Water Wisdom Wanted

Elizabeth Wong Ahlers (R) is a candidate for the California Senate from District 25. All candidates running in the March 5th primary election interviewed by Local News Pasadena were invited to write an opinion submission for Talking Points.

3 mins read

Clouds again this morning. It’s beginning to feel like the state of Washington, only warmer, thankfully!

Water is a big deal in California, whereas I think it’s taken for granted in Washington. Seventy percent of our body is composed of water. We can survive for several weeks without eating, but only three days without drinking water. As a child, reading stories of people lost at sea or on a desert island, it was horrifying to imagine that all the saltwater of the oceans is undrinkable, and the poor lost person would die of thirst surrounded by water.

Besides being mostly composed of water physically, I think I have a “call to water” in my spiritual DNA. My grandfather worked on the Los Angeles Basin Flood Control system in the 1930s after lives and much property were lost in Los Angeles winter storms. My father worked on the California aqueduct system in the 1960’s bringing drinkable water from Northern California to the cities of Southern California.

As a current local council member myself, the most interesting “field trip” for me has been a tour of several water reclamation facilities in neighboring cities. At the annual National Night Out fair hosted by the local sheriff’s station last year, I spent the majority of the event time in deep discussion with our local water district manager because the jump in water rates being added to our property tax was one of the community’s loudest complaints of 2023 and neighbors actually pulled their car over to let me know how they felt about it if they saw me out in my front yard.

Water. We have had record rainfall this month. Eleven inches of rain were measured in the San Gabriel Canyon a few weeks ago. More came last weekend. And more expected starting today. This is a great blessing to our forests, parks, and home gardens. And here in the Greater West San Gabriel Valley, we have been able to receive this blessing without many local mudslide disasters or flood control crises. Yet, 95 percent of the precious stuff is released into the Pacific to become undrinkable seawater. A frustrating picture, infuriating actually, as a collective California body feels the pang of thirsty farmland and burned-out forests.

The generations of my father and grandfather had government support to manage California’s water crisis for their times, whether the crisis was too much water or too little water for the needs of the people. But the water needs of this generation of California citizens seem to be thwarted by government intention regarding the natural and necessary resource of water.

I hear that California officials have entered agreements with other states not only to limit the supply of water but also the demand. How do you limit demand? When people need water, they need water. When a baby needs milk, the baby’s cries are not a demand that can be “managed.” That would be abuse. So how does our government limit demand? Artificially, by government coercion. I feel this is an abuse of our people.

If we are all on a desert island and we all die together, that cannot be helped. But when we receive record rainfall and we are forced to pay outrageous water rates and deprive our children of simple joys of dancing on a green lawn in the sprinklers on a lovely sunny California summer day, this is abuse and neglect by leadership whom we pay to provide for collective necessities.

Solutions are straightforward — build storage, maintain those structures, process and deliver, and charge proportionally according to supply and usage. During the long years of actual drought, we got creative and needed to investigate methods of water reclamation, water recycling, and desalinization. But now there is no excuse for intentionally withholding water from human beings. And besides the intentional control over “demand,” the neglect of the existing storage and lack of foresight is inexcusable. The most recently built reservoir in California was built in 1979! One hundred twelve dams have been determined to be in “less than satisfactory” condition preventing 41 of these dams from holding full capacity for safety’s sake.

When people are abused, if they have the power and opportunity, they leave the situation. Do you realize that this is the first time in California history that the population of our state has decreased? My neighbors have been fleeing the abuse of California’s bad leadership for other states, even more desert-like Arizona because they would rather live in an inland desert than live under neglect and abuse by their own government.

Other people when abused, continue to suffer the abuse and submit to it because they cannot leave, or they do not realize that they are being mistreated. People are co-dependent on government authority without a free person’s ability of independent thought.

Then there are those of us who consider California their generational homeland, and we remember better days, and we believe we have a right to basic necessities without mortgaging ourselves just to drink. We commit to stay here and sacrifice personal energy and resources to do something constructive, to solve problems, and to oppose unnecessary problems imposed on us by bad leadership in Sacramento.

When we attend meetings or visit a friend, don’t they offer you a drink? Come on, California. It’s just basic common sense and decency to provide water.

Elizabeth Wong Ahlers is a fifth-generation California-born mother of six, grandmother of three, and Councilwoman in La Crescenta, California and currently running for State Senate.

The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/sq1v


  1. So very true! The leaders of California have to address this problem with real solutions, not just playing the blame game.

    I’m glad you’re thinking about this, and it sounds like you’re ready to get things corrected. We need to see our kids playing on their front yard on green lawns, but much will have to be addressed to make this dream a reality. Hoping you can make big changes in Sacramento!

  2. Well said Elizabeth! I had a feeling that we were not being told the full story around a drought, when there’s been so much rainfall! Thank you for sharing the truth and still having the love of California enough in your heart to Stand for her! You have my vote!

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