Solving State’s Water Needs

Assemblyman Phillip Isenberg (“Look Beyond the Current Drought,” Commentary, Feb. 12) applauds Gov. Pete Wilson for his willingness to deal with the drought crisis. We applaud Isenberg for his own vision and for his recognition of some long-range issues that contributed to the crisis--issues that must be dealt with if California is to continue to maintain a healthy economy.

His aim is true when he points out it would be shortsighted to merely deal with the present emergency and not the state’s long-term water problems.

But he stops short of the mark by omitting mention of the state’s most critical and most politically charged water dilemma: the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Drinking water for two out of three Californians and the irrigation water for much of the state’s farmland flows through this much-contested area.

Isenberg demonstrates his wisdom and courage when he says we need to make dramatic changes in the way California water is managed. Those changes, however, should not be made without first taking a hard look at the following facts:


* The single most important step in providing high-quality drinking water is to obtain it from the cleanest possible source. Yet in the delta, seawater and farm drainage mingle with our drinking water supply.

* The fish and wildlife so rigorously defended by the interests who have stalemated all attempts to improve delta water transfer are being gravely harmed by the lack of essential facilities.

* Neither the voluntary water transfers from farms to urban areas Isenberg calls for nor the reservoir he sponsored can achieve his objectives unless we improve the way water is channeled across the delta.

I have yet to be shown that these and other concerns can be solved without diverting water above the delta, bringing it around that troubled area in what has been dubbed a “peripheral canal.” In order to do that we must work with all parties interested in the delta to assure that such a transfer facility will be operated in a manner that addresses environmental values as well as water supply needs.

CARL BORONKAY, General Manager, Metropolitan Water District