Despite claiming that California is prioritizing capturing water for the recent string of storms that has dumped 32 trillion gallons of water over the last three weeks, enough to fill the iconic Rose Bowl an estimated 210,000 times, California leaders have still failed to adequately invest in water storage. Senator Brian Dahle responded to the governor’s latest claims by pointing out the five ways California is “failing” to store water from these recent storms.
“What we are seeing with these storms is a state that has failed to build new water storage for 40 years, and water is pouring out to sea as a result,” Dahle said. “California has missed yet another opportunity and the governor can make claims all he wants, but the fact is when presented with real opportunities to capture and store this rain, the majority party blocked the proposals time and time again.”
President Joe Biden visited California to tour some of the areas hit hard by recent storms. Senator Dahle said that the president should have a “full” picture of California’s inaction on water, not only for the last four years, but the last 40 years. In 2014, California voters approved $7.6 billion in water bonds, then until recently, the state has had a record budget surplus for years,yet failed to make water a priority.
Five ways California is failing to store water from winter storms
- Failing to build the Sites Reservoir
Despite voters approving funding for more water storage in 2014, the state’s most environmentally-friendly proposed dam, Sites Reservoir, is still years away from being built. Sites would store 1.5 million acre-feet of water. Last year SB 890 (Borgeas and Nielsen) was rejected and would’ve provided funding for Sites Reservoir.
- Failing to build the Temperance Flat Reservoir
Temperance Flat only received a ‘drop in the bucket’ for the amount of money they need to build the reservoir, leaving the project to fail. $2.7 billion was approved for storage in the Prop 1 bond in 2014 and to date, not one dime of that money has gone out the door for actual construction of any of the large-scale surface storage projects.
- Failed to store water in the Delta
For the last several weeks, the pumps in the Delta have not operated at capacity, at a time when the state could be storing a lot of that water. Entirely due to regulations, California has failed to address this issue and is instead shipping water out to the ocean that could be stored.
- Failing to get shovels in the ground
While greenlighting CEQA exemptions for things like sports arenas has been a priority, they have yet to “cut the green tape” on critical water infrastructure projects which delay the ability for them to be built, ultimately harming California farmers and families who desperately need this storage. The legislative majority was given an opportunity to right this wrong last year with AB 1774 by then-Assemblyman Kelly Seyarto. They once again failed to act.
- Failing to invest in levees and flood risk reduction infrastructure
Despite record-setting surpluses in recent years, the governor has failed to invest in critical infrastructure to mitigate the risk of flooding across California.