and economic needs of a great city…”

Onetime Senator Robert La Follete made that argument in favor of dams – in 1913, as Congress debated Hetch Hetchy. It’s a shame that after more than a century’s worth of innovation, we’re still discussing whether expensive, cumbersome dams are the right solution for California’s water troubles.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed water bond represents more of the same old policy. In the face of 21st-century advances in water conservation technology, underground storage, water-efficient buildings and low-water landscaping, we don’t need to build more monoliths.

Two parts of the plan even seem to reach backward politically: a proposed allocation of several billion in continuous appropriation for water storage, and a plan to spend money on dams that benefit just a few special interests.

Maybe when we had a reservoir of revenue, those policies could have succeeded. But we can’t really justify spending billions on dams that only benefit a few – especially with the dams themselves still requiring millions of dollars in feasibility studies.

And it’s hard to fathom how going around the California Legislature to put a small group of people at the California Water Commission in charge of the water storage appropriations will keep our state government accountable and transparent.

Water conservation still represents the most cost-effective way to fill our water needs. The governor has proposed a 20 percent cut in the amount of water Californians use, and we hope he puts that proposal into practice by signing Senate Bill 2175.

Even though the solution they proposed isn’t the best path for California to take, we’re still glad the governor and Sen. Feinstein agree that the current system isn’t sustainable. It’s only through cooperation, careful planning and long-term conservation measures that we can begin to address the current water crisis.

Jim Metropulos has been a legislative representative at Sierra Club California since the beginning of 2002. Before coming to the Sierra Club, he was committee counsel to the Washington State Senate’s Environment, Energy and Water Resources Committee. He focuses on energy, water quality, water supply, parks and off-highway vehicles, wetlands and flood control issues.

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