River's End: California's Latest Water War (2021) Movie Script

In many ways,
the growth problems
and the conservation
problems of California
are the same kind of problems
that our country faces.
Official YIFY movies site:
We surmount
these growth problems
only if we work together.
It is a pleasure
for me to permit us
to look at this valley
and others like it
across the country
where we can see the greenest
and most richest earth
producing the greatest
and richest crops
in the country.
And then a mile away
see the same earth
and see it brown and dusty
and useless and all because
there's water in one place
and there isn't in another.
Water supply issues
are among the most important
and least understood
issues around the world.
Satellite images captured
over the last few decades
indicate that our freshwater
supplies are rapidly changing.
Dry areas are getting drier,
as wet areas are getting wetter.
Some are at risk
of losing access
to the water we need to survive.
It took 200,000 years
for the world's population
to reach 1 billion.
In the last 200 years,
it has expanded to 7.7 billion.
As human populations explode,
many places are already
seeing their demand
for water outstrip supply.
It's a worldwide phenomenon.
It's why China's building dams
in the Tibetan plateau,
so they won't have to send
water to Cambodia, Laos.
It's just played out here
in a different venue and
different set of circumstances.
It's the same game.
Get me water first.
The hell with the other people.
Water is a big
problem. There's conflict over water.
There's violent conflict
over access to water worldwide.
We have the reality
of climate change,
which is fundamentally
a water issue.
As humans take more water
out of the natural environment,
the ecosystems
on which we also depend
are increasingly suffering.
We're seeing our fisheries die.
We're seeing our rivers dry up.
We're seeing
our wetlands disappear
and the birds that migrate
thousands of miles every year
that depend on those
ecosystems perish as well.
We have to figure out a way
to provide water for human uses,
but also for the natural
ecosystems that depend
on the same water resources.
It's hard
to explain why California,
as a supposed leader in,
many, many things in the world,
can't address these issues.
California in particular
has really overallocated
our supplies for a long time.
There's no basic ethic in water.
Unless you're strong enough
to stop them from doing things,
they just do it.
Power matters.
And you know, I think one of the
central themes of Chinatown
is that, you know, the powerful
get to take what they want.
Water is so valuable that
you're going to fight over it.
You're going to fight for
every last drop. Everybody is.
The water wars is the reference
to everybody fighting each other
to keep their share
or take someone else's share.
And it gets a little bitter
and nasty sometimes.
California is not unique
in its water challenges.
We are unique
perhaps in the sense
that we have the money,
we have the institutions,
we have the brainpower
to solve our water problems
and we haven't solved them yet.
But if we can't solve them here,
it will be difficult
to think about
how we will solve water
challenges around the world.
The drought from 2012 to 2016
was California's
worst on record.
The state of California
is resorting
to drastic measures tonight
to combat its severe drought.
Op-eds in the la.
Times questioned if people
would soon run out of water.
Homes and businesses were asked
to significantly
cut back their water use.
We're in a historic drought
and that demands
unprecedented action.
It's for that reason that I'm
issuing an executive order
mandating substantial water
reduction across our state.
The mandatory rules are designed
to reduce water use by 25%.
pulled out their lawns
and replaced them
with artificial turf.
I'm here today
to show you and we've got some
of the graphics behind me,
the new character, lawn dude,
something that we think
will be appealing
to a variety of customers.
Drought shaming
became a popular form of vigilantism.
Mikey barnum wrote, "way to
hose down your entire sidewalk... twice."
Are you okay with
being called a water snitch?
I am. I totally am.
Meanwhile, the media
narrative was that agriculture
was suffering across the state.
California farmers are losing
billions of dollars every year
that we have this drought.
While that's happening,
the acreage
of nut crops is skyrocketing.
These crops are tremendously
valuable on the export markets.
The San Joaquin valley is now
the nut supplier to the world.
And so we're delivering water
that belongs
to the California public
and that is needed
by the fish and wildlife
and water quality
that we rely on
to the San Joaquin valley
to grow a lot of crops
that are being exported
out of the country
to China,
the middle east, et cetera.
When Jerry brown
went up onto the mountain top
to declare California
in the worst drought
in along, longtime
and asked people
to change their behaviors,
there was a caveat.
Urbanites were supposed
to change their behavior,
but the central valley
agricultural districts
were not, they were voluntary.
We were required.
And that tells you everything
about the power of ag.
Because after all, ag uses 80%
of all water in California
and Nevada and Arizona
and every other state,
and they're going
to hold that water
because the law says they can.
We've had the highest grossing
agricultural years on record
during this drought
and during the last drought.
And that kind of money
buys influence.
It buys lawyers, lobbying firms.
We could
never flush our toilets again.
And never let
the water run again
while we're brushing the teeth
for what,
for 4% of water savings
on all that water
that we're saving
has already been sold
to the irrigators
so that they can grow
their export crops
and ship them to Europe or China
and make a buck on it.
And that drop of water
that you save
by not flushing your toilet
or by shutting down the water
while you are
brushing your teeth,
it didn't amount to nothing.
During the
drought, the governor's
water restrictions applied only
to communities,
not to agriculture.
Many believed the drought
put a spotlight on destructive
government policies,
agricultural conglomerates
over its citizens.
For half a century, we've been
managing water resources
in the state of California
in a very unsustainable way.
Trillions of gallons of water
from the snowpack
of the Sierra nevadas
travel down streams and rivers
to support life in California.
The state sees an influx
of a truly incredible
amount of water.
Before there
was a big population in California,
before we had
our 40 million people
and an enormous economy,
we had two great rivers.
The Sacramento river
and the San Joaquin river.
And they flow together
to create the California
Sacramento-San Joaquin delta,
sort of
the heart of California's
rich environment,
but also the heart
of our water system.
And the water of those
two rivers forms the delta
and then they flow out
into San Francisco bay
and then out under
the golden gate.
Americans come to California,
the California delta is probably
the most mysterious
landscape in the state.
If you look at the old
land survey maps,
they survey
the rest of the state
and the delta
remains this blank spot.
They don't even draw
township lines.
The reason they can't draw
the lines is
they can't get into it.
It's going to be
heavily tule land.
It's hard to say,
depends on the time of day
whether it's
going to be land or water.
It's absolutely immense.
It's full of mosquitoes.
It's a place you
just can get lost in.
