In 2014 voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond, which included $2.7 billion for construction of new dams and reservoirs. Unfortunately, few projects are underway, or even being planned.
Our largest dams and reservoirs were built before 1979, most between 1945 and 1968, when our population was less than half its current size. I have long supported efforts to increase water storage and conveyance capacity, to expand water recycling, and increase use of desalination. However, bureaucratic hurdles have delayed or prevented most new projects for decades.
One example is the proposed Sites Reservoir in Northern California. Located northwest of Sacramento, the reservoir project was first proposed in the 1980s. Water would be pumped from the Sacramento River system during wet winters through existing canals to a new, artificial lake that would not be directly connected to any river or stream. The water would be stored and distributed back into the Sacramento River system during dry cycles. Construction is projected to begin next year, with a 2030 or 2031 target date for completion. In other words, if completed, the project will have taken almost 50 years.
Over the past few weeks, California received trillions of gallons of rainfall, our snowpack in much of the Sierra Nevada range is 200% above normal, and in the spring our rivers and reservoirs will be full. But during the recent storms, it’s estimated that 95% of rainfall collected in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta flowed into the sea. Because of California’s inadequate storage capacity, the vast majority of snowmelt and future rainfall will also wind up in the ocean.
The voters spoke in 2014 when they allocated billions for water projects. By now, many new projects should be underway, but that hasn’t happened. The Sites Reservoir example must not be repeated. We need to start building more water storage facilities now, not in 2073.
Assemblymember Marie Waldron, R- Valley Center, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the cities of Poway, Santee, portions of the City of San Diego, and most of rural eastern and northern San Diego County.
Perhaps retrofit, repair, and fill the ones we’ve got too. In San Diego County many of our Reservoirs have been drained and or held artificially low due to safety concerns. If the Sweetwater Authority can’t honor it’s obligations to East County at Loveland Reservoir perhaps construction of a second dam at the public access line could serve as a flood control and secondary stable water source when they feel the need to dump the entire reservoir downstream and violate the intent as well as legal standards they assumed for balancing the ecological and recreational resources with their economic goals.