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Doug LaMalfa: Combatting California’s water crisis

Doug LaMalfa | Other Voices

Last week, federal officials announced that no water would be delivered to many California farmers this year. Our state is facing a historic drought.

But instead of trying to conserve water for beneficial use, like growing food or for basic drinking water, our state is continuing large unneeded releases of fresh water directly out to sea unused.

I think that most people would agree that feeding our nation and preserving needed water for human use is more important than flushing unused water out to the ocean, but in California, who knows?



Why are we sending water unused to the ocean instead of storing it for use later in the year? We cannot afford a rerun of the same failed water policy as last year when the state needlessly wasted our water only to see Lake Oroville go to the lowest level in modern history and even stop producing hydropower.

Lake Oroville was full in 2017 and 2019, yet it hit a historic low in 2021. Water wasted now will not be available later in the year for any use, including for the environment. This year we may see both Oroville and Shasta reach the point where they cannot make power or deliver water for basic human needs.



These reservoirs were designed to carry the state through five years of drought, but because of gross mismanagement, we are already facing dire water restrictions. We cannot wait to fix this illogical policy. Once the water is out, we aren’t getting it back.

California farmers and ranchers produce the bulk of our nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables. They not only feed our nation, but much of the world. Growing season is right around the corner, and farmers need water in order to grow our food.

Farmers are facing severe cutbacks. This year’s water allocation will have devastating consequences in the form of empty grocery store shelves, high prices, our trade economy, and to rural towns throughout our state.

Water is a critical issue to our state, and one I have been working to fix for a long time. I’ve helped deliver federal authorization for the Sites Reservoir project in Colusa and Glenn Counties in addition to over $100 million for planning and construction.

Sites Reservoir would provide more storage per dollar invested than any other proposed project. It would provide 1.8 million acre-feet of off-stream water storage capacity for California. This is how we can prepare for droughts. Sites is being built to provide resiliency, reliability, and flexibility to our statewide water supplies.

This can’t wait. Thousands of California agriculture producers, small businesses, and rural towns need this water allocation reversed before growing season starts.

That’s why, after President Biden’s State of the Union address last week, I spoke with him on the House floor regarding this important issue. He committed to follow up on these concerns, and I look forward to the opportunity to make our case that the current wasteful policy hurts everyone.

U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, serves California’s District 1.

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