California and Water. The two always have been, always will be, inextricably linked. No resource is as vital to California’s urban centers, agriculture, industry, recreation, scenic beauty, and environmental preservation as its “liquid gold.” And no resource is as steeped in controversy.
Who Gets How Much
Throughout California history, battles have been waged over who gets how much of this precious resource. While the echoes of rifle shots and dynamite explosions are part of the state’s distant past, the fight continues today in courtrooms throughout the state and on the floors of the State Legislature, the U.S. Senate, and House of Representatives.
Supply versus Demand
The fundamental controversy surrounding California’s water supply is one of distribution, over both distance and time, coupled with conflicts between competing interests over the use of available supplies. About 75 percent of the available water originates in the northern third of the state (north of Sacramento), while 75 percent of the demand occurs in the southern two-thirds of the state. The demand for water is highest during the dry summer months when little water is available though natural precipitation or snowmelt. California’s capricious climate also leads to extended periods of drought followed by flooding.
Three basic problems have been remedied, in large part, by the construction of the most complex and sophisticated water storage and transport system in the world.
An integrated system of federal, state, and locally owned dams, reservoirs, pumping plants and aqueducts transports about 50 percent of the state’s surface water, often hundreds of miles, from where it naturally occurs to where it is needed. California’s rise to preeminence as the nation’s most populous state, and boasting the eighth largest economy in the world, has depended in large part on its ability to resolve many of these water supply problems.
(This information courtesy of the Water Education Foundation.)