California’s water crisis exposes the critical need for greater water infrastructure in that state and vividly illustrates the costs of neglecting that need over decades.
We have reported before on the appalling condition of California’s water infrastructure and the problems the state has faced as a result. As we have described, many of the state’s major water systems are at risk of catastrophic collapse and desperately need to be repaired or replaced. In our August 6 and August 20 blog posts, we reported on the disastrous water main break that flooded the UCLA campus with 20 million gallons of water last summer and on the condition of Mountain Tunnel, a key part of the Hetch Hetchy water system which supplies 2.6 million Bay Area residents and businesses.
Experts say the 90 year old tunnel is extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and could take ten years and $100 million to repair; alternatively a new tunnel would cost $630 million. Should the tunnel collapse, 85 percent of the San Francisco Bay area could be without water for months.
We have also written about the nearly 23 billion gallons of water annually lost by Bay Area residents as a result of leaky pipes. According to an analysis by the San Jose Mercury News, aging and broken water pipes have leaked enough water each year to meet the needs of 71,000 families for an entire year.
This state of affairs is particularly distressing to California residents now suffering through one of the worst droughts the state has ever experienced. Voters did approve a $7.5 million injection of taxpayer funds (known as Proposition 1) to address the state’s aging water infrastructure last November (see our November 5 post for details); had action like that had been taken years ago, many of the harshest effects of the drought could have been avoided.
A variety of water infrastructure projects could have, and still would, help Californians cope with drought conditions. These include:
. construction and revival of desalinization plants;
. public water system facility improvements;
. enhancement of surface and groundwater storage, water recycling and water treatment technology;
. improvements to water supply management and conveyance systems;
. repair and replacement of emergency water supply systems; and
. improvements to ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration.
These public works projects are expensive, but essential to families and businesses alike. Funds are desperately needed for all of these projects, and the federal government’s role is a critical one.