California State Capitol

The capitol building in Sacramento, Calif.

Is Sacramento short-sighted over sustainable water

Every May, the California Governor’s office issues what’s known as its “May Revise.” This tends to be the starting point for state budget talks between a handful of powerful politicians who effectively get to decide where the state spends over $100 billion.

As it stands, Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest plan is a proposed $115.3 billion of increased spending on just about everything but what’s truly important.

The announcement comes on the heels of an unexpected $6.7 billion surge in state revenues since January that California lawmakers will likely debate on  where to spend.

Think of the windfall this way. If true, California could pretty much pay cash for the entire water bond passed last November and not impact spending elsewhere.

According to California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, the Governor’s proposed budget could mean achieving “great strides in helping agriculture adapt to the ongoing drought and climate change (by providing) substantial assistance to farmers to increase their water efficiency, reduce greenhouse gases, build dairy digesters and increase soil resilience.”

While it’s difficult to criticize the need for greater water efficiency and certain environmental concerns, this focus is similar to over three hours of talks during a recent CDFA board meeting in Fresno where members heard reports and discussed the current drought.

This treadmill of temporary fixes will never address California’s crucial long-term needs.

At the May 5 meeting of the CDFA board in Fresno, state officials including California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci; Bill Croyle, drought manager with the California Department of Water Resources; and Anna Caballero, Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, took turns explaining the costs associated with the drought.

These include feeding unemployed farm workers and their families, paying for temporary water supplies in places like East Porterville, and helping people find suitable housing as local agencies are forced to red-tag residential dwellings with no running water.

According to Ghilarducci, over 600,000 food boxes have been supplied to people during the drought and $9 million in rental assistance has been committed to 21 different counties. This doesn’t count the cost of daily deliveries of bulk water to homes in the state or the money being spent by local agencies including Tulare County to drill new wells near Porterville.

While these are all necessary to mitigate the human suffering resulting from drought conditions, fixes to California’s long-term water needs are not found in food boxes or temporary housing assistance.

I'd suggest keeping your eyes on the ball and not the words coming from Sacramento during the upcoming budget debate since the state evidently has enough unexpected revenue on hand to effectively pay cash for billions of dollars in necessary water storage that we desperately need.

Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette

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