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Bad infrastructure threatens drought flood all at once
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While recent storms have brought some much-needed rain, we cannot be lulled into a false sense of security about our water situation.

California is in drought. And with the state of our infrastructure, we are running the ironic risk of simultaneously running out of water and experiencing devastating flooding. We must resolve years of neglect or deal with dramatically reduced water.

Our water infrastructure has become inadequate, yet the state has failed to act. As this infrastructure continues to decay, we are confronted with the challenge of keeping pace with the demands of a state growing by 500,000 new people each year.

Already, farmers are taking agricultural lands out of production, and building permits could be put on hold, forcing the loss of thousands of jobs. California's gross cash income from agriculture alone is more than $31 billion, and nearly 400,000 Californians are employed in agriculture-related fields. California's water crisis has the potential to devastate our economy.

There is no simple fix. California relies on an elaborate network of water storage and delivery systems to supply cities, farms, businesses and the environment with adequate water year-round.

The state must address our water crisis in a comprehensive approach emphasizing below- and above-ground water storage, strengthening conveyance that recognizes area-of-origin water rights, delta restoration and resource protection. However, all necessary negotiations will mean nothing unless we are committed to building the brick-and-mortar infrastructure this state needs.

While solutions are being studied and debated, it is important to remember the importance of the delta as part of the complex water delivery method throughout the state. Focus should be directed toward the aging levees that protect the delta's fresh water from floods and are at risk of a major failure that could cripple water deliveries.

Many of the levees were built in the 19th and early 20th centuries and have not been adequately maintained. It is unfortunate that the delta is at an environmental tipping point. It is even more disturbing that in the midst of water rationing, much-needed rain is squandered as it runs to the ocean due to lack of storage facilities.

Additional storage would provide a valuable tool for meeting the needs of people and ecosystems. The surface storage projects envisioned today would increase water system flexibility by capturing higher levels of peak runoff with minimal environmental impacts. The direction we need to head is simple, but the implementation will be much more difficult.

There is no single solution to the multifaceted water problem in the state. How we manage these risks is entirely dependent on whether or not the state's water system can finally get the attention it requires. We cannot afford to be shortsighted by focusing on quick fixes and lesser priorities. By not moving forward and addressing the entire state, we are compromising safe drinking water, the safety of our communities and environment, and our economy.

Assemblyman Tom Berryhill represents the 25th Assembly District, which covers parts of east Ceres, as well as eastern Stanislaus County, and includes all or parts of Madera, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa and Mono counties.