The common theme of the Water Summit and other discussions in California was the need for more water storage. While Wenger said storage was addressed in private meetings with the President, Obama’s public statement prior to leaving the Central Valley was a lecture on climate change peppered with the announcement of aid money.

Proposals have been made for an off-stream storage site in Colusa and Glenn counties called Sites Reservoir, and a separate project on the San Joaquin River at the head of Millerton Lake called Temperance Flat Dam. Combined the two projects would add as much as 3.1 million acre feet of additional water storage in California. Other proposals include raising Shasta Dam; an environmental impact statement has been written and is currently going through the public process. The possibility of increasing off-stream storage at San Luis Reservoir has also been brought up.

While the cost of these projects ranges in the hundreds of millions of dollars to more than $1 billion each, combined they represent only about 10 percent of the total cost state officials want to spend on a high speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Still, a bigger hurdle to cross for water storage projects is the environmental restrictions and threats of costly lawsuits to litigate such projects.

“They’ll set aside the regulations to build a football stadium in southern California; how about setting them aside to build a dam?” Watte said.