Breaking down ‘grocery bliss’ might be key to winning Calif.’s fight for water storage

While it’s difficult to convince a soccer mom in Bel Air that California needs water storage, Friant Water’s Johnny Amaral wants to see the Valley do a better job fighting for water politically.

This year has been an unusual one in recent history: California has an abundance of water. 

Yet the Golden State’s water storage situation has not changed one bit, making 2023 turn into the year of missed opportunities to protect against the inevitable future drought that will dry up the state. 


Friant Water Authority Chief Operating Officer Johnny Amaral spoke with The Sun for an upcoming episode of Sunrise FM to discuss the lack of necessary water storage in California, among many other issues. 

The backstory: As of Monday, California’s snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was 337 percent of the average for May 15, up there with the 1982-1983 season as the highest in the state’s history. 

State of play: The issue centers on the last three decades of failure for California to take any meaningful work in the water storage space, according to Amaral. 

  • He pointed to projects such as Temperance Flat Dam, Auburn Dam and raising Shasta Dam as common sense solutions to California’s water woes. 
  • But in the current political climate, Amaral called the idea of constructing a dam on a river sacrilege in California. 

What we’re watching: While simply raising Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet would provide an additional 634,000 acre-feet of water storage capacity, gathering enough support for the project could feel seemingly impossible at times. 

  • There’s one project, however, that Amaral thinks could possibly stand a chance: Sites Reservoir – an off-stream storage project that would not dam a river. Water would be pumped in and out at need. 

What they’re saying: “At some point we’ve got to get this right,” Amaral said. “We, the collective, we have failed over the last few decades in getting meaningful significant movement and influence over public opinion on building either new storage or constructing new conveyance facilities, things like that. We failed. We’re getting obliterated.” 

  • A large part of the trouble comes in convincing the rest of the state about how important water is for the Central Valley. 
  • “It’s very difficult to convince a soccer mom in Bel Air that food security should be important to her, or a dad in Pleasanton that food security should matter,” Amaral said. “And in order to have food security, farms and farm communities need to have the water they need to grow the food. Somehow that hasn’t connected. I suspect it’s because it’s not believable. It’s not believable when you can go into any supermarket in California, or anywhere, and just see the most beautiful produce section that you’ll see anywhere in the world. It’s just not believable.”
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