Hydrating the System

Hydrating the System

Hydrating the System, September 2009

The state’s water woes and its faltering economy

Most recognized California as “the Golden State” long before lawmakers adopted the official nickname in 1968. But while California’s standing as the land of big ideas and golden opportunities is well-earned, so too is its recent reputation as a state in perpetual crisis. In few places is this more evident than the state’s ongoing debate over its aging and unsustainable water management system.

For all its experience in crisis management, resolving problems hasn’t exactly been California’s strength lately, particularly regarding water. Although virtually every stakeholder concedes that the system needs to be overhauled, the consensus generally ends there. As with the state’s annual hyperpartisan budget bloodletting, the key players on all sides have spent years digging in their heels, protecting their interests and resisting structural reform. The result is almost laughably predictable: A water system built a half-century ago for 18 million people is now woefully inadequate for the 38.3 million who live here today, much less the nearly 50 million residents expected to be here by 2030. With no comprehensive solution in sight, everyone from fish to farmers is living in flux. [click title to continue reading]

This is the opening story in a four-part series on water.

Part II, Spending Water Like Money, October 2009
Part III, Peripheral Vision, November 2009
Part IV, What’s to Fallow, December 2009

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