You can travel through it if you
know the way through the sloughs,
but it's constantly changing.
Some of the early sailing ships
would find so much fresh water
flowing out the bay, out the
golden gate into the ocean
that they could draw fresh water
in the middle of the ocean.
Today, that's not the reality.
Today, because of human demands
on the delta,
we take so much water
out of the Sacramento
and the San Joaquin rivers
and out of the delta itself,
that the natural flow
has been dramatically reduced.
California has the largest
and most complicated
water system in the world
because massive cities
and agricultural corporations
were built away
from fresh water.
Building more than 1400 dams
across the state,
the largest conveyance system
to move water from the north
where it is more plentiful
to the central valley
in the south
where the demand is highest.
We have an
incredible plumbing system.
I mean, it's really a remarkable
engineering feat regardless of,
you know, what you think of it
from a philosophical standpoint,
from a practical standpoint,
you have to admire it.
It was
developed before more modern
environmental sensibilities,
and as a result of that,
we've simply taken more water
out of the ecosystem
than any ecosystem anywhere
has been able to survive.
It's very likely that in the
not too distant future,
we'll be at the river's end.
The California
bay delta is located
east of San Francisco bay.
It is the largest inland estuary
on the west coast.
This means
California's major rivers
meet the pacific ocean here
and it serves
as a crucial habitat
for about 500 different
plant and animal species.
However, since the delta
is flush with fresh water,
it also serves as the hub
of California's
water infrastructure.
of the state's residents
get water from the delta,
including the residents
of Los Angeles, San Diego,
silicon valley, San Francisco,
and the San Joaquin valley.
Three quarters of californians
don't know where the delta is,
and for most people, the water
that comes out of their tap
comes out of a black box.
It rains some place,
and then there's a big black box
and you turn on your tap
and water comes out.
It is that ignorance,
that lack of knowledge
about where our water come from
and the effects that that has
on the delta and communities
there and salmon fishermen
that really aids and abets
what has happened over
the last several generations
in terms of the decline
of the delta and our native
fish and wildlife.
Water from all the rivers
that flow
out of the Sierra Nevada,
north and south,
flows into the central valley
all flow here and then the water
for 20 million people at least
leaves here, goes south.
This provides water
for the entire state.
I mean it's a,
it's a remarkable place.
The bay delta
is the big story in California.
I think it is emblematic of lots
of stories like it
across the planet,
not just in the United States,
particularly in the
this world in which
the human beings have
so dramatically shaped nature
that we're now having to think
about how we exist within nature
if we want to exist at all.
Caught between
the competing interests
of cities, agriculture,
and the environment,
the delta has become
the battleground
of California's
latest water wars.
But where
are you are is the far south delta.
This is the San Joaquin river.
This is old river.
It goes to the pumps by Tracy.
And this is
reclamation district 544.
This is undine road
and this is here.
This is where we live. We're
just on 2 acres right here.
The delta is an estuary.
It is a beautiful
patchwork quilt
of farms and waterways.
Most of our families
have been out here
since the late 1880s
or the early 1900s.
Family farming here
is production agriculture,
but on a small scale,
smaller than
the southern San Joaquin valley.
The delta is quiet,
the delta is productive.
It's home to a lot of people
who are committed to keeping it
as beautiful as it is.
It's home.
The delta naturally
flows to the pacific ocean,
but as more fresh water
is diverted from the delta,
salty ocean water is sucked in.
Water diversions
are hurting the ecosystems
and economies of the delta.
It really is
an existential problem for us.
We either get to live here
with good water
or we end up having to leave.
We being, I'm talking about
the farming community.
We have to leave because
the salt has ruined the land.
That's it. That's
what all the fuss is about.
But this is our,
this is absolutely our lifeline.
This is what sustains us.
If somebody comes up to you and
says, "give me your wallet,"
and you might laugh them off,
but if they come back
with a knife,
they come back with a gun
and say,
"hey, give me your wallet,"
you know, it's an entirely
different situation
and we feel very much
in that sort of a situation
where our livelihoods,
our way of lives,
what we know what we feel are
is rightfully ours
is being threatened
because somebody stands
to make a buck from it.
25 million californians
are getting
some of their drinking
water from here.
They get it
from the Colorado river.
They get it from elsewhere.
It's not everything to anybody,
but it's something to everybody.
If you look at all
the fish overall,
populations across the board
have dropped in in my lifetime
and I think if you look
at the amount of water
that's been exported
from the delta,
they correlate almost perfectly.
Family farmers
who call the bay delta home
farm responsibly
to protect native fish
and wildlife,
but they cannot stem
the tide of water diversions.
Fish and wildlife in the delta
are disappearing daily.
The delta is really a microcosm
of a lot of other problems.
We've got six endangered species
in the delta
and of course globally
we're in an extinction crisis,
but here,
in the backyard of San Francisco
in the heart of a state
that prides itself
on being, you know,
the center of environmentalism.
We have six endangered species
in this ecosystem.
Delta smelt, iongfin smelt,
spring run chinook salmon,
winter run chinook salmon,
green sturgeon and migratory
rainbow trout, which are called
central valley steelhead.
Those six species have very
different ecological needs
and very different behaviors,
and the fact that all of them
are on the precipice
of disappearing
from an ecosystem that they've
inhabited for millennia
really speaks to the damage that
we've done to this ecosystem.
But it's under constant,
constant political pressure
and tension to try to move
more of those water resources
year-round, drought
or no drought,
into the central valley mainly.
And then into
southern California.
It's a little hard to understand
why we're completely screwing up
this western environment
and lavishing these subsidies
so that very successful
corporations can grow
a highly profitable crop
and ship it overseas
without paying mitigation for
the impacts they are causing.
The fall run chinook salmon
are spawning right now,
so chinook salmon
are also known as king salmon.
They're the biggest
of all the salmon species.
I think they're hanging on,
but in most places they're
hanging on by a thread and
if you remove the hatcheries,
they would probably blink out in
some fairly short time period.
California takes so much water
out of the environment
that if it weren't for fish
hatcheries north of the delta,
salmon would go extinct.
This has decimated
the fishing communities
surrounding San Francisco bay.
Here's how bad it is.
If you come over here and look,
this represents somebody fishing
for four days all up and down
the marin coast for four days.
This is what they caught.
Seven fish.
They're beautiful, they're
tasty, they're delicious.
