California has suffered through drought years most of the past decade. It was less than a year ago when San Luis Reservoir stood at half capacity. Today it is nearly full. North of here, we have seen 188,000 people evacuated because Lake Oroville was over capacity. So, as irony would have it, the Department of Water Resources has to increase water flows from reservoirs across the state to protect our dams from failing.
So, where does our water go? Statewide, the agricultural industry contributes nearly $50 billion to California's economy, which is why we often hear that California is the breadbasket of the world - something to be proud of. Producing crops uses 40 percent of our water supply. The largest share of the state's water usage is, however, for environmental purposes - maintaining the streams, rivers, the Delta, wildlife preserves and ensuring water quality and temperature control. The latter has been especially frustrating since the state has proposed sending large flows down our rivers and out to the ocean, claiming to protect a scant number of fish.
Unfortunately, this is how our current water system works. Our state has an unbelievably complex system built in a haphazard manner over the past 150 years. Figuring out how we survive during both drought and flood years takes constant management of our resources. What is frustrating is that we should not be in this position today.
In 2014, we reached a historic agreement to place a water bond on the ballot. Californians overwhelmingly approved it making available $2.7 billion for new water storage, like Temperance Flat Dam that would provide flood control and drought relief for Central Valley residents and growers alike. As years pass, I'm increasingly concerned these bond funds will not be spent on storage, but toward other projects less urgent and unintended by the voters.
It is my job as a state senator to look to the future of our state and help pass legislation that will benefit our future generations. Fixing our water system is one of my top priorities. We came to the agreement on the water bond for just that reason.
Massive projects, such as new dams, are not completed overnight but take decades. It's unconscionable that we have not been able to get even one of these projects off the ground.
This year, we are fortunate to have a record snowfall in the Sierra's, which is a major contributor to our water storage, providing nearly one-third of our water needs. Our rainfall totals and tremendous snowpack that we have been praying for should serve as a stark reminder that our current water system is constantly in a feast or famine situation.
It does not have to be that way however. We do ourselves harm by not moving more quickly on building more storage.
I am dedicated to doing all that I can to ensure that we get additional storage built as quickly as possible. While the 2014 water bond was a tremendous lift and took years of work, it was simply a starting point. With those financial resources available, now we need the political will to push to get a shovel in the ground and begin building so that we don't continue to waste this precious resource.
State Senator Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, represents communities throughout Stanislaus, Merced, Fresno, Madera, Monterey and San Benito counties.