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Selling water to buy it back?

TAGS: Water
Tim Hearden Delta-Mendota Canal
The Delta-Mendota Canal snakes through the San Joaquin Valley.
Under one proposal, Kern County water would be sold to fund a conveyance system to send water to -- Kern County.

There's always another water story to write about.

As the stack of stuff on one such story builds on my desk, I'm occasionally asked in an email "have you seen this…" or I come across something through my various sources that boggles the mind. In a simple world, managing water should be just that: simple. However, years of experience writing on the topic suggests otherwise.

What are we doing to ensure its availability to farms, homes, businesses, and the environment? I don't mean just one "or" the other, but all four at the same time. When do we stop subdividing water into special interest groups armed with attorneys and full of victims?

One of the latest stories to make me scratch my head deals with a proposal in Kern County, Calif. to sell some state project water to fund a Delta conveyance system to move northern California water under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta through a single tunnel and, to you guessed it: Kern County. As I understand the story, it suggests that folks are recommending selling their water to fund a conveyance system so they can buy more water. It makes no sense.

During the last big drought we saw the price of water in California skyrocket as those with deep pockets were able to bid up the price to previously unheard-of figures. Meanwhile, whole communities in a state that bills itself as having the world's fifth-largest economy and is home to high-tech mavens with more money than some banks, watched helplessly as the wells that served their homes dried up, plunging them into the third-world necessity of physically carrying water into their homes.

California voters are constantly asked to sink the state further into debt to fund new water projects that are either never approved or serve a small but politically connected constituency. Sites Reservoir in northern California is still apparently looking for money to build a dam so water can be pumped 10 miles from the Sacramento River to a foothill valley west of Maxwell. At the same time, others continue to pitch a proposed dam the San Joaquin River above Millerton Lake to add precious storage to an overcommitted system.

Meanwhile, the San Joaquin Valley continues to sink from decades of over-pumping while the agency tasked with maintaining the Friant-Kern Canal scrambles to find money to fix a sunken canal built to move water from the aforementioned San Joaquin River system to farms and communities in the southern half of the San Joaquin Valley.

Not to worry, though: a bullet train to nowhere continues to be built in Central California at cost-overruns that stagger the imagination.

We are now beginning to hear of how the state's groundwater management law will impact growers across the state, and the news isn't good. We're following one such story now that we hope to provide you shortly.

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