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Water Politics Of The California Drought - The Power Brokers Of Water

by Leslie Gabriel September 27, 2014

The Californian drought just keeps getting worse and worse.

To divvy out the state’s water, there’s a complex web of power brokers at the helm of California’s water politics. It’s these people who decide who gets water and who gets left high and dry. It just may come down to humans vs endangered species.

  1. Dianne Feinstein: Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee for Energy and Water - Dianne Feinstein is well known for favoring the state’s agricultural interests. California produces half of the nation’s vegetables, fruits and nuts. The current dry spell is expected to cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Feinstein has partnered up with Republicans for a push to capture water from the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta for farmers. She’s also working out a compromise bill to gut endangered species laws to increase water allocations for farmers. It looks as though the fish and farmers will be jockeying for position. 
  2. Westlands Water District - Nestled in the heart of the Central Valley, the Westlands Water District is large, has 600 farms and relies on water from ecologically sensitive rivers. Unless the Westlands can pull some political strings, there won’t be any federally managed irrigation waters. The Westlands recently filed a petition to stop the release of water from Trinity Lake to aid endangered salmon. The political theme of humans vs fish carries on. 
  3. Stewart & Lynda Resnick: Beverly Hills Billionaires - This couple owns a huge amount of farmland in Southern California, Paramount Citrus and Paramount Farming Company. Currently, they are in control of the state’s water storage bank and sell water to the state at a premium. Stewart & Lynda Resnick have wined and dined Dianne Feinstein to help convince the feds to curtail water diversions for endangered species. Feinstein’s new water bill would allow delta water to be available for the Resnicks’ water bank.
  4. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California - The Metropolitan Water District supplies water for about 19 million people in San Diego, Los Angeles and surrounding cities. This water district is a player in all aspects of the state’s water politics, as it uses water from all over the west, including the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the Colorado River. It also supports Proposition 1. This proposition will be voted on in November. If passed, there will be $2.7 billion for water storage projects and watershed restoration.
  5. Community Water Center (CWC) - According to the CWC, “clean water is a basic human right, not a privilege.” The CWC advocates for poor communities, instead of focusing on agricultural and environmental interests. This group recently met with Governor Jerry Brown’s office to ensure that the new water bond meets the needs of poor communities. The bond include $691 million to help poor communities and the disadvantaged gain access to clean drinking water.

So, how does everyone else feel about the water politics in California? Politicians like President Obama are wading in the water politics in the state. At the same time, the Republicans are trying to portray Democrats as more concerned with endangered fish species than endangered livelihoods. 

Of course politicians are power brokers may be overlooking the most importat power player in this whole drought ... the people. It just depends if the people will unite to flex some muscle to trat the wate issue with the urgency and fairmindedness that it deserves.



Leslie Gabriel
Leslie Gabriel


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