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In Search of a Better State Water Solution

August 24, 2003

Michael Hiltzik's readers should consider whether they'd rather drink clean Sierra water from a healthy river or stagnant runoff from Central Valley farms and feedlots ("Resource Crisis of the Century Lacks a Water-Based Solution," Aug. 11).

For millions of Californians who rely on the Delta for drinking water, that's the essence of the dispute over restoring the San Joaquin River or further degrading it with a new dam.

After dewatering California's second-largest river for the last 50 years, the Friant Water Users Authority now wants taxpayers to fund a new $1-billion dam at Temperance Flat. This scheme would capture rare flows that escape the existing Friant Dam in wet years. It would undermine efforts to restore the river and further degrade water quality for fish, downstream farmers and drinking supplies drawn from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Fortunately, there's a smarter, cheaper solution, one that restores flows and salmon populations to the San Joaquin River while meeting the reasonable needs of Friant farmers. A study commissioned by Friant and the Natural Resources Defense Council shows how proven water management tools like conservation, recycling and expanded groundwater storage can produce this win-win scenario.

For once, we could have a water solution that benefits not just a few but everyone in the state.

Jared Huffman

Senior Attorney, Natural

Resources Defense Council

San Francisco

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