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Beth Pandol

It takes about 13 gallons of water to grow just one orange. That fact alone ought to prompt citizens to pay close attention to California's tenuous water situation, but water is an issue that is largely ignored by the general public, especially in the southern part of the state.

Recently, Gov. Jerry Brown announced a mammoth plan to build twin tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region of California, a project that could bring much needed water to Kern County. Or it might not. In any case, it's an issue we all need to follow carefully because the ramifications for Kern County are immense.

Water issues can be about as exciting as a fence post. They are highly complicated, political minefields with not just two sides to every issue, but four or five sides to every issue. They are issues that very few people in California completely understand and can explain. And, depending upon the weather, projections change, water supplies change and opinions change as quickly as a passing thunderstorm.

Still, Kern County citizens would do well to suffer through educating themselves about the governor's proposed plan and other Kern water issues. Learn how it will impact Kern County to have twin tunnels built; whether or not the project will actually improve our water picture; what the costs are; the consequences of not building the tunnels; how business, urban areas, farms, manufacturing, and the environment will either benefit or not benefit from building the tunnels; and what the long-term outlook will be for Kern's water picture. This is a huge project and it requires more than a little effort to understand it.

It's important to read many sources on this as there are as many opinions on this project as there are fish in the delta, and some of these are driven by emotion, not fact. It's important to sift through this. Northern California media will run vastly different stories on the project than will Southern California media. Environmental groups will write vastly different editorials than will farm groups, and so on.

Becoming somewhat knowledgeable about California water issues will be of benefit because we all will have to make critical choices over the next decade about who we elect, what policies we support, and what bond measures we pass. Kern citizens need to form their opinions -- whatever they may be -- based on knowledge and a thorough understanding of the issue, not emotion. Even the highly charged issue of water in the Kern River is impacted by delta water supplies. Learn why this is so, what it means, and what impact it has on Kern County to either run more water down the Kern or to not run more water. It's all connected.

There will be public meetings held around the state to discuss the governor's plan. Attend them with knowledge in hand. Nothing is so powerful an argument as the facts.

Most of us take water for granted but Kern County's economy is highly dependent upon water supply. Our agricultural, oil and manufacturing industries need water, as does each and every citizen. Take the time to learn, get the facts and understand water a little better. There are many sources of expertise here in Kern and the Water Association urges you to find them, ask questions and learn. The Water Association's Web page -- -- has many links and resources to help you understand this complicated subject and we are always happy to take a phone call (661-746-3300) and discuss this most important California issue.

Beth Brookhart Pandol is executive director of the Water Association of Kern County.