The federal government, through its water agencies (and the funding providing via taxpayers in other places) used to be a major player in the development of the West. This Michael Doyle story, in describing a Congress up to its axles in California drought and unable to move an inch, suggests that is no longer the case:
Five months into a new Congress, and deep into a lasting drought, California water legislation still stymies and splits the state’s lawmakers.
Clearly Californians have not passed the first important hurdle for federal action on state-level water issues – unanimity within the state about what should be done. Traditionally a state gets its act together and presents a united position to Congress as a necessary precondition to federal action. But one of the reasons such unanimity is harder today than it used to be is a reduced federal ability to throw vast sums of money at internal state water conflicts. Used to be that part of a deal was federal dollars to build a big canal or dam or something that all the state players could get behind. We’re done with that.
Second is a deeper values division about the best way to deal with our water problems. California has always had a north versus south problem, but now…. Water for the environment? Ag versus urban? This may be greatest hurdle.