Opinion

Valley’s water woes are far from over

If there is any part of California that has suffered more from the recent six-year drought (and, there are indications more dry years are ahead of us), it has to be the heart of the San Joaquín Valley, which relies on average annual rainfall of 11.5 inches of rain plus whatever snowfall graces the Sierra mountains.

This is an eight-county region of 4.67 million residents that is expected to grow to 6.74 million in three decades, according to forecasts by the state Department of Finance. Latinos will represent a healthy majority of the population.

We have already seen the recent drought’s impact on the area’s multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry as water deliveries have slowed to a trickle and farmers have resorted to either pumping more water from the ground or idling acres upon acres of farmland. Some have also switched to crops that are less dependent on water.

In turn, some areas of the Valley floor have sunk due to a declining water table.

Communities like East Porterville have experienced dry wells. Residents in other areas, like Stratford most recently, have discovered their water is unfit for human consumption.

Climate change will probably exacerbate these problems.

Vida en el Valle reporter Daniel Cásarez has chronicled the problems of East Porterville, a largely Latino neighborhood where residents used a nearby church to shower. The unincorporated community found relief when their homes were connected to the City of Porterville water system.

This publication has also written about the plight of farmworkers on the westside when farmers fallowed large chunks of land due to federal and state cuts in water deliveries. We have also written about rural communities like Earlimart, Armona and other poverty-stricken areas.

Solving the water crisis – other than thinking Mother Nature will suddenly unleash plentiful rain from now until Republicans regain control of the state – will not be easy, or cheap. Voters have approved all but one water bond throughout the years, including a $7.12 billion measure in 2014. Yet, problems still exist.

California voters will be asked in November to approve an $8.877 billion water bond for water infrastructure and watershed conservation. Backers point out to specifics that will help the Valley, like funds for small, rural communities to hire technical help in applying for grants to fix their water systems. It is named Proposition 3.

A key part of the proposition, at least for the 15 Valley cities and their residents who rely on the Friant Kern Canal for their drinking water, is $750 million for repairs and upgrades for the 66-year-old canal. One important fix is a 20-mile stretch near Porterville where sunken land has hampered water delivery by 60 percent.

Polling shows 58 percent support for Proposition 3.

We suggest voters get informed about the measure, ask questions and determine if they will support or oppose.

After all, we need to deal with this water problem sooner or later.

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