Now every drop that we save, be it from farmers or folks, counts. But we have to approach the drought problem differently. We have to save more water. The last dams we built in this state were in 1973, when our population was substantially lower.
Yet dams now have become a four-letter word. There isn't much support to build more, because the state has run out of the best sites. Plus, there is a huge environmental reluctance to do anything that will in any way hurt the ecology or the water habitat (think snail darters).
Sacramento legislators right now are going in a different direction. There are seven bills pending with some bipartisan support, and each proposes spending more money on dams and reservoirs to store mountain snowmelt, which otherwise ends up in the ocean. The construction costs could be billions of dollars.
I understand the inherent logic. We can't as a state continue refusing to build reservoirs. Logic demands we store more water. Global warming will have a substantial effect on our need for more water, so we need to compromise and come to solutions rather than have environmentalists fight farmers and the business community.
Sustainable Conservation, funded in part by the Morgan Family Foundation (Becky Morgan was our state senator for a number of years) is trying just that -- finding and promoting environmental solutions that make business sense. Recharging the aquifers is a possibility, for that requires only a small percentage of the cost of building surface structures. But aquifers can gather excess water flow only during high-water events, so they are not a panacea, according to Alex Karolyi, marketing director of the conservation group. Yet the storage capacity of aquifers is 10 times greater than surface level capabilities.
So far, most of this group's activities are pilot efforts. Yet the approach makes sense to me, because aquifers are a less expensive way to store water around the state.
Once upon a time, I envisioned cross-county pipes of whatever size that could be used to transport floodwaters across the country to California. Too expensive, I was told. Or perhaps we could build large floating basins in the Pacific to catch the storm water that we could use as needed. Also too expensive.
But we need to come up with a compromised, creative solution. For too long, we've delayed solving our water problems in this arid state.
Diana Diamond is a columnist for The Daily News. Her email is Diana@DianaDiamond.com.