Rally at the Capitol: Legislators, water leaders, residents and farmworkers call for a drought declaration and a water bond this year, while opponents urge Brown to abandon the tunnel plan

Capitol RallyAbout 800 to 1000 people rallied on the steps of the Capitol yesterday, urging Governor Brown to declare a drought and calling for the passage of a water bond this year.

The event was organized by the California Latino Water Coalition, NAACP, League of Cities Latino Caucus, Nisei Farmers League, and included speeches by Assemblymember Perea, Assemblymember Conway, Senator Fuller, Assemblymember Salas, Senator Cannella, Assemblymember Bocanegra, Senator Berryhill, Assemblymember Alejo, and Senator Vidak, as well as ACWA’s Tim Quinn.

“Today’s overwhelming turn out of people showing their support for solutions to California’s water crisis is a clear indication the state is not meeting its water needs,” said Assemblymember Henry T. Perea. “A bi-partisan group of colleagues came together to advocate for investment in our water infrastructure to ensure a bright future for generations ahead. This is the kind of coalition we need to get the job done.”

This water bond and this drought declaration are vital for all Californians. If we don’t receive the water we need in the valley, that could mean 60,000 jobs that are lost,” said Assemblymember Rudy Salas. “That translates to 1.4 billion dollars lost from the state economy, and increased dependency on imported food.”

“Today’s rally is a testament to the importance of fixing our water system and the need for a water bond. California has already taken too long to get started on rebuilding our water infrastructure, and we must address it immediately,” said Senator Anthony Cannella.  “Our water system was built 50 years ago to serve a population half our current size. As we face another year of drought, farmers can’t farm, workers can’t work, and our food supply will be dramatically impacted. Just as the voters of California approved a $10 billion bond for high-speed rail, we should be able to pass a water bond that will have an even greater impact and serve the entire state with funding for additional water storage and clean drinking water. As we look to present a new bond to the voters, we must make sure that water is in the water bond.”

Communities up and down the state are suffering. This drought is a particularly scary situation to me as a farmer. Agriculture is California’s largest industry, and thousands of people rely on it to put food on their tables and pay the rent. While there is not an industry, person or region in California that is not impacted by a drought,” said Senator Tom Berryhill, “those of us living in the Central Valley feel like we are the epicenter of this crisis.  “This rally is important because it puts a very real face on the problem and underscores just how detrimental a severe drought is to all of our communities.  The Central Valley is still in double digit unemployment, and this drought will put hundreds more right out of job – all because California has failed to address water storage issues.”

Clearly we need a water bond to happen this year and it must include massive investments in water.  A waterless water bond does nothing,” said Senator Andy Vidak. “It’s time for leadership, not delay on water issues.”

It is critical that we have a water bond that helps prepare the state for a situation much like the one we are facing today,” said Assemblymember Luis Alejo. “Communities throughout the state should be able to expand their water storage capacity to store water for all needs in dry times.”

For the sake of our communities, it is extremely important that the water bond ensures clean and safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities, expansion of above ground water storage capacity, flood management and prevention, and delta sustainability,” continued Mr. Alejo. “I hope that my colleagues in the Legislature will work with me to guarantee these immediate water needs.”

ACWA Executive Director Timothy Quinn also spoke at the rally, pointing out that ACWA’s member water agencies have joined together to support a broad array of statewide actions that will strengthen the state’s water system.  “Members from throughout the entire state are working together..,” said Quinn. “Now is the time. We can’t wait two years. We need to act now.”

Meanwhile, Restore the Delta and other opponents held a news conference of their own, calling on the Governor to end his push to build the tunnels:

Our communities need clean water supplies, not export tunnels for unsustainable cotton and almond mega-growers,” said Javier Padilla Reyes, Latino Outreach Director of RTD. “The tunnels are a giveaway to a few billionaire absentee farmers, and won’t provide sustainable jobs. Our future is at stake, and we need solutions more appropriate to our future water challenges. Many farm communities in the San Joaquin Valley do not have access to clean drinking water. Some of these water sources have been polluted by these same growers, who now want us to suspend environmental regulations. Let’s clean up water supplies for families, not ship more water so huge growers can profit from our loss.”

We have had three dry years in a row, and the governor admits the tunnels won’t add one drop of water to our drought-plagued state,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “Water levels are at record lows in the north part of the state, and corporate agribusiness growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are continuing the push for water deliveries, even though the water system is depleted. Local water projects that create regional self-sufficiency not only break dependence on the Delta, but also create more jobs than boondoggle projects like the proposed peripheral tunnels. We have a clear choice in California. Are we going to continue to subsidize a small number of corporate agribusinesses that contribute less than .3% to the State’s GDP — all at the expense of sustainable agriculture, Delta and Bay Area fisheries, and our state’s overall economic future? Or are we going to turn to sustainable policies that fit with our climate, and our future economic and environmental needs?

Read the full press release by clicking here.

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