Capitol-to-Capitol: Finding Better Water Management for California

WASHINGTON -- When it rains in California, it pours.

But when it doesn't, California's drought years can have a devastating impact on the state.

California's water experts are looking for ways to better store water during rainy years like 2019 so the state can have it during years when the rain and snow inevitably dry up.

"The reality is our system was built for a significant snowpack. It was modeled on a snowpack that probably is not as reliable and won't be in the future," Public Policy vice-chairman Ed Manning said.

Manning is one of the leaders on water police for this year's Capitol-to-Capitol program, pushing lawmakers for more funding and better solutions for water storage.

The challenge is an immediate one, but Manning says solutions can often take years.

"Water moves at glacial speed in terms of policy change, but you have to take a long-term view," Manning said.

The long-term view means identifying sites for potential new reservoirs, improving older ones and trying to come up with smarter ways to harness water.

"We've been fighting over water nonstop for 200 years, as long as California's been there and even before we were a state," Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, said.

Disputes center on when and how water from parts of Northern California should be shipped to Southern California.

Historically, there's also been an urban-versus-rural dispute over water claims, which recently pitted the Trump administration against the state.

Harder calls the old water infighting a "20th-century mindset."

"What can we do to grow the available pot, make sure there's more water to go around for everyone? That's what we're trying to do here," Harder said.

Harder introduced the SAVE Water Resources Act in Congress, which among other things provides about $900 million for water storage and recycling efforts, and revamps a program to offer low-interest loans for small communities to invest in their water infrastructure.

Progress may be slow, but harder and others agree taking on the state's water challenges is too important to ignore.

"The only way we do that is we put the dollars in it, we cut the red tape and we try to think outside the box in terms of innovation," Harder said. "Those are the three things our bill does."

Congressman Harder’s office told FOX40 they’ve identified four specific reservoir sites in Northern California that they’d like to target for improvements using money from the federal government.

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