I've done those four days
for 250 fish not that long ago.
That's what happens
when you take
the water out of the equation.
The numbers get so low
that you can't make a living.
When I started fishing,
there was 5,000
salmon boats in California.
Now there's about 300 left.
You know, families, families and
families lost their livelihoods.
Guys are blowing
their brains out.
You know, I can tell
a million stories about guys
that, you know,
because fishermen
don't just fish for a living.
Fishing is who we are.
It's not like you can,
you know, retrain us
to go do something else
any more than you can retrain
a farmer or retrain somebody
that had been doing
that four or five generations,
you know?
So the salmon
that spawn in the watershed
and then migrate
through the estuary,
go out into the ocean
where they feed orca whales
and marine mammals
and bird life and other fish.
The decline in salmon production
from the central valley
is evident in this starvation
really of orca whales
in the ocean.
And that's just one example.
The estuaries are really
this nursery for things
in the near shore
ocean environment.
And when we decimate the delta
and the rest of the estuary,
we're really harming
those resources as well.
The thirst for water
from the delta cannot be quenched.
The demand from large cities
and agriculture corporations
south of the delta
is growing.
Lawyers, p.R. Agencies,
and former high-ranking
government officials
are employed
to take as much water
as possible from the delta.
It's all about the money
honey or the water.
And yeah, James Dean
has that quote, you know
why they robbed banks, right?
Cause that's where the money is.
My grandfather told me,
my grandfather told me
a couple things about water.
He said,
"there may come a day son,
when you'll have to go sit
on that pump with a shotgun."
water war is heating up.
The governor just unveiled
a new 14 billion plan
to build two tunnels
underneath the delta,
transferring water
from northern California
to southern California.
The governor says his plan will
create a reliable water supply
and still maintain a healthy
ecosystem in the delta.
This proposal balances
the concerns of those
who live and work on the delta,
those who rely on it for water
and those who appreciate
its beauty, its fish, waterfowl
and wildlife.
Breaking news. Now the
metropolitan water district has approved
nearly 11 billion dollars
in funding.
When Jerry brown
was governor of California,
he proposed a new method
of water conveyance
from the delta known as
the water fix or twin tunnels.
Do you have a
stance on the twin tunnels project?
Can we turn off the camera
for a second?
Is that possible?
If you feel
comfortable talking about it,
we hear lots of different opinions
about the twin tunnels project.
I'm not allowed
to talk about it.
- You're not allowed?
- Yeah.
Is westlands a supporter
of the project?
The simple answer to that
question is yes.
Earlier plan of the delta,
I found out my house
was going to be a location of a,
what they call a muck pond,
which is essentially a 300
acre pond full of about
20 feet full of mud
that came out of the tunnels.
I found out about it
first in the newspaper.
The tunnels project
is one of the most controversial
in California's history.
The project was proposed to fix
a variety of complex issues,
one of which is to reduce
the environmental impacts
of the powerful pumps
in the south delta.
Currently we have giant pumps
in the south delta
that just pull water
across the delta
from the Sacramento river,
which is very damaging.
It disrupts
the migration of fish.
It makes the lower San
Joaquin river run backwards
and it destroys millions of fish
each year at these pumps.
One of the bypasses,
one of the fixes,
another technical fix
is to bore these two tunnels
underneath the delta,
move water through.
And so you can let the river
maybe become
more like a river it once
was if that's the case,
despite the billions
that would be spent on it.
The question we'll have to ask
is whether it's worth the cost
to do it that way,
But the project
is seen by many as destructive.
The creation of these tunnels or
mismanagement of these tunnels
could spell the end
of the delta as we know it.
The water
supply up here in the delta is limited,
but they've
over-pumped that supply
and the issue of the tunnels
is that they will have
an even deeper straw
into the delta
and we will have no control
over how much finally
gets taken out of here.
The system is broken.
The question is
what do we do about it?
And the idea that we would find
a new point of diversion higher
up on the Sacramento river
and then make that facility
so huge that it could take
the entire flow of the river
is pretty scary,
to people like me.
The twin tunnels are posed
as this dual solution that can
make southern California happy
by delivering more water
to southern California,
but supposedly they're
also going to help rescue
the environment of the delta.
People with very good reason
have a great deal of skepticism
that it will help
the environment of the delta.
Hey, hey, ho, ho,
the tunnel's gotta go!
We need to
become more water independent
and stop destroying
the very sensitive delta,
stop destroying the way of
the American Indians, fisheries.
We have to stop destroying
our native habitat
and let us support
local water projects
and local jobs
here in la. And orange county.
- Thank you.
- Alright.
The bigger issue
is that we just take
too much fresh water
out of the ecosystem,
so we need to let more flow down
from the rivers out into the bay
and the tunnels
do nothing to mitigate that.
You know, we don't want to turn
the delta into lake erie
and have it shut down because
it's not suitable to drink
and your dog dies
if it goes swimming in it.
But that's
what's going to happen
if they operate this
the way they plan to.
That led us to where we
are now, they think they can
build these tunnels and just take
water out of northern California.
You can drive
greyhound buses through these.
This was way larger than I guess
the English channel,
you know, so we're talking
about major traffic going down
these tunnels or all the water
in northern California.
But they're sold
as an environmental remedy
by taking the water
out higher up
than dumping it
down the aqueduct.
Later on, you will actually
be able to regulate
the flows in the delta
better than you can now,
and environmental considerations
help San Francisco bay.
But there's another
a lot of the drinking water
in northern California,
especially around the bay area,
comes from the delta.
So if you have
salt intrusion there,
you're screwing up the sources
of drinking water.
So you're really pitting now
two major urban areas,
San Francisco and Los Angeles,
and you're pitting together two
agricultural areas, the delta
and the San Joaquin valley.
So you have huge players on
both sides coming into battle.
And it is a story,
as you well know,
with twists and turns
that nobody can ever predict.
Every time you think you know
what will happen,
the twin tunnels
had been defeated.
It rises up again.
It is unkillable in one sense,
at least so far
what will happen on
that is something I would
never predict on film
because I would be wrong
within 24 hours
the way things are turning out.
Then in 2019
Gavin newson was sworn in as
the next governor of California.
I do not support the water fix
as currently configured,
meaning I do not support
the twin tunnels.
We can, however, build
on the important work
that's already been done
and that's why I do
support a single tunnel.
So this is our war room.
