“One earthquake, one flood away from collapse”

THE SACRAMENTO-San Joaquin River Delta is “one earthquake, one flood away from collapse,” said the California Senate speaker pro Tem as he opened legislative hearings last week on a compromise package of water bills. In case listeners didn’t care, Darrell Steinberg added to a legislature convened in an extraordinary session precisely to deal with the delta, “24m people could lose their drinking water.”

Powerful language, except in California extreme warnings are old hat. Delta levees have been crumbling for a quarter of a century, and repeated alerts to the clear and present danger, such as the USGS subsidence map, left, have not broken the deadlock between legislators representing fisheries, Delta residents, Central Valley farmers, and Southern Californian cities over how to manage the largest estuary on the Pacific coast of the US.

Latterly, a governor top-loading delta fixes with demands for $3bn worth of new dams has only deepened divides.

Delta divided

ON A DATE synonymous with American heroism in the face of emergency, yesterday the California State Legislature undertook to solve the state’s water crisis by midnight — and failed.

Looming over negotiations was California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose threats to veto any legislation that did not include new dams and reservoirs in spite of the state’s budget crisis only sound like they come from a comic book. This one, from yesterday, comes from the Associated Press: “Don’t send me Mickey Mouse bills. Send me the big stuff.”

With no way to find billions to pay for the “big stuff,” or new water to fill new reservoirs, last ditch efforts to move a sweeping package of water bills failed. Aquafornia, the newsfeed of the Water Education Foundation, has the latest reports, starting 

Running Dry (the project)

MEETINGS are too often paid vacations for professionals who already know what they think but want to think it in a new city. Yet next Tuesday’s gathering in Washington DC of leading water managers, US Congressional delegates and state delegations looks like stage setting for the announcement of a new integrated water policy. At least that’s what the organizers, the Running Dry Project, hope.

For more information about the Running Dry Project, which sprang from the 2005 documentary by Jim Thebaut, click on the rain drop.