Sites Town Square Todd Fitchette
The 19th Century town of Sites, Calif. sits where the proposed Sites Reservoir is planned for western Colusa County.

MWD could put up money to kick start Sites Reservoir project

The political will of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to put up money for water storage where its state and federal officials won't, should be lauded

A major California newspaper reports that southern California’s Metropolitan Water District (MWD) may put up $1.5 million in “pre-development work” to kick-start the Sites Reservoir project in northern California.

The Sacramento Bee says MWD’s interest in the project could be 50,000 acre feet of storage, or about 25 percent of the water the reservoir is projected to hold.

Sites Reservoir is far from a “done-deal.” It must still gain California Water Commission approval for at least part of the $2.7 billion pot of money earmarked for water storage projects in the most recent voter-approved water bond.

Here’s the story we published a year ago on the Sites project.

According to the Bee, MWD will assist with planning work on Sites Reservoir. This will include helping with the application that must be submitted to the water commission later this year. The water commission must find a public benefit in funding this or any other project seeking access to the water storage funds within the water bond.

Cuing the age-old water wars between southern and northern California, MWD’s interest in the project could be argued as just another northern California “water grab” by those who perhaps don’t want to see the bigger picture.

MWD has a history of showing itself agreeable to building water storage facilities to serve its customers, while state and federal officials have refused to do the same for their constituents since the 1960s.

Several years ago, I attended a water policy meeting where a high-ranking MWD representative shared the thought process and action of the MWD board in the state drought of the early 1990s. This ultimately led to the construction of Diamond Valley Lake, southern California’s largest reservoir, which started in 1995 and was completed five years later.

Diamond Valley holds about 810,000 acre feet, according to MWD, and is said to provide for groundwater recharge, water for residents, recreational opportunities and environmental benefits. The reservoir is also said to help secure six months of emergency water storage for southern California in expectation of a large and devastating earthquake that scientists say will happen.

Had Sites been operational this winter California could have prevented nearly two million acre feet of fresh water (storm runoff) from being lost in the ocean.

MWD needs to be credited for its foresight and willingness to spend money on water storage in an age where the districts state and federal representatives have not exhibited the same common sense and leadership.

TAGS: Legislative
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