Schwarzenegger Talks California Water Crisis

At a Glance

  • Says politicians need political will to come up with long-term solutions
  • TOMS founder Mycoskie, Water.org founder White join for discussion on global water issues

California’s water crisis has now stretched over four years. Even with the arrival of El Nino and the mandate to cut back water usage in the state by 25 percent, many industries in California face a tough recovery, from farming to hydropower.

Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dealt extensively with water issues during his time as governor from 2003-2011. In remarks at the Global Financial Leadership Conference, he recalled the famous case over water exports pitting California’s farmers against environmentalists looking to protect the Delta Smelt, a small fish. Schwarzenegger ultimately sided with the farmers, but the ordeal gave him a close-up view of the impassioned positions people have on how the state’s water is used.

In his remarks, Schwarzenegger kept discussion about his time in office to a minimum, and instead focused on how public policy and political will should be the main weapons in addressing California’s future water needs.

“We need our leaders to develop the political will to invest in projects that won’t be ready for photo ops or for the next election cycle, but that will be ready for the next generation.”

He cited the need to upgrade infrastructure that would allow California to capture rain water and build new reservoirs, as well as develop water pricing and tax incentives for using less water.  All of these would help, among other things, the heavy water needs of farmers in California’s central valley.

 

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In a follow up panel, where Schwarzenegger was joined by TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie and water.org CEO Gary White, where he was asked by moderator Ed Crooks of the Financial Times about several other issues:

On water rights issues for California’s farmers: Schwarzenegger called it a complicated issue where little can be done. “Farmers have the right to their water and nothing can be done. It took us many years just to go to the farmers and measure the ground water just to see how much ground water we have.  Water negotiations in California are so complicated because of old water laws.”

On farming heavy water-use crops like rice in California’s desert: “If the price of water was more, then the farmer would think about what to grow. Maybe he would grow something else, but maybe not. The key thing is that the pricing is correct and the politicians have the political will to address long term water issues.”

On upgrading U.S. infrastructure: Schwarzenegger called for a higher tax on fuel to support greater infrastructure in the U.S, saying that most roads and bridges were built in the 30s and 40s.

On carbon regulation and the upcoming climate summit in Paris: He cited his organization R20, which focuses on actions regional governments can take on carbon issues. “We’ve done tremendous work in California without the help of the federal government. I encourage people not to wait for the international treaty, but at the same time, you have to do the bottom up approach. Most successful movements came from the bottom up at the grassroots level.


Evan Peterson is director of corporate marketing at CME Group and managing editor of OpenMarkets.

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