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Why We Must Invest in California’s Water Infrastructure

Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor of California.

As everyone reading this magazine knows, a solid infrastructure system is the key to a strong economy and a high quality of life.

Last year, California voters took a giant step forward in rebuilding our infrastructure by investing $37 billion in bonds to build the schools, roads, levees and housing we need now and in the future.

This year, we must pick up where we left off and make serious investments in California’s aging and overburdened water system. Unless we take action now with a comprehensive water plan, it will become more and more difficult for California to ensure the adequate drinking water supplies that help maintain our economy and jobs.

Our water supplies are being stretched thin. It’s been more than 30 years since the State Water Project increased our water storage capacity. Statewide, current reservoir levels are down to historic lows. Much of California just experienced the driest year on record, and global warming has reduced the Sierra snowpack to a mere 29 percent of normal.

Simultaneously, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which supplies drinking water to 25 million Californians, is in jeopardy. We had to shut down the state water pumps for nine days to protect the threatened smelt. Conditions in the Delta are extremely vulnerable; just one major earthquake or flood could destroy the aging levees, flood the estuary with brackish saltwater and shut off water delivery to Southern California for up to two years.

In addition, California’s population is booming. Our state is projected to grow from our current 37 million residents to nearly 60 million by 2050. We will need more water.

There have been studies, debates and discussions on how to secure California’s water future, but we can’t wait any longer. We must invest now.

I have proposed a comprehensive water plan that invests nearly $6 billion to expand groundwater and surface water storage, increase conservation and restoration efforts, and fix the Delta with a better conveyance system that relieves the pressure on its fragile ecosystem.

As elected officials, we have an obligation to ensure that there is enough clean, safe and reliable drinking water for our residents now and in the future. This includes making certain that there’s enough water for farmers to irrigate their fields and for businesses to grow. We have an obligation to build the water storage California needs and to protect the environment at the same time.

I know that we can find a way to bring everyone together to invest in California’s water supply and ensure clean, safe drinking water now -- and for generations to come.