Western Growers’ leaders are applauding California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for proposing a comprehensive water infrastructure proposal focused on ensuring all Californians a safe, clean, and reliable water supply.

“California’s water infrastructure is failing and is inadequate to meet the needs of the state’s growing population,” said Stephen Patricio, president of Westside Produce in Firebaugh, Calif., and chairman of the Western Growers Board of Directors.

“The fresh produce industry is appreciative of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s vision and Sen. Dave Cogdill’s (R-Modesto) leadership in calling for action now to meet the growing water demands for all Californians,” Patricio said.

California’s farmers are very hopeful that the governor and the Legislature will finally take action on a comprehensive plan that includes surface water storage and improved Delta conveyance, he said.

Previously this year, the California Senate rejected Cogdill’s SB 59, a comprehensive water infrastructure plan that the governor sponsored and Western Growers supported.

“The time for action is now. We don’t just need below ground storage, or just above ground storage; we need both, and we need proper conveyance measures to move that water from Northern to Southern California in a way that enhances the health of the Delta ecosystem,” Patricio said.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger recognizes this need. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has expressed her belief that the governor is on the right track and now it is our hope that the Legislature will recognize the urgency to act now to protect the quality of our water supply for all Californians for generations to come.”

One of the keys to the governor’s plan is the restoration of the Delta. Western Growers believes restoring the Delta is essential to irrigating hundreds of thousands of acres of Central Valley farmland — keeping California's $32 billion agricultural industry moving forward.

Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose members grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in California and 75 percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation’s fresh produce.