California’s Federal Leaders Have a Unique Opportunity to Help Set a New Course

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The Biden-Harris administration has taken a bold and needed step to prioritize efforts to repair the country’s aging infrastructure. California residents in every region depend on water delivered through projects traversing the state from the high Sierra to the Pacific Ocean and all points north and south. The need is especially pronounced in the heart of California’s Great Central Valley. 

Whether it’s a farm that grows our food, a restaurant in the heart of the city that serves it, a university, wildlife refuge, or a manufacturing plant, we all depend on the same, clean California water supplies. 

The Californians in the Biden-Harris administration and Congress are in a unique position to rally behind proposed legislation aimed at rebuilding and replacing our aging infrastructure.

Vice President Harris, Senators Feinstein and Padilla, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, along with the California congressional delegation, have a chance to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Californians through a long-overdue investment in our water supply infrastructure.

As California leaders, they have had unique experiences dealing with important water issues for decades. This critical understanding of how water affects all other issues enables each of them to bring our state’s unique vision to this issue by ensuring infrastructure is defined not just as roads and bridges, but also as the aging water infrastructure that is necessary to provide fresh water to all Californians – farms, disadvantaged rural communities, cities, and the environment.

Infrastructure investment is critically needed for both surface and groundwater. Both are critical to help us store water in wet years for use in dry ones and to help us address the challenges of climate change. Californians are living the reality of changing weather patterns and, as it has through our history, storage projects help us adjust. The modest storms that swept across California so far  this year are a reminder that when water is available, we need to have the right projects in place to capture and store it for all water users. 

We have learned through decades of scientific study that investments in the infrastructure necessary for fish, birds, terrestrial species, and other habitat improvements, are critical to the health of our water supply, our environment, and our people. These investments, combined with smart, science-based, adaptive management will go a long way towards making California healthier for all.

Prioritizing water infrastructure also helps meet the administration’s “Buy American” goal while the pandemic has taught us the critical importance of a local, safe, affordable food supply. 

And investing in water security also helps address some of the social inequalities in the system. The water that grows our food creates jobs for millions of Californians. Yet disadvantaged communities are often the first to suffer when water supplies are short, particularly in the Central Valley. Water shortages are an undeniable health risk, and when the water goes, jobs and quality of life follow.

Infrastructure investments address many of the specific policy objectives laid out by the administration, and these investments help move us toward the broader goal of “Building Back Better.” If the Biden-Harris team is serious about making this “the moment to imagine and build a new American economy for our families and the next generation,” taking action on water infrastructure is a great place to start.

Mike Wade

Executive Director, California Farm Water Coalition

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