Sacramento Business Journal: Climate change has created urgent need for the Delta Conveyance Project as a sustainable water source

Californians are frustrated. Between the skyrocketing costs of basic necessities, the devastating effects of climate change, and our faltering infrastructure that hasn’t kept pace with our sprawling population, we have plenty to be concerned about the future of our state.

To keep our state Golden, we must commit to the type of smart, long-term investments that defined the early days of California.

That starts by fortifying our state’s main water infrastructure.

California can no longer afford to keep relying on an outdated water distribution system that hasn’t been able to keep pace with the needs of our growing state for many decades, and that is ill prepared for a climate change future with more severe droughts, floods and wildfires.

That’s why we strongly support Gov. Newsom’s plan to upgrade our main water plumbing by building a single tunnel through the Delta. The state has just released an environmental impact report for the most recent version of the Delta Conveyance Project that is much needed and well designed.

Currently, more than two-thirds of Californians rely on a system that was constructed more than 60 years ago to deliver water from the Sierra Nevada mountain range through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to homes, farms and businesses throughout the state. However, California has changed significantly in the last 60 years, and this system is no longer suited for our current hydrological conditions.

California’s main water delivery system needs to be modernized to better prepare for the realities of climate change, especially the cycles of extreme drought and severe floods we are currently experiencing.

The proposed project has been studied, engineered, reengineered and improved over the course of a few decades. The proposed project is a very different project from previous conveyance proposals. It has been downsized, refined, rerouted and redesigned. The project also includes a community benefits program to ensure the communities most affected by construction are provided resources to achieve local benefits.

The simple reality is that we cannot wait any longer.

We are not only wasting precious time in fixing a systemic problem, but we are also wasting copious amounts of water. If the Delta Conveyance Project had been operational at the end of 2021 when the state saw record-breaking storm events, approximately 236,000 acre-feet of water could have been captured and moved into storage ⏤ enough water for 2.5 million Californians or nearly 850,000 households ⏤ for a full year. This water would have helped ease the current drought, which is decimating family farms and forcing significant cutbacks for residents and businesses.

Moving forward with the Delta Conveyance Project will create good middle-class jobs and help protect millions of other jobs that depend on a reliable supply of clean water. It is our duty and obligation to support this plan to protect the water needs of millions of Californians for decades to come.

Experts are ringing alarm bells. The climate crisis is here already. Simply standing by and doing nothing is not an option. We should not wait another day to plan for California’s future and implement a reliable water system to sustain our way of life in California. We must act now before it’s too late.

Joseph Cruz is executive director of the California State Council of Laborers and Michael Quigley is executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs.