Opinion: Time to act is now on California’s water system

February 14, 2020

BY ALICE HUFFMAN, President of California State Conference NAACP

Access to reliable, clean drinking water should be a fundamental human right for all Californians. Unfortunately, many disadvantaged communities throughout the state lack access to clean drinking water, and our aging water delivery infrastructure threatens water reliability for millions of California residents.

In the face of climate change and an increased risk of natural disasters, it is imperative that the state take action now to fortify our mainline water distribution infrastructure to better protect all Californian’s access to clean, reliable water.

That’s why the California State Conference of the NAACP is part of a broad coalition of social justice advocates, public safety leaders, conservationists, business and labor that strongly supports Gov. Newsom’s plan to modernize our state’s mainline water distribution infrastructure by building a single pipeline through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The state recently issued the Notice of Preparation for this project, initiating the environmental review process. It is a crucial first step in moving the project forward.

While many don’t realize it, millions of Californians – two thirds of the state – rely on a system of old dirt levees, canals, aqueducts and pipes to transport water hundreds of miles from the Sierra Nevada through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to homes, farms and businesses in Southern California, Bay Area, Central Valley, Central Coast, and San Diego.

We need to secure our water delivery system help against myriad threats and Gov. Newsom’s plan will get us there..

A modernized conveyance project will help us prepare for our changing and more unpredictable climate that directly threatens water supplies. Scientists warn that the Sierra snowpack will continue to decline, and that extreme swings in weather – prolonged periods of drought and severe rain, snow and flooding – are becoming the norm.

A recent report from Yale Climate Connections confirms that disadvantaged communities in the poorest regions of the West will suffer the most adverse impacts caused by this decline in water supplies.

The governor’s plan would improve the safety and reliability of our water system by upgrading aging water infrastructure using the most innovative technologies and engineering practices. The plan would protect water supplies from earthquakes, floods and natural disasters by delivering them through a modern, underground water pipeline rather than solely through today’s deteriorating dirt levee system.

The governor’s plan will improve our ability to move and store water during wet years for use during prolonged droughts, recharge groundwater aquifers and protect against salinity caused by sea-level rise, ensuring that all Californians will have access to clean water.

Upgrading our state’s mainline water distribution system is the critical link to a comprehensive water portfolio that includes increased water storage, conservation, wastewater recycling, desalination and local water supply projects.

The governor is to be commended for updating this critical water infrastructure project with a commitment to begin construction under his watch.

Infrastructure projects of this magnitude take years to complete, and we should not wait for a disaster to strike before taking steps to secure our water supply. There are real, credible threats to California’s water security.

It’s time to act.

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