This is where we have our
monthly water agency meetings.
We've got all kinds of wonderful
color maps of the delta
about every which way
you could draw it
and we have the most
recent rendition
of the delta water fix.
It might've still been called
bdcp at that point in time
and it looks very familiar
to this 1965 rendition
of the hypothesized plan
for a peripheral canal
so you can see not much
has changed in their minds
and we're still fighting over
some of the same issues
that have been fought over
and will continue to be fought
over for generations, lifetimes.
The tunnels
project has been around
in various forms
for over half a century.
In the 1940s
it was the peripheral canal.
In the past decade
it has gone through
numerous names and proposals.
Newsom's single tunnel plan
is not half the size
of the twin tunnels.
A single tunnel
would be much larger than
one of the two tunnels.
For many,
this distinction just serves
to rearrange deck chairs
on the Titanic.
The water fix
is a good case study
for the problems of both
California water and the delta.
And that's because it's
the most recent iteration
of that ongoing water fight,
the wars that we've
been talking about.
Those who need water
are supposed to be bound
by restrictions
that say you can have water,
but it has to be surplus
to the other areas.
The amount of surplus
when it's available
and the amount they can take
is insufficient for their needs.
And so they have to keep trying
and they've been trying
for 50 years
to get additional water
I'll say any means necessary.
I describe it as
a dog that kills chickens,
this institution, which is
really guided in major part
by metropolitan water district
of southern California.
And we look like chickens.
That dog is not a terrible dog,
but he's a chicken-killing dog.
The tunnel project will almost
certainly be paid for
by a powerful organization
in southern California known as
the metropolitan water district.
Yeah. Metropolitan
is a water wholesaler
which means we provide water
to the cities
that provide water to people.
We represent six counties,
ventura county, Los Angeles,
San Diego, orange county,
parts of riverside
and San Bernardino.
What's pretty amazing
about that six-county area
is there is 19 million
people in there.
One out of every
two californians,
or looking at it another way,
one on every 16 Americans
lives in southern California
and our mission
is to provide water to them.
Metropolitan staff has supported
this project for the last decade.
This project is a necessity
for the state of California.
The metropolitan water district
is certainly
the 800-pound gorilla
in California water politics.
They're rich.
They can buy all the,
all the influence and all,
all the talent they want.
Their business model
is based on selling
imported water from the delta
and if they can shore up
and make that more reliable
or increase the amount of water
they're willing to do it.
Those who fear
the tunnels point to history.
Southern California
has a terrible track record.
We tend to flow water
towards money
regardless of whether
it's uphill or downhill.
It really doesn't matter.
It's going to go
to where the capital is located.
So, yes, L.A. has
prospered mightily
because of the la. Aqueduct,
the state water project
and the Colorado river aqueduct.
But that has also
despoiled landscapes
and limited the possibilities
of the places
from which that water has come.
Many in the delta
believe that if you want to
understand their story,
you have to know
the story of the Owens valley,
the story that
inspired the film Chinatown.
Gonna it be
a lot of irate citizens
when they find out
they're paying for water,
- they're not going to get.
- That's all taken care of.
See Mr. Gittes,
you bring the water to la.
Or you bring la. To the water.
The Owens valley case is,
is sadly the precursor
to where we are now.
And there was a slight lull
between that and the modern day
destruction of various areas.
But nothing's changed.
It's the same fight.
It's the same arguments.
And in my view it's the same
avoidance of the law.
The Owens
valley, like the delta,
gets its water from
the Sierra Nevada mountains.
It is located about 250 miles
directly north of Los Angeles
and over 200 miles
east of monterey.
As ecologist Aldo Leopold wrote,
"there once were men capable
of inhabiting a river
without disrupting
the Harmony of its life."
For centuries, the Harmony of
the Owens valley was preserved
by the paiute native Americans.
Our people have existed
within this location
for time immemorial we say.
Because of all
the resources available to us
here in this valley,
unlike our brothers and sisters
to the north of us
and to the south of us
who really had to travel
very long distances
to be able to get
what they needed,
we had it right here
within the Owens valley.
As settlers came up,
they looked at this land and,
and they saw land that was open.
Their thought is land is
for humans, water is for humans.
Therefore I'm going
to make my peace
and began taking hold
of land within the valley.
You know, I say
putting up fences,
blocking access
and no longer then
was the valley able to provide
for the tribal people
as it once did.
And what that meant
to our people is starvation.
As ranchers moved
in to take the water-rich lands,
native Americans were evicted
from the Owens valley
in a bloody conquest
with great loss of life.
But the ranchers didn't have
long to enjoy their spoils.
Los Angeles
was rapidly expanding
at the beginning
of the 20th century.
City planners realized
that for Los Angeles
to sustain its growth,
it would need to secure
an additional source of water.
And Mulholland and Fred eaton
and all of these really
interesting water engineers,
water buffaloes,
you might call them,
started stalking the land,
literally trying to find out
where water was
that they could purchase.
Fred eaton and Mulholland
and others began to recognize
that one of the key places,
one of the key environments
was the eastern Sierra,
not that far from Los Angeles
where the fabulous river,
the Owens river
that flows through that region.
It had an agricultural industry
and orchard industry.
The native peoples
had already been taken out
through various warfares
and expeditions,
so there's not going to be
that resistance.
Proved to be, from a Los Angeles
point of view, easy pickings.
Mulholland sells this
project which is going to be
very expensive to Los Angeles
by telling Los Angeles,
"if you don't take this water,
you won't need it."
By that, he means that in fact,
if you don't get this water,
Los Angeles will not expand.
Frederick eaton,
former mayor of Los Angeles
went out to the Owens valley
with j.B. Lippincott
of the U.S. reclamation service.
Because eaton and lippincott
told ranchers
they were working together
to create a friendly
federal irrigation project,
most ranchers agreed to sell
their land for what seemed
above market value.
And so he starts sopping up this
area and buying water rights.
He doesn't tell anybody
what it's for.
And ultimately Los Angeles
will purchase his right
and other's right
and they won't tell them
what it's for.
L.A.-based land speculators
with secret insider knowledge
bought up land
in the San Fernando valley,
the area intended to be the end
of the Owens valley aqueduct
to Los Angeles.
This syndicate also worked hard
to pass the bond that would pay
for the aqueduct.
