Sacramento all-nighter produces an $11.1bn package of water bills

The California Legislature passed a wide-ranging water package that includes an $11-billion bond as dawn broke over the Capitol today, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In and Out:

In: 20% voluntary conservation by 2020 by urban areas not farms.

In: a bond measure that started at $12bn, dropped to $9bn then rose again to $11.1bn.

In: $3bn worth of dams demanded by the governor under threat of veto.

In: $2.25bn for Delta restoration and a board to oversee the Delta appointed by the governor and legislature. This would have the power to approve a peripheral canal to channel water around the Delta.

Out: Groundwater monitoring for privately owned properties. The stick, reports the LA Times “is a loss of water funding. Counties and agencies in groundwater basins that didn’t monitor could not receive state water grants or loans.”

Out: Increased penalties and increased enforcement to control illegal water diversion.

“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.