California’s first mandatory conservation plan to address its 4-year drought was announced in early May 2015 and quickly drew objections from several sectors.
First, the plan calls for mandatory conservation, with differing cuts in water usage. Communities with high water usage in dry areas have been directed to cut usage by as much as 36%. Meanwhile, communities in wetter areas have been asked to cut usage as little as 4%. These measures are instituted in furtherance of a 25% cut in urban water usage. Areas directed to bear a greater burden of the cuts are unhappy with the disparity
Secondly, the plan calls for desalination plants to make ocean water drinkable and recycling plants to make water drinkable. On May 6, 2015, the California Water Resources Board OK’d a new process for overseeing desalination plants.
Third, a $7 billion bond measure was passed to pay for water storage facilities and other projects. However, environmentalists are wary of the possibility that the money will be used to build more reservoirs.
Fourth, a $16 billion plan for tunnels over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to divert water from the Sacramento River to be used elsewhere. Environmentalists oppose the plan, arguing that the tunnel system and diversion will hurt the delta.
In response to his critics, Governor Brown stated, “I have to deal with these problems I’ve been given. I didn’t make these problems. I wish we didn’t have any problems.” The problems are certainly severe: some forests are as dry as kindling; some farmers have been forced to cut water consumption for their crops; and even young salmon now must be transported to the sea.
Furthermore, in response to environmentalists’ criticism of the tunnel/water diversion plan, Brown stated that state scientists and policymakers spent over a million hours on the project and until the critics spend a million hours on the project, they should shut up. (One of the Governor’s aides later said “shut up” was a joke.)
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