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Ear to the Ground

California’s Civil War Is About Water, and the South Doesn’t Seem to Care

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Posted on Aug 6, 2013
Photo by sfbaywalk (CC-BY)

The California Aqueduct, which is named for Gov. Jerry Brown’s father, Edmund, brings water from the north to the south.

Southern Californians get much of their fresh water from the northern part of the state and they don’t seem to care that the system that supplies that water is in danger of collapse.

There is a political battle between the two ends of the state, only most of the political energy appears to lie with the water. Northerners consider their parched neighbors’ use of their water a kind of theft, while Southern Californians are happy just to know that water is there when they want it. But that could all change, as the Los Angeles Times reports:

Experts on all sides agree that the massive plumbing system on which the state depends is precarious. The system has degraded the environment of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, requiring costly temporary measures to protect endangered species. It’s vulnerable to earthquakes and saltwater contamination, and it won’t reliably meet the state’s future water needs, state and federal studies have shown.

“The California water system is broken, the status quo is not sustainable, and the environment is crashing,” said David Hayes, a former deputy secretary of Interior, who worked with California for years on a redesign of the Delta water system. “There needs to be a decision made about what to do,” he said, noting that “this is extraordinarily complex.”

Oddly enough the south’s champion, a man who wants to spend $24 billion fixing the water supply and ensuring a constant flow, is Gov. Jerry Brown, a Northern Californian if ever there was one. Unfortunately for Brown, he needs the approval of the federal government, and Northern Californians in Congress have vowed to kill his project.

According to the Times, Brown was hoping Southern Californians would step in and fight alongside him for their water supply, but so far it’s mainly the farmers in the Central Valley and the politicos in the damper north doing all the battling.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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