On November 4, California voters will have the opportunity to vote on whether to build more dams. The proposition is touted as the solution to California’s water woes. In reality, little will be accomplished.
When the State Water Project was constructed some 60 years ago, the builders knew that it was only a stop gap project to provide water needs. They predicted that the project would be obsolete in 50 years and that the state would not have enough water if something else did not get built.
Proposition One borrows money to fund another stop gap project that will eventually go dry. The proposal throws good money down the river. Rainfall alone cannot provide for all our current and future fresh water needs.
We need to make fresh water. For decades, water desalinization plants have been making water as needed on aircraft carriers and cruise ships. In recent years, cost effective plants have been built for urban areas. Desalinization plants only need make enough water to meet demand. In wet years, plant production can be reduced. In dry years, production can be ramped up.
We can continue to use rain water and then make water as the need arises. Reservoirs lose a lot of water due to evaporation. Water should be stored underground. Building more dams is a losing proposition.
The 21st Century Solution
Dams are a 19th century solution that does not create one drop of water. The Southwestern U.S. is in a 10 year drought. If we don’t get rain, new dams will accomplish nothing.
Desalinization is a 21st century solution successfully employed by other countries to make as much fresh water as needed. About 90 percent of all Californians live within 30 miles of the Pacific Ocean. Why not get some water from that source? Proposition One provides no money for desalinization projects.
Reverse osmosis desalinization plants can be built that produce millions of gallons of fresh water each day! If coastal communities make their own water, the interior will have enough for agriculture. Thousands of desalinization plants of various sizes provide water worldwide to about 300 million people.
As desalinization technology improves, the cost of water production per acre foot is falling. We can lead the nation in this technology. Not enough plants are presently being built.
Another alternative that is better than building new dams is to lay pipes to California from places that have too much fresh water. Oil and natural gas are moved by pipeline across country. Why not water?
The proposed expenditure in Proposition One is not the best way to solve long term water shortage or to guarantee a reliable supply.
Bonds have to be repaid by taxpayers. We can do better than Proposition One.