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Historically, Sacramento has had the finest-tasting water in the nation. If you grew up in Sacramento you knew the difference right away as soon as you tasted the water in other cities, particularly Los Angeles. Sacramento is the champagne of public drinking water.
The cascading flows from the sacred mountain of Mt. Shasta made their way to Sacramento in a state of purity that left other water districts agog. Along the way, Sacramento fishermen thrived on the striped bass and salmon that called the beautiful Sacramento River home.
Los Angeles was so envious of Sacramento water that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD)–which had to survive on brackish Colorado River diversions–made a play to bring more Sacramento water south. To do it, they backed a plan to build what was called a Peripheral Canal, a 43-mile long, 400-ft.-wide cement ditch which would divert Sacramento water south, around the Delta, to the Clifton Court Forebay below Tracy where it would be pumped south.
Sacramentans, along with almost everyone else in Northern California, were incensed. They saw it as nothing more than another watergrab from the southland, where the Metropolitan Water District was already famous for draining the water from the Owens Valley in one of the most blatant watergrabs of all time.
That Peripheral Canal bill was placed on the ballot in 1982 as Prop 9. Fortunately for the Sacramento area, it went down to defeat by a 2/3 vote–Sacramentans voting to keep their water home while Southern California residents simply balked at the high cost of the project.
The current Water Bill, the one Governor Arnold Scharwzenegger recently asked to be delayed until the 2012 elections, was supposed to fix the Delta’s many problems–aging levees, and a deteriorating ecosystem–and assure Sacramentans and other Delta users a “reliable, sustainable water supply.”
What the backers didn’t tell Sacramentans, however, was that a “reliable water supply” was meant for the entire state! Of course, this meant pumping more Sacramento water south!
So now that the Water Bill will probably be delayed, what will happen to Sacramento water? Actually, Sacramento is in pretty good position to keep a healthy supply of water available for residents if we can somehow clean up toxic chemical and sewage spills into the river. This is currently being debated by a few agencies responsible for clean water.
Sacramentans must also become educated to the trickeries and deceptions used by the water agencies to try to convince them that less water is better. The MWD needs Sacramento water if it is to fuel future economic development of Southern California and that is the key thrust of the California Business Roundtable--the corporate leaders who call the shots in California. Ask Arnold.
For Sacramentans, the future is still in doubt. A safe, clean water supply for Sacramento depends upon everyone taking an interest in this most important issue.
As philosopher Henry George remarked, "To take water from where it is needed and send it to where it is scarce is simply bad water policy!"
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BURT WILSON was a media organizer on the successful anti-Peripheral Canal campaign in 1982. He has remained connected to water issues ever since as they pertain to his home town of Sacramento.