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Olsen: Water shortage could have been avoided

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POSTED February 7, 2014 1:44 a.m.

LATHROP – Kristin Olsen knows her water.

Just about every Californian does these days. But the Republican Assemblywoman campaigned on water rights and has championed the cause since her days on the Modesto City Council almost a decade ago.

And she’s not pleased with the state of things in the state that she represents.

On Monday night Olsen spelled out a platform to the Lathrop City Council that openly criticized California’s long-term water policy and the way that Governor Jerry Brown is handling what has become a crisis in The Golden State.

Dealing with a dry year, Olsen said, is one thing. But the way that California has positioned itself long-term, said the two-term Assemblywoman, is nothing short of a tragedy.

“Water is the definitely the biggest issue facing California right now, and it’s really a tragedy,” she said at the start of the council meeting. “The fact is that if we’d been smarter in previous years we wouldn’t be in nearly the dire situation that we find ourselves in today. And the fact is that we need to build more storage capacity.

“We have to have a way to store more water in wet years both above the Delta and below the Delta in order to be able to capture that water and save it for the incredibly dry years like the one we’re having right now,” Olsen said.

For the better part of a month the crisis over whether California will be able to make it through a calendar year without running out of the water needed to supply communities and farmers alike have dominated headlines and cracked the national news.

It’s gotten municipalities like Lathrop jumping into the fray to consider alternative ways to provide its most crucial resource to residents. It has also kick started discussions about whether it’s time to funnel treated wastewater – which, as currently treated by the City of Manteca and flows right back out into the Delta – out to farmers and residents to handle the tasks that are currently being handled by drinking water.

The tertiary water treatment processes that are currently mandated, Olsen said, have made treated wastewater just as safe as the water that comes out of the tap. While she was on the Modesto City Council the idea of sending it out to irrigate land near Del Puerto Canyon prompted one of her colleagues to drink a glass to prove its safety. And it’s something, she said, when pressed by Councilman Steve Dresser, that the state as a whole needs to look into as they prepare for ways to prevent massive water shortages in the future.

Because at the end of the day, farmers in the San Joaquin Valley – the most fertile agriculturally area in the world – need water in order to grow their crops.

“The decision that was made last Friday by the Department of Water Resources to provide zero allocation of water to farmers in the southern part of the valley is a tragedy that could have been avoided,” she said. “So I will continue to roll up my sleeves and work very hard in this water area to make sure that we are protecting the Delta interests.

“I believe that there are win-wins that can provide for a comprehensive, reliable water supply but Governor Brown has got to abandon this Twin Tunnels project. There simply isn’t enough water to convey.”

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