As drought drives prices higher, millions of Californians struggle to pay for water
By Nancy Benac
2 November, 2015
As California’s drought continues, state and federal funds are being diverted from its water to other sectors, and billions of dollars in tax dollars that were meant for water projects are going instead to the military, aerospace and construction industries.
For many in the Central Valley and elsewhere, water is not an issue. Many of those who buy water in Los Angeles have already been drinking it from the Southern California Aqueduct, which brought water from the Owens River in the Imperial Valley to the San Diego-Tijuana Metropolitan Area and beyond. While the Southern California Aqueduct was closed for repair last year, other water supplies for the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas are also being cut.
Water supply for Los Angeles County is being reduced from 1.84 million acre feet per year, to 1.6 million acres per year, a 50 percent reduction. The rate reduction for San Diego County is 90 percent. Yet even a two-thirds reduction in the rate for the State Water Project that supplies water to San Diego, San Jose, Orange and Los Angeles counties would require about $3.7 billion.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which administer the project, are seeking to spend $9 billion for the project, and $3.7 billion to repair and replace the Aqueduct. Yet, as the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), a state agency, indicated last month, $3.7 billion was needed “to secure adequate funding for DWR’s request for $11.5 billion in funding to manage the drought.”
While that statement is true, it is misleading. The DWR is not seeking money for water, but for a bond to pay for needed projects.
“Water is in many ways the only tangible commodity that California can use to demonstrate that it can control its own affairs,” said Mark Baldassare, water policy coordinator for the Western Region of the DWR. “Water is the only commodity that we can use to take an important stand in the