The recent water main break next to the UCLA campus in southern California puts an exclamation point on California’s broken water delivery system.
It’s certainly interesting to learn that there are century-old water pipes under a city that prides itself on lavish spending in a region that boasts billions of dollars spent over the past 20 years to improve water supplies and deliveries to roughly half the state’s residents.
Earlier this year I listened to an executive with Metropolitan Water District of Southern California talk about what the agency accomplished since the early 1990’s to ensure residents had flowing water when they turned on their taps. The message of the executive wasn’t merely what they accomplished, but the demonstrated foresight that is sorely lacking elsewhere in California.
Later this year Californians could get to vote on a water bond measure – the exact cost of the bond has not been nailed down, but could be in the neighborhood of $10 billion – that will ostensibly move the Golden State into the later 20th Century in terms of its water supply and deliver.
Too bad we’re already living in the 21st Century.
While it was easy to joke with my farmer friends over who could use upwards of 60 acre feet of water for their dying crops (The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power estimated 20 million gallons was lost from the rupture), there was a definite irony in the timing of the break: California announced mandatory fines for those wasting water within hours of the break.
Changes needed now
None of this is funny. Domestic and agricultural wells are going dry at a time when residents in some cities (it happens daily in the city in which I live) continue to hose down cars and sidewalks while overwatering their residential lawns.
Even state officials have turned off the water to some of the lawns at the State Capitol in downtown Sacramento. While signs next to dead lawns exclaim that officials are trying to save water there are still some very green lawns in need of mowing at the capitol.
I’ve heard it at various meetings; I’ve read the comments in the press: California’s water system is broken; the Los Angeles water main break punctuated that idea quite well for the evening news.
Meanwhile, at least one forecasting outfit is saying California stands a greater-than-even chance that the coming El Nino could bring at least normal rains to California this winter. There’s a real fear that voters heading to the polls with umbrellas over their heads could vote against the bond because it’s raining and the drought must be over.
As Californians debate future needs and newspaper editorials cry that California will wither on the vine without a $68 billion bullet train through the middle of Fresno, California is said to be too poor to afford upgrades to its decades-to-century-old water system.
It’s all about priorities. I’m beginning to think California doesn’t have the leadership capable of identifying and acting on them in the best interest of the people who live here.