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Twin Tunnels: $24B won’t assure adequate water supplies for 25 million people

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POSTED May 31, 2013 1:26 a.m.

Let the distortions begin.

Now that a $24.54 billion price tag has been attached to the Twin Tunnels the folks behind the plan are touting it as a way to substantially increase reliable water supplies for Southern California, the Bay Area, and corporate farms.

Nice try. The investment won’t increase reliable water supplies for 25 million Californians.

There are two reasons - Mother Nature and population growth.

We are in the middle of a second dry year. The state’s biggest reservoir - the Sierra snowpack - was only 17 percent of normal as of April 1.

In a drought mode, the Twin Tunnels will not mean reliable water supplies because there will be significantly less water. For the $24.54 billion not only are they not getting a drop more of water supposedly in a wet year but they aren’t doing anything to make sure they have more water in dry years.

Sure, if a mega-earthquake hits and levels half of the Bay Area the Delta levees may collapse and Los Angeles will have less water for a year or so while the levees are replaced. It is a scenario that can happen but is far more likely that a water crisis will occur in Los Angeles, the Bay Area and in the mega farms in the Southern San Joaquin Valley because of drought.

Southern California is also facing the music of getting less from the severely overcommitted Colorado River watershed. If you want to see what diversions can do to a delta, go visit the Colorado River Delta where it empties into the Gulf of California in Mexico. Compare it with what it was like 80 years ago. It is an ecological Armageddon perpetuated to quench LA’s thirst on the scale of the destruction they brought to the Owens Valley. How does anyone think the Twin Tunnels plan for the Delta will be any different? It requires taking water that flows through the Delta now to sustain the environment and making it disappear underground. Experts involved with taking water from the Colorado and Owens rivers watersheds made claims that it wouldn’t hurt either.

Unlike Denver, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Manteca, and the Southern San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area have a vast untapped resource to quench their water needs. It’s called the Pacific Ocean.

Desalinization plant technology is being used in coastal cities around the world. Costs are coming down. And they will certainly come down further if there are more plants put in place.

Sure they take power, but how is that different than the California Aqueduct – the state’s largest energy consumer as electricity is needed to lift Northern California water up and over the Tehachapi Mountains into the Los Angeles Basin?

It’s funny how state leaders roll out a grandiose high speed rail plan arguing the astronomical cost is worth it because it simply shortens travel time for a relatively handful of  people, but can’t get as jacked about spending money to increase the supply of one of the essential resources for life and economic prosperity.

Water has value, more so than shaving a couples hours or so off of a trip between San Francisco and the Bay Area.

But water is relatively cheap meaning waste doesn’t bother anyone. Sure we conserve - to a degree. But they are all passive savings such as low-flush toilets, high efficiency washing machines and such.

Take a look at lawn sprinklers, water running in gutters, pools left uncovered for days at a time. We waste water because it is cheap.

So when we are faced with securing reliable water resources we want to do it on the cheap.

What really needs to be done is starting to wean the coastal cities off imported water via desalinization plants and recycling wastewater in larger quantities. That will free up water to put more land in production to feed the growing population of both California and the nation.

If we spend $24.54 billion on the Twin Tunnels and sacrifice interior California for the coast and big farms it is just delaying the inevitable when farming will be sacrificed for the coast to meet basic water needs.

The Twin Tunnels are an unsustainable solution when it comes to meeting the water needs of all of California.

It’s time to get serious about desalinization so California can prosper for generations to come instead of slowly dying from thirst.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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