Harrison Greg Otis, a central
member of the syndicate
was publisher of the la. Times
and used his power to publish
scare articles about
a dire need for more water.
The tactic was successful
and a bond passed
to begin construction
on the world's largest aqueduct,
designed to drain
the Owens valley.
And suddenly from the Owens
river valley point of view,
they had just been
destroyed by la.
The locals began to panic.
There began to be
some violence up here.
Three or 400 people drove down
from bishop and big pine
and opened up the aqueduct
and dumped the entire flow
of the aqueduct
back into the Owens river.
They just wanted
Los Angeles to talk.
None of the negotiations went
the way the locals wanted it.
And suddenly a few nights
there were explosions
along the aqueduct
where the wall
of the aqueduct was blown out.
So eventually
by the mid-thirties,
Los Angeles
did the final buyout.
About a fourth
of the people moved away
because everything had changed.
And so even to this day,
there's property
in each of these towns
that are owned
by the city of Los Angeles.
They own
the entire valley floor.
And so in most of the issues
that deal with
water have L.A. next to them.
We called this place
The name embodies this idea
that water is present,
that water is flowing,
that water is here.
It was vastly different
than what someone
from Los Angeles driving up now
would see out of their window.
In just 13 years of operation,
the Los Angeles aqueduct
dried up Owens lake,
thereby creating
the single largest source
of dust pollution
in the United States.
The city of Los Angeles
is used as a model.
The Los Angeles aqueduct
is used as a model
to move resources
from one to the next.
The Los Angeles
department of water and power
did not tell residents
of the Owens valley
that Frederick eaton
was buying land
on the city's behalf,
nor that those purchases
would end valley life
as they knew it.
Now, the metropolitan
water district
is not telling residents
of the delta
why the organization
is buying their land,
nor what those purchases
mean for life in the delta.
It's an interesting question
as to why
metropolitan water district
purchased islands in the delta.
The 10,000-plus residents
who signed and sent
letters and comments
are a small sampling
of the millions of people
in the bay delta region
who oppose met's purchase
of the delta islands.
The metropolitan
water district of southern California
voted Tuesday to purchase
five islands, bouldin island,
bacon island, webb tract,
most of Holland tract
and the western tip
of chipps island.
It's probably true
that the reason
they bought those islands
is to make sure
that they could facilitate
the building of the tunnels
because you need large areas
to dump all the muck
they dig out,
you need staging areas,
trucking, all sorts of things.
It has been
an ongoing conversation
for the two of us really,
most of it has
occurred on this porch
or in that
living room right there.
They'd get these big pushes
and each time we feel like
it's an assault on our lifestyle
and our life
they want to take it,
turn it back to nature
and ship the water
down to the desert.
It doesn't
make much sense to me.
You know, and I don't care
how many arguments
they throw at me,
they've just about ruined
all the fishing in the delta
already by over-pumping.
I don't know what makes anybody
in their right mind
think if they
take more water,
that it'll get better,
of the point they take it.
The people that live in the city
that pride themselves
on caring about people
and wanting clean air
and clean water.
And do they,
do they want to tolerate
people living out in these,
these working landscapes.
The water titans
are just out to,
to crush what's ever in the way
and to get as much
water as they can.
And that's,
that's what they talk about.
Often they'll be
blunt enough to tell you.
Some of what the bay delta
folks are arguing
is that this is simply an echo
of earlier struggles
over water including
the Owens river valley.
Los Angeles is implicated
without question
in this struggle.
It's not the only player
and it's not the only enemy.
Delta farms, we have
farms from, you know, five, 10 acres
to a couple of hundred acres
and some have
over a thousand acres,
but not contiguous.
But when you have the water
going down the canals,
that encouraged
large-scale operations.
It's almost a different world.
Thousands and thousands
and thousands of acres.
Again, that doesn't
make them wrong or bad,
but that just sort of increases
the demand and the pressure
on people running those
large-scale operations
to make sure that there's
a return on the initial money.
So it's the big guy
versus the little guy story
that's often times true.
California is the number one
food producer
in the United States,
more than doubling
the farming output
of the second and third states
on the list and topping
all other agricultural
producing regions
around the world.
California owes the success
to the production capacity
of the central valley.
The central valley
has one of the best growing seasons,
and land in the United States,
the only thing it lacked
was water.
That's what the,
our water projects in the 1950s,
60's and 70's brought,
and it produced an
agricultural cornucopia
that has not only supported
many, many jobs,
but also produced
an abundant crop every year.
Agriculture is an important
part of the self-image of California
and there's no question that
it's an important and healthy
and should be an important
part of our economy.
I think all of us are proud
of the diversity of agriculture
in California, but I think
that folks in agriculture
are also very good
at selling that image.
It's kind
of a big marketing campaign.
Everyone's trying
to put out there
as growing food, wasting water.
I don't think it is,
but let's make peace.
Let's let people make
that decision on their own.
The place where agriculture
stands out of course
is in its water use.
In California,
the water that humans use
is about 80% used
for agriculture
and about 20%
for the rest of society.
But at the same time,
it's not a huge part
of California's economy.
It's a 50 billion dollar
a year industry
in a more than 2 trillion
a year economy.
And you know,
they're very, very good
at making the case that cutting
their water supplies
will be devastating for,
for California agriculture,
our food prices will rise.
People will go hungry
and you know,
that's just really not the case.
So what really is happening
is not that we're
running out of water
for California agriculture,
it's that California agriculture
has been so successful
that it's growing to the point
where it constantly wants
to expand its irrigated acreage
to the point where it just
is breaking the system.
Farming south of the
delta is described by local author
Mark arax
as the most industrialized
farming in the history of man.
California's top crop is not
however fruits or vegetables.
It is almonds
and it takes a gallon of water
to produce a single almond.
Over a million acres of almonds
are farmed
in the central valley.
Each year, almond farms
use 35 times more water
than the entire city
of San Francisco.
The majority of these almonds
are exported out of the country.
In fact, 80% of the world's
almond supply
comes from California,
but the water to grow
the world's almonds
is diverted from the delta
at the expense
of native fish and wildlife.
We don't necessarily
need pistachios.
We don't need almonds.
We don't need all of this land
to be in production.
And in many cases,
some of these crops
can be replicated elsewhere.
And this won't be
popular with farmers.
Farmers don't think that way.
They think themselves
forced into it.
They think of promises made,
but these promises were made
because they solicited favors.
