Viewpoints: New Delta plan is not a responsible solution
Water is a critically important resource that has played a vital role in California history from the Gold Rush era to modern times. Over the years,water management has contributed to the evolution of parched deserts into productive farms and dry lots into thriving home sites for millions of California families.
Now our state's demand for water is outstripping supplies and, as a result, the health of our economy and environment is threatened. Making the most of our water resources requires us to rebalance and refocus. This is no simple task. We must take a hard look at California's many natural climates, assess the environmental and economic costs and benefits of moving water across the state and decide how to best and fairly allocate responsibilities.
Northern California and the Sacramento region have some of the state's most abundant water resources, which are already allocated to meeting needs throughout the state. The region serves itself and supplies water to San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California cities through theSacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Now, the Delta is overworked and the amount of water being pumped to dry areas of California is reduced as a result. The Legislature formed the Delta Stewardship Council in 2009 and called for a new Delta plan to balance state water supplies with a healthy Delta ecosystem. We are ready to participate in a responsible Delta solution, integrating our current water management efforts into a solution that works for all. Unfortunately, the Delta plan that is currently under development would make no clear environmental gains and would impose serious restrictions on water suppliesin our communities.
Decades ago, Northern California agreed to share water with other regions of the state for the benefit of all. Part of the deal was that Northern California water suppliers would always be able to use our local water to meet local demands. Recent state legislation seeks to restrict Northern California water use. The Delta plan proposes to make it more difficult for us to use water suppliesgenerated by conservation and increased system efficiencies needed to meet future water demands. State law allows local agencies to retain the benefits achieved by conserving water. But the proposed Delta plan threatens those benefits.
Our region has already adopted innovative solutions to balance the local economic demands forwater supplies and the environmental needs of our rivers and wetlands. As one example, water suppliers, governments, environmentalists, businesses and civic groups signed the Water Forum Agreement in 2000. Through this agreement and other innovations, our region continues to make investments to store surplus water for future use, reduce water demands and use alternative water sources when appropriate. These efforts improve our local environment and directly benefit areas downstream by improving the environment for fish like salmon that migrate through the Delta.
Some Northern California jurisdictions, including Roseville and Folsom, have long-standing, locally sourced water supplies. The draft Delta plan proposes to impose fees on these water suppliesto help pay for the bureaucracy needed to implement the Delta plan. We believe it would be unfair to ask our residents to pay more – especially during these tough economic times – when we have worked hard to manage our water resources responsibly.
We acknowledge that California needs a responsible Delta solution. More efficient water use, additional storage, water recycling and a host of other measures are all part of it. But Northern California, already the water source for much of the state, should not be subjected to a plan that would threaten our region's economy by unfairly limiting our ability to use our local water and burdening us with new bureaucratic costs.
Our region will, of course, do our part to help develop water solutions for our state. However, undoing hard-fought regional gains is not progress for anyone. Any solution that fails to honestly acknowledge real impacts and the true beneficiaries and to uphold California's fundamental water priority is no solution at all.
ANDY MORIN and PAULINE ROCCUCCI | Special
Andy Morin is the mayor of Folsom. Pauline Roccucci is the mayor of Roseville.