May 14, 2018
Is WaterFix Another Megaproject Gone Awry?
By Glen Martin, alumni Berkeley
The 20 th century was the century of the megaproject, and as usual, California pointed the way for the nation. Southern California’s freeway system and the State Water Project, both largely completed by the 1970s, were mighty testaments to the conceit that we could build our way out of any problem. That view, of course, has since been tempered by inconvenient realities. LA traffic essentially exists in a state of permanent gridlock, and the State Water Project (SWP) and its federal counterpart, the Central Valley Project (CVP), have proven woefully inadequate in slaking the state’s thirst, as demonstrated by the recent drought.
In the past few decades, resistance to such massive engineering initiatives has grown. Decrying the expense and environmental impacts, opponents to Big Concrete advocate multiplex approaches and local solutions: public and alternative transport in all its manifestations rather than new freeways, and wastewater recycling, storm water capture, conservation—even repairing the myriad leaks that plague the state’s water systems—rather than new dams in the Sierra or more state-spanning aqueducts. Megaprojects, in short, are highly unfashionable.