They lobbied congress
very heavily to get these
and they have struck
very good deals
and they want to keep
those deals in place.
When you have the second
longest river in the state
of California going dry
because of upstream diversions
from the federal dam
and other diversions,
that gives you an idea
of the magnitude
of these exports
and these diversions
and the effect of course,
to the ecosystem.
This amazing
bay delta ecosystem.
and the San Joaquin valley
uses water
from the San Joaquin river.
So much of the San Joaquin river
that it actually goes dry,
but that amount of water
has not been enough
for the San Joaquin valley.
And so they've also drained
their aquifers to the point
where the surface of the earth
actually is collapsing.
This well
here was originally flush
with the top of this concrete.
This was where the dirt
used to be flush here
and it has dropped that much.
It's actually more than that,
but lot of this casing
has dropped with the ground.
That's a rate of sinking
of about a foot per year
in English units.
So that's substantial.
But that amount of water
has not been enough
for agriculture
in the San Joaquin valley.
And so they have giant
export pumps in the delta
that take water
from the Sacramento system,
from the northern
part of the state
and export it from the delta
into the San Joaquin valley.
And even that
has not been enough.
There's actually a tunnel
that brings water
from the Trinity river
and that tunnel delivers water
from the klamath watershed
into the Sacramento,
down the Sacramento
into the delta,
through the pumps to
the western San Joaquin valley.
So this is a voracious need
for water for this one area
Over the past century,
family farms in the central valley,
like those in the delta,
have gone out of business.
They have been replaced by
vast agricultural corporations
whose water use outstrips
that of surrounding communities.
Billions of dollars are made
in the central valley
and much of it
from overseas exports.
Consequently, agriculture here
is represented by powerful
water districts.
These organizations not only
support the tunnel project,
but are working to weaken
environmental protections
to seize as much delta
water as possible.
Westlands is
sometimes identified as the largest
irrigation district
in the country.
In terms of gross acreage,
that's not accurate.
Imperial irrigation district
in terms of gross acreage
is larger than westlands,
but in terms of irrigable acres,
westlands is the largest
irrigation district
in the United States.
Farmers in westlands
are able to produce yields
that exceed yields
anywhere else in the world.
But as water has become
more expensive,
it's been necessary for farmers
to look to higher-value crops.
And as a consequence,
probably the most popular
crop today is almonds.
I don't have anything
against westlands,
but if they weren't
creating this issue,
it wouldn't be a problem.
So the westlands water district
is the nation's largest
agricultural water district,
covers about 600,000 acres.
So it's larger than
Rhode Island.
Westlands water district
is very large corporate
agricultural operations.
And it has been politically
powerful for decades.
Westlands has made its name
suing just about everybody.
They typically lose,
but they spend millions
of dollars on some
of the highest-priced lobbyists.
And you know, generally have
the ear of politicians.
Westlands was created to get
surplus water from the delta.
Their contract amount is more
than twice the water
used by the 4 million people
in the city of Los Angeles.
Harris farms,
a typical westlands farm,
is the largest cattle ranch
in the western United States.
But they don't only
produce beef.
This agricultural corporation
is also one of the country's
largest almond producers.
It's truly amazing
how productive
this farmland is,
where we're able
to grow more with less land,
with less water, less resources.
It's truly incredible.
And we're growing
safe, affordable,
nutritious food in abundance
if allowed to, you know,
one of our constraining
factors is our water supply.
It's how much the government
decides to allocate us.
And over the last few years,
those allocations have dwindled
for a variety of reasons,
but primarily
for environmental purposes.
They typically get less water
than they would like to get
simply because
we've overallocated
the water in California,
they've had to fight
for getting more reliable water.
They overdraft groundwater
because they don't have
reliable surface supplies
and they've put a lot of money
and effort into figuring out how
to manage the political system
in a way that helps them improve
their ability to get the water
when they want it
and where they want it.
I'm Sarah wolf
and this is my dad, Allan Clark.
There's never
been enough water to go around
and the least we can do
is manage what we have better
than we're doing now by sending
most of it out to the ocean.
These disagreements
around water in the delta have created
perhaps the greatest fault line
in California water politics.
There is a misconception
that it's farmers versus fish
and that's not
the situation at all.
Westlands, the same people
that are trying
to get these twin tunnels
built for the rate payers
to pay for them so they'd keep
getting their free water.
We don't need almonds here.
They need money to make almonds
to make more money.
That's why they're buying up
thousands of acres
every year planting almonds.
We actually went to war
right here in council
with the water resource lady.
She had said that
they were sending 75%
of our fresh water
that comes through the hills,
down to the delta,
and it was being used as.
Our fresh water is being used
as a salt water barrier
in order to protect a fish.
We had actually said yes
to cutting the additional fish
flows and maintain flows
that were essentially
to maintain what's known
as salinity control
and had we not done those flows,
enough salt water would have
intruded that it wouldn't have
been good for agriculture, urban
use in the delta or for export.
Not that I was expecting
a thank you note or anything,
but the dishonesty about it
on the part of people
who should know better
was really disappointing.
The delta smelt and where it
fits into this discussion
is really a textbook example
of a fairly cynical
but effective p.R. Campaign
by the westlands water district
primarily and some
other delta exporters.
They don't want
to talk about salmon.
Well it's because their friends
in the radical
environmental community
have decided
that two-inch minnows
are more important
than the people in my district.
Well, the truth is Mr. Speaker,
you'd have to have
the brain of a three-inch fish
to believe that narrative.
Their p.R. Efforts are prolific.
They have a lot of allies
in fox news
and other places
that will come down
to westlands, you know, anytime.
Farmers in California,
they're losing their land, crops
and their livelihood,
all because of a two-inch fish.
That Donald Trump statement
a few weeks ago was in the heart
of the westlands water district
and he was surrounded by leaders
of the westlands water district.
And I've heard this from other
friends of mine in California
where they have farms up here
and they don't get water.
I said, "oh, that's too bad.
Is it the drought?"
"No, we have plenty of water.
I said, "what's wrong?"
"Well, we shove it out to sea."
And I said, "why?"
And nobody even knows why.
The environmentalists
don't know why.
Now they're trying to protect a
certain kind of three-inch fish.
People say, "who
cares about the delta smelt?"
It's the fact is
that delta smelt was probably
the most common fish in the San
Francisco bay delta estuary.
