SoCal business leaders: Water supply challenge is 'once-in-a generation opportunity'

As Southern California prepared for a severe cutback in water deliveries, a coalition of business leaders and former governors urged leaders in Sacramento to promote "aggressive and immediate action" on water supply and infrastructure issues. Under terms of a federal court decision handed down in August, the Department of Water Resources is cutting its initial allocation for water deliveries in 2008. The initial allocation was already expected to be lower because of dry conditions...

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 10, 2007 -- As Southern California prepared for a severe cutback in water deliveries, a coalition of business leaders and former governors urged leaders in Sacramento to promote "aggressive and immediate action" on water supply and infrastructure issues.

Under terms of a federal court decision handed down in August, the Department of Water Resources is cutting its initial allocation for water deliveries in 2008. The initial allocation was already expected to be lower because of dry conditions in the Sacramento and San Joaquin regions, whose rivers feed water from the Sierra Mountain Range to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta and to State Water Project pumps.

"Approximately 60 percent of our water comes from imported supplies and Southern California is now facing extreme water supply deficiencies," the Southern California Leadership Council wrote to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders. "The combinations of the extended drought in the Colorado River Basin, the failure to implement timely and effective improvements in California's water supply infrastructure, and the recent court interference in the Bay-Delta operations have created an unprecedented crisis for the ongoing economic integrity of our State."

However, the council said "environmentally benign infrastructure improvements" can help improve the storage, capture and conveyance of water to Southern California.

"California business leaders are united in their shared perspective that this may be a once in a generational opportunity to resolve differences among stakeholders in the best solution to the Bay-Delta," the SCLC wrote.

The business group also said Southern Californians "must assume a fair share of the burden" in finding a long-term solution to the issue, and must add to and maximize the use of local resources -- and called for new ways to think about old problems.

As part of a solution, the SCLC suggested greater use of available groundwater resources and of the region's "relatively inexpensive storage capacity, a holdover from the area's past groundwater development.

"We have vast opportunities to treat and store more recycled water and to harvest desalinated water," the organization said. "We have an elaborate network of water conveyance pathways that already connect six southern California counties and 20 million people. Water transfers can play a role in efficiently moving our water among willing buyers and sellers."

The SCLC said the region's water purveyors and business leaders "are aligned in support of our own progressive solution in Southern California," and urged leaders in Sacramento "to help break down the institutional, legal, political and economic barriers that have frustrated past efforts to more efficiently manage and distribute water throughout this great state."

The letter called for "a concerted 'local projects' assistance program" and a state bond program providing matching funds for local efforts.

"Further, we respectfully request that you seek input from the private water sector in the state and allow equal access to bond proceeds to those entities, as well as the public sector," the SCLC said. "Selection of projects on the basis of cost, reliability, and local match will result in the fairest outcome for all regions of the state."

The Southern California Leadership Council is a business-led-and-sponsored public policy partnership for the Southern California region. The Council provides proactive leadership for a strong economy, a vital business environment and a better quality of life for everyone who lives here. Founded in 2005 as a voice for the region's business community and like-minded individuals to focus and combine their efforts, the Leadership Council's objective is to help enable public sector officials, policy makers and other civic leaders to address and solve public policy issues critical to the region's economic vitality and quality of life. The Council is comprised of business and community leaders from throughout the seven counties of Southern California and four former California governors.

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