A story I wrote over the weekend focused on this question: Are we better prepared than we were in 1976-77 to handle a drought of that magnitude?
Here are a few comments and reactions that didn’t make it into print.
Brandon Nakagawa, San Joaquin County’s water resources coordinator: ”I think we are definitely better off than in 1976-77. Billions have been invested in public and private dollars in water use efficiency, conservation, storage and alternative water supplies up and down the State. Investments here in (San Joaquin County) too… New more stringent drinking water standards as well as water quality and flow standards for fish and wildlife have also been implemented since, which have presented their own challenges for water treatment operators and water managers. I guess that’s why water will always be important; droughts aren’t new, but there will always be new challenges to be overcome. ”
Lynn Sutton, Stockton: “When I was an engineering student in the 1960′s, the state was completing the construction of the California Aqueduct. One day I attended an engineering luncheon in Tracy in which the speaker was an official of the Department of Water Resources (DWR). In his speech he set forth a plan on how the state was going to provide more water in the future as the state’s population increased. It was a 100 year plan. Since then very little has be done in developing any new sources of water, and now we face a real crisis. I suggest that a good topic for a future article is one that lays out how we got to the predicament that we are in now. Go back to the 1880′s when the first big water war took place over who has the right to take water out of the Kern River. There has been many fights over water since then. The focus of these fights has not been over “is there sufficient water”, but who has the senior right to the water that exists.”
Tim Quinn, Association of California Water Agencies: “On the balance, I think we’re a little bit worse off than we were in ’77… We’ve added 20 million people in demand for water, and we’ve expanded agricultural production substantially, though ag water use has gone down and not up and it’s the same for urban water use… We have storage levels that are hitting historic lows where they were in ’77. The difference is, in ’77 those lows were at the end of that year. Now our historic lows are at the beginning of the water year. That’s very scary stuff to a water manager.”