So it was a hugely important
part of the ecosystem,
intimately tied
with the food chain.
Now this is probably the rarest
fish in the ecosystem.
In the course of a half-century,
we've taken the most abundant
fish in this ecosystem
and we've made it the rarest.
They've tried every,
every means possible
to hoodwink the public
into believing
that they really care about
two things at the same time,
the health of the delta,
the health of fish and wildlife
and getting all of the water
under their political control
they can possibly get.
Those two things are
inconsistent with one another.
They're inconsistent
in the central valley.
They're inconsistent in,
in southern California
and northern California.
Westland's employees
or consultants
suddenly get hired
by the administration
and deal with the issue
with westlands
and then when that
administration is over,
they come back
and work for westlands again.
Now that's not illegal,
but from the outside
that stinks a little bit.
The connections
between westland's leadership
and the U.S. department of the
interior are well documented.
Take for example, Jason peltier,
former westlands
deputy general manager
and former deputy secretary for
the department of the interior.
You're not going
to piss me off, right?
This isn't something where
we're starting out even Steven.
We've given an awful lot
of money and water,
to the environment
over the last 20 years.
And are we willing to give more?
God, I wish.
I do not know why westlands
is such a target by,
Mr. Huffman or people
in the environmental community.
There are some environmentalists
that they measure their success,
not by how healthy
the fishery is
and how healthy
the ecosystem is,
but how much they hurt
It's sick, it's sick. Sad.
After his role as westlands'
deputy general manager,
Jason peltier became executive
director of the coalition
for a sustainable delta.
Often regarded as a thinktank,
tax documents indicate
that this coalition is run
by high-ranking employees
of the wonderful company,
the largest farm in California.
The wonderful company,
which produces almonds,
pistachios, clementines
and pomegranate juice,
typically uses more water
each year than all the homes
in the entire city
of Los Angeles.
I should say,
some of the challenges
in the delta that we face
in trying to improve
water management,
improve the ecosystem
are, I mean one of the
biggest in my mind
is the fact that we have 95% of
the aquatic biota is invasive.
Whether it's aquatic weeds
from South America
or 40,000 Asian clams.
They've done little to address
the invasives in there
and little to understand them.
I think
people can be worried that
if the organization
is funded by people in the delta
that they might be trying
to find an excuse,
a different reason
why there's decline.
I would sure love to understand
why there's decline.
We understand,
we've been told that our,
our water supply reliability
is a function of the health
of the ecosystem
in these fish populations.
I dare anyone to, to say
we have the scientific proof
that this is the problem
behind the fisheries.
There is no answer.
If we knew it, we'd fix it.
If it was simply more water,
let's get on with it.
Let's get
more water to the fish.
The science here
is actually really clear.
It's really obvious
that we cannot continue
to take half or more
of the central valley's runoff
and divert it to agricultural
and municipal uses
and still maintain the species
that have been here
for millennia.
Jason peltier was in interior.
He left interior, came to work
at westlands water district,
not because it's a
revolving door,
but because Jason as a result
of his experience,
was uniquely qualified
to help shape water policy
in California,
and westlands took
advantage of his services
just as metropolitan
water district took advantage
of services of David Hayes.
A number of folks
from the department of interior,
Jason peltier, have all come
to work for westlands
and to lobby on their behalf
and to sue on their behalf.
Today, westlands has
no more powerful ally
than David bernhardt
who has been nominated
as the interior secretary.
As I've discussed this week,
David bernhardt is no stranger
to the department.
He's served twice before.
In fact, this body has
confirmed him twice before.
His law firm earned
more than 1.3 million dollars
from westlands
for lobbying congress
to weaken environmental laws,
particularly endangered
species act protections.
Now the trump administration
under David bernhardt
is trying to greatly roll back
our endangered species act
protections in the delta.
And if he's successful,
it will mean the end
of delta smelts and the end
of winter run chinook salmon.
Some argue that
increasing westlands' water supply
from the delta
would reduce rural poverty.
Another argument they made
was that well, the,
the poorer communities
that are near these big
irrigation districts
would benefit.
Drought or no drought,
the westlands' farm workers
have some of the worst living
conditions in the country.
Oxfam found that westlands
was in the poorest congressional
district in the u s.
Families of farm workers
crowd together in shared homes,
while westlands farm owners
often live outside
this poor
congressional district.
Their tax money
therefore goes elsewhere,
and farm workers
do not have the schools
and other resources
necessary to escape poverty.
They like to continue to be rich
and they like to continue
to be successful,
but they're doing it on
the backs of other communities.
They do it on the backs
of the environment,
on the backs of immigrants,
on the backs of schoolchildren
because they clearly
have the resources
to improve that life.
But what do they do?
They put them all on a bus
and they send them to my office
up here, a long bus ride.
Many didn't have water.
We had to go out and buy
so they could rehydrate
and they couldn't quite explain
why they were in my office
in Concord, California.
So that's, you know,
that's their game.
That's their game.
Send them up there
and they're just, they're pawns,
but they're pawns in the entire
agricultural structure
in the central valley.
Agriculture in California
prioritizes agriculture
at almost any expense.
The water in California
is a shared resource
that is a public resource
that is not a private resource.
So the management of that water
is something that needs
to be considered
in the public interest
and we need to do a betterjob
of making sure that
the water that we need
is going to be there
for future generations.
People have said,
westlands never should
have been farmed.
The lands in westlands
never should have been farmed.
That may be correct,
but that sound bite
isn't an answer to the problem
that exists today.
Maybe the city of San Francisco
shouldn't exist where it is
because it doesn't have adequate
water to support its needs.
Maybe the city of Los Angeles
shouldn't exist where it exists
because it certainly doesn't
have regional water supplies
adequate to meet the demand
for people in Los Angeles.
You know,
that's ignoring the reality.
San Francisco does exist.
The city of Los Angeles exists.
So let's begin to have
an honest dialogue
about how we're going
to address these issues.
And maybe the solution
is take lands
in westlands out of production.
But if that is the solution,
let's begin to address
that question
and identify the ways
by which we are going
to mitigate impacts
to communities based on
that public policy decision.
But I
know what you're getting at is,
where is the will
to solve the problem?
Where's the will come from?
Is it only come from the money?
I think there's a lot
of foolish things right now
that I see developing in terms
of a distrust of science.
