Editorial

It's encouraging to review last week's water news in California, a state beset by three years of drought and dogged by political infighting that threatens efforts at physical fixes to domestic and agricultural water systems clearly in need of help.

It wasn't just the first Pacific storm -- which was too much in some parts of the Golden State -- that promised to refill drawn-down reservoirs. Scientists at the National Weather Service chipped in with a long-range forecast that California should have a wetter than normal fall and winter.

El Niño, that pool of warm water which sometimes builds along the equator in the Pacific, has slowly shown itself in sea-surface temperature readings collected since June. An Oct. 8 update from computer models now shows El Niño strengthening is likely to continue through the winter, becoming a "moderate" event with global impact on weather conditions.

Here on the West Coast, moderate El Niños often bring wetter than normal weather to California and drier than normal weather to the Pacific Northwest.

On the political front, the California Legislature opened a special session on long-term water-system financing, and the state's Ag Board held a Fresno fact-finding meeting to gauge the actual impact of summer's water shortage. Debate continues on how much to put the finger on drought conditions, and how much impact came from a pair of federal court orders aimed at protecting federally endangered fish in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta.

That ought to be an academic exercise at this point, if the state's voters are ever to get a look at a massive water bond issue first proposed in 2008 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. We are encouraged that legislative hearings on the $9.4 billion bond began this week. Floor votes on some bills could be a fact by the time you read this.

That's a huge step toward the public getting a handle on a package that may include an engineering attempt to improve Delta water conditions, and another round of reservoir construction that's been near-dormant for two decades.

One last political note on recent news. When Congress considered a water recycling bill last week, Central Valley farmers found themselves represented by a coalition of House Democrats and Republicans. They tried -- it turned out with no success -- to add some Central Valley assistance to the bill. Those representatives deserve thanks from agriculture, along with Schwarzenegger and the Democratic leadership that finally got the water bond before the Legislature.

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