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Water tunnels for California

by AirTalk®

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The California Aqueduct at Mendota, California on March 11, 2009. The Aqueduct carries water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta in the north to farms and cities in the central and southern part of the state. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Southern California is thirsty for water, and Governor Jerry Brown has made it one of his missions to deliver the goods. In his State of the State today, Brown endorsed a $14 billion proposal that would modernize California’s water distribution system. Currently, water flows from the North through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s earthen levees before making its way down South. But many find this process inefficient, outdated and suspect to damage from earthquakes.

Thus, Brown and California Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar have proposed building two water tunnels that go underground, bypassing the delta entirely. Environmentalists have long been concerned with the pumps used by the levees, as they are harmful to endangered populations in the delta. But that doesn’t mean they are immediately jumping on board to support this new plan. They stress there is still a great deal of analysis needed to be done before a proper opinion could be formed. However, many of those in Southern California, especially those with interests in farming, say that timing is crucial and the process must start now.

So how will the plan move forward without putting the environment in danger? Who benefits most from these water tunnels? Does anyone lose out? What are the risks of doing nothing and just keeping the delta system in place?


Nancy Vogel, Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the California Department of Water Resources

Barry Nelson, Senior Policy Analyst for the National Resources Defense Council’s Water Program

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