People are slow to move
unless they feel like
they're immediately affected.
Those kind of problems,
just like this one that grinds
over years and years,
people turn their back on it.
- They get too busy.
- They forget it.
Or, yeah, it rained last year,
so we don't need to
talk about water for a while.
When people find out
that I write about water,
their eyes always get big
and they talk about Chinatown
and oh, are we
running out of water?
And my standard response is no,
we're not running out of water,
but we are running out of water
to use it the way we did
in the 20th century
and the 19th century,
which was thoughtlessly
and wastefully.
And without any regard to the
impact on the environment,
We have clearly
taken too much fresh water
out of these systems
to support the native species
and the healthy functioning
of the estuary.
And that's what the decline
of the delta smelt
and some of these other species
is telling us.
Climate change
is changing the conditions
of life on this planet
and we need to be
more resilient, more nimble,
if we want to survive
as a species.
And I think there's no stage
bigger than the bay delta
to help us articulate what's
going to make us more nimble,
what's gonna make our
communities more just
and what's gonna
make this planet
still habitable by human beings.
The good news
is there are many solutions
for what we need to be doing.
We can build a portfolio
for the 21st century
that includes large amounts
of high-quality
treated wastewater
that we used to throw away,
but that ought to be considered
an asset now, not a liability.
We can capture more storm water
that we now lose to the oceans
during wet periods
and we can use it to recharge
our over-tapped aquifers.
L.A.'s population
has grown by over a million people
in the last couple of decades
and its water use overall
has remained flat
due to improvements
in water use efficiency.
Figuring out how to manage
the power dynamics,
the political dynamics
is a much more difficult
challenge for California
than new technology
or building desalination plants
or figuring out
how to grow crops differently.
The politics is really going
to determine
much of California's
water future.
Groups like the
metropolitan water district
of southern California
and the westlands water district
in the San Joaquin valley
want to maximize use of water
from the delta
for their own interests,
namely sending water down south.
Every interest group
wants the delta
managed for their interests.
These same
organizations also reject
the scientific consensus
that there isn't enough water
flowing through the delta
to support native ecosystems,
despite species being
on the brink of extinction.
We also believe though
that there is
sufficient water in the system
for the environment
and for native fish.
restoring any semblance
of the delta's
native environment
has been incredibly challenging.
We have this
diversity of ecosystem types in California
and we just can't
support that anymore,
the way we're managing it.
So that, you know,
the bigger picture is,
are we okay with that
as a society?
I think if you
polled californians,
95% would say we would like
to have rivers with some fish
in them in the future.
How you get there
is the difficult part.
But first you have to understand
that we may not have rivers
and we may not have fish,
so do you want to do something?
And so California's water issues
are really just a microcosm
for what we're seeing
around the planet
and what we're able to monitor
with satellite data.
For instance,
on the India-Pakistan
border here,
the indus river basin
is a heavily-stressed aquifer
and this region of the country
gets groundwater
pumped substantially.
So you know, a shared resource
by two countries
that needs to be well-managed
in order to avoid
political tensions.
So as population keeps growing,
we have increasing demand.
There will not be enough water
to support every need
and every want
at some point in the future.
And so the realization
of that has not really hit
everyone yet fully.
Where does your water come from
is a basic question
that everyone should be able
to answer, no matter
where you live in the world.
And with that knowledge there
will be a trickle-down effect.
I think that affects policy and
therefore affects management.
If we can't deal
with our water issues
in a place like California,
how can we expect to deal
with our water issues
in other places of the world?
I mean, in California
we have everything
we need to be successful.
It's just about making
the decision to do so.
And that really means
prioritizing water.
And thinking about the future.
And so in California,
these issues are wrestled with
before the state water
resources control board
in the hopes of creating
a sustainable water future.
Our analysis
today shows there's no evidence
that flows less than 50% or so.
We've seen a huge decline
in the delta ecosystem
and these water quality
standards that are supposed
to prevent a decline
like that from happening
have not been updated
in now 25 years.
The state water board did
a very comprehensive analysis
of what it would take to restore
healthy fish populations
and basically concluded
that right now
we divert about
half of the fresh water
out of the delta ecosystem
and that to be healthy
we needed to restore
about 75% flows.
The conflict is
intense as people see
everything as a loss
either cause they're worrying
about fish and wildlife
on the brink of extinction
or you're a farmer
or a community leader
who's worried about
the livelihood
of your family or your people.
We've tested the hypothesis
that insufficient flow,
despite the evidence, will work.
It hasn't.
We've tested the hypothesis
that doing more habitat
without sufficient
flow regimes will work.
It hasn't, why don't we try
testing the hypothesis
that the amount of flow
that the scientific evidence
and your record suggests
will work will work.
But the water quality
control plan, because
it's a plan under some laws
created by this bureaucracy
over many, many years,
it doesn't get nearly the
attention giant tunnels
that you could like roll
a small aircraft through
the water quality control plan
will really define water
quality conditions that support
clean water and fisheries
and can potentially save
endangered species
for decades to come.
There's a story I'm sure
many people are familiar with
called "the giving tree"
by shel silverstein.
The boy plays in the tree
and eats its apples as a child
and the tree's very happy.
The boy sells the apples
when he's a teen
to make a little bit of money
and the tree's very happy.
He harvests the branches
to build a house as a young man
and he cuts down the trunk
in middle age to form,
create a canoe and the tree's
always happy to be there for him.
And finally, as an old man,
he uses the stump of the tree
to sit and think.
And this story is very divisive.
Some people see it as
representing unconditional love,
that this tree gives
everything to this boy,
whereas others see it
as exploitation of nature.
In other words, is it about
a giving tree or taking person?
And I think we need to ask that
about our rivers.
Are they giving rivers?
Certainly they are.
Are we taking people?
Yes, we are.
This outdated plan
allows more than half
of water needed for the delta's
ecological health
to be diverted away
largely for unsustainable
industrial agriculture.
But if the state board
takes action today,
nothing happens in 2019
except litigation,
there will be no
on the ground projects.
There will be
no additional flows.
If you think it's hard now,
imagine a world 15, 20 years
from now with greater reliance
on diverting more water
from our rivers
with climate change,
making it harder and harder
to satisfy all of our needs.
The mighty bay
delta estuary is a gem.
It is a treasure
and it is worth saving.
Californians deserve more
than just a stump to sit on.