California’s Water Crisis Is ‘Man-Made’: Official

Sophie Li

A water agency official attributes California’s current water shortage to state laws that limit pumping water for urban and agricultural use, and a lack of water infrastructure.

Darcy Burke, the board president of Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, said she is concerned about how water resources are being distributed between human and environmental needs.

“A lot of the drought we’re in right now is man-made,” Burke said on EpochTV’s “California Insider” program. “It’s not that we don’t have enough water. We’re not managing the water we have well.”

She said that each year a vast amount of water is wasted by being released into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta because state environmental policy says it is necessary to cool the ocean to rebound some endangered fish species, like the Delta smelt.

She said in this “water year”—which runs from Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022—4.5 million-acre-feet of water had been released into the ocean.

“That is 4.5 million football fields full of water a foot deep. That is enough for 12 million Californians,” Burke said.

While the state releases water into the ocean, cities and farmers were ordered by the State Water Resources Control Board to stop pumping water from rivers for urban usage and irrigation to prevent harm to the endangered fish, Burke said.

But it stops farmers from cultivating their land, she said.

On top of that, farmers in the Central Valley did not receive any water from a federal-run project that delivers water from the state’s dams, reservoirs, and canals.

“They’re taking acres of what was the most fertile land in the nation [and] they are fallowing it because they don’t have the water,” Burke said.

She said the current trend could lead to an unaffordable food market.

Regarding California’s water distribution plan, Burke said, “We as Californians—we’re human species, and we need to have an environment that helps us thrive as well.”

Water Infrastructure Shortage

When asked about Proposition 1—which authorizes $7.6 billion for water ecosystem protection and infrastructure projects—Burke said she was concerned about how funds are being distributed: “We spent three times than what we invested in safe drinking water on environmental improvements … Meanwhile, we have systems all over the state that have impoverished neighborhoods that don’t have clean safe drinking water. Where are your priorities?” Burke said.

Burke also noted California’s lag in building water infrastructure, saying the last major project was Diamond Valley Lake, built in the late 1990s.

“The state has invested very minimal[ly],” Burke said. “Last time I looked, they said $2.6 billion was allocated, I can only count $140 million that actually went to projects. So where is the rest of the money? I can’t tell you.”

Burke said that the Sites reservoir, located in Northern California off the Delta, which was approved before 2014, is the most “hopeful” one moving forward.

But the construction will not even start until late 2024 or early 2025, according to the California Water Commission.

Burke said the project’s start date has been lagging—causing it to be more costly than anticipated—due to a common problem: special interest and environmental justice groups that sue the projects over environmental concerns.

She describes them as “opportunists,” as they never put the money they receive from such lawsuits back into helping the environment, she said.

“[They are] getting much richer, but none of that money goes to the problem,” Burke said.

Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.
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