Central Valley Water Crisis

By: Rich Rodriguez

Mark Twain coined the phrase "whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over." It's a fight that's gone on for decades. {} But this time the California debate has elevated to a national stage. It all came to a head this year.{} A third dismal rainfall year in the valley and a below normal snowpack in the Sierra.{}

Farmers on the westside of the valley depend on federally delivered water but a lack of snowfall forced the feds to drastically cut water supplies.{}Growers had to change their planting plans. Thousands of acres were fallowed.{} Farm workers lost their jobs.{} Food lines became a common sight in Selma, Huron, Mendota and Firebaugh.

Farmworkers and farmers claim the water crisis is man made. Westside growers get their water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.{}{}A pumping station near Tracy transfers the water south down the Delta Mendota Canal.{} But a tiny fish, the Delta Smelt was being sucked into the giant pumps.{} The smelt is protected under the endangered species act.{} Legal and regulatory steps were taken to protect the Delta's fragile ecosystem which lead to a near shutdown of the federal and state Delta water pumps.

Farmers and federal lawmakers appealed to the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar who has visited the valley twice.{} Salazar said, "the reality of this is we do not have those solutions at hand. {} The pain people felt this year may continue into the future. {} I don't want to raise expectations or wave a magic wand and say this is gonna be better next year."

Valley Congressmen are united in their fight to change the rules.{}{}The water crisis has also created new allies.{} The Tea Party, tea standing for taxes enough already has sent contingents to the Bay Area and Sacramento to stand up for farmers.{} Another group flexing political muscle is the Latino Water Coalition.{} Members have been lobbying in Sacramento and Washington D.C.{} Its spokesman is Comedian Paul Rodriguez who has grown impatient with Interior Secretary Salazar.{} Rodriguez{}told reporters, "he told us in there it's gonna take three years were moving as fast as we can.{}Who in this valley has three years?"

Governor Schwarzenegger has also beat the political drums for water reform.{} He's pushed hard to fix california's water infra-structure. {} He's leaned hard on the legislature to put a water bond measure on the state ballot in 2010. {} A vote in Sacramento could come anyday.{}{}

Sean Hannity gets the credit for giving the Central Valley Water Crisis a national audience. In September he brought his cable show to the fallow fields of the westside to spotlight the problem.{}{}