The lousy state economy and the growing annual California state debt derailed a proposed $11 billion state bond issue scheduled for a referendum vote this year. It has been postponed until 2012.

Although the bond issue won a two-thirds vote from the state legislature to get on the ballot, there were no guarantees it would have passed. Unless the package is changed dramatically, it will not have full agricultural support in 2012, according to Ron Jacobsma, general manager of the Friant Water Authority.

Two-thirds of the bond package needs changing, he says. The often repeated criticism of the package is that it contains too may perks or pork barrel projects. However, take those out and there is less chance of it passing.

Kings County, Calif., farmer Jim Verboon told the agribusiness conference audience that the issue is not developing new water, but reliability with existing water supplies.

Most of the debate about California’s water crisis has focused on “fixing” the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta to improve the state’s water supply and repair the rapidly degrading Delta ecosystem. This usually implies building a canal or pipeline around the Delta to ensure a more reliable downstream water supply for the majority of California water users.

The water bond, Verboon said, “does not specifically address many of the problems directly affecting the Delta, its environment or its fisheries.”

The problem is, as Verboon sees it, the continual degradation of the Delta from growing use of upstream flows by Bay area cities and towns.

“Most of the upstream water diversions are from tributaries of the San Joaquin River,” he noted.

Urban users getting water from the Tulumne, Mekolumne and Stanislaus rivers continue to draw more water each year, reducing the flows to the Delta export pumps, which deliver water to the south state.

These upstream fresh water diversions, combined with downstream partially treated wastewater discharges, have concentrated pollutants in the Delta, said Verboon.

Dilution is no longer a long-term solution. “The wastewater treatment must be improved, otherwise the volume of pollutants will continue to concentrate the toxicity of the Delta.” Utilizing modern tertiary treatments to clean up the pollutants is the solution to the problem, Verboon said.

He calls for state funding to create those plants, as well as funding new water projects.

“We need to have a specific, long-term plan for the Delta and not just throw money at it."

hcline@farmpress.com