Burt Wilson writes an op-ed in the Sacramento News and Review that illustrates an attitude that I consider the single worst threat to solving California’s resource conflicts.
“One state, one water!”
…It’s the latest DWR propaganda to get us to believe that Northern California water also belongs to Southern California.”
I interpret Mr. Wilson to be asserting the opposite: that the concept “one state, one water” is self-evidently wrong. I believe his alternate view is that areas of origin have strong claims on water, and that the regions to which we’ve shipped water for decades have no good claim. This belief should be hard to adopt for a Delta partisan; they are not themselves the area of origin of any water, and we’ve recently seen the foothill counties start to get more possessive about water that would eventually run to or through the Delta. It is also possible that Mr. Wilson is more tribally oriented than watershed oriented; there’s a lot of Northern California disdain for Southern California. Perhaps he associates the Delta with Northern California (although I understand that the good citizens of Jefferson don’t ) and by that alignment, doesn’t care what happens to the people of Southern California. The op-ed doesn’t give me enough to figure out precisely which angle he is taking, but I’ll argue against either.
The view that the state isn’t a collective that pools its resources, or at least that a region that has it good in some regard shouldn’t have to share, is
nasty, small-minded parochialism shortsighted. Completely aside from the practicality of unilaterally shutting off a good chunk of the water that 25 million people depend on, I wonder how the people of the Delta would feel if the same concept were applied to different collective resources of the State. The Delta doesn’t generate any of the following, and is completely dependent on any of the following state resources:
A market for their agricultural products (39 million eaters for tasty Delta pears).
A system of higher education.
Road or freight transportation out of the region for their crops.
Ports for ocean access for their crops.
Emergency response capacity (they have some of this, but not enough in a flood)
These things aren’t as tangible as water, but they are entirely parallel – a resource provided by some parts of California (even evil Southern California!) that isn’t locally generated in the Delta. It is exactly as stupid to say “propaganda to get us to believe that Northern California water also belongs to Southern California” as it is to say “propaganda to get us to believe that Southern California food markets should also be open to Northern California farmers.”
We live in one political entity. Regions taking an “I got mine” and “Devil take the hindmost” attitude is going to break us. Not in the way they might enjoy thinking of, as in, we peacefully dissolve into separate regions. But “break us” as in fuel enough political delay that foreseeable bad things happen before political processes can prevent them. Tribe-based squabbling (and north versus south is only one angle; there are other possible alignments, like mountain counties getting possessive about additional water.) could well hold up the Delta Plan past the day when a big flood knocks out a bunch of islands. On that day, Southern California may find that depending on complex plumbing four hundred miles away isn’t a good strategy for Southern California. But Burt Wilson and the Delta will find out far more acutely that their own counties cannot provide all the emergency evacuation, food and shelter they will need. That day, they’ll believe in a collective State and using resources that come from elsewhere.