CA%20Briefing%20Feb%2009 - A Briefing on California Water...

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1 A Briefing on California Water Issues Updated February 2009 Susan Lauer Editor’s Note: California and water. The two always have been and always will be inextricably linked. No resource is more vital to the state’s prosperity or steeped in more controversy. This briefing issue is produced by the Water Education Foundation to provide the public with a short overview of the current key issues in California water. There is a need for a fair and balanced portrait of these critical topics because decisions on these controversial issues affect everyone in the state. It is important for Californians to know the views of the three main interest groups – agricultural, urban and environmental – who have a stake in management of our water resources. It also is necessary to learn about the issues facing governmental officials who oversee water management. The mission of the Foundation is to provide impartial coverage of water issues to lead to a broader understanding and resolution of water problems. California water issues can appear overwhelmingly complex and controversial. Through the Foundation, we try to open the door to understanding these issues so that Californians will be able to best manage and protect this precious resource. We believe that learning about water will help you determine what decisions should be made regarding these important issues. People interested in more in-depth information on these current water issues and other topics are encouraged to subscribe to Western Water magazine , published bi-monthly by the Foundation, or refer to the Foundation’s Layperson’s Guide series. The publications can be ordered through our online store. Rita Schmidt Sudman, executive director, Water Education Foundation
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2 INTRODUCTION Since the days of Mark Twain – who is said to have coined the phrase “Whiskey’s for drinking; water’s for fighting over” – cities, farmers and environmentalists have battled over who will control California’s water. The three powerful political factions have effectively turned the water issue into a stalemate by blocking one another’s agenda. Water fuels the economy. And proper management of the quality and quantity of the state’s “liquid gold” is critical to California’s well-being. Yet the critical question of how – or if – the state’s limited water supply can be stretched to meet future needs remains. The decades- long conflicts between competing interests over the use of available supplies have been exacerbated by the state’s swelling population, periods of drought and, most recently, dire effects of climate change. Nearly 75 percent of the available water originates in the northern third of the state (north of Sacramento), while 80 percent of the demand occurs in the southern two-thirds of the state and the coastal areas. The demand for water is highest during the dry summer months when there is little natural precipitation or snowmelt. California’s capricious climate also leads to
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CA%20Briefing%20Feb%2009 - A Briefing on California Water...

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