Arguably the most important goal of CalFed is to assure agricultural and urban users of an adequate supply of water. CalFed promised water users that they would be able to rely on the Delta for more fresh water as demand increased.

Once again, CalFed has fallen far short. The decline of the Delta's ecosystem caused state water officials to delay plans to increase the capacity of Delta pumps until at least 2009. This could result in considerable hardship to much of the state. Southern California is cutting back on its use of the Colorado River because rapid growth in Arizona and Nevada has caused those states to consume more of their legal share of the river's water supply.

As reliance on the Colorado River declines, Southern California hopes to increase its use of water flowing through the Delta. But the growing population of the Los Angeles area must wait for increased supplies.

It is becoming increasingly clear that California is headed for a water crisis not too far in the future. Water demand has increased far faster than improvements to water storage facilities above ground or in aquifers.

Since 1979, when the New Melones Dam was completed, the state population has increased by more than 13 million people, yet no major reservoirs have been planned, much less built. Two smaller reservoirs have been opened in recent years, Los Vaqueros in 1998 and Diamond Valley in Southern California in 1999, but they are not nearly enough to make much of a difference in the overall water supply picture.

California cannot afford to indefinitely delay increased water pumping to the Central Valley and Southern California. The state's population continues to grow by more than a half million a year and is expected to reach 48 million in 2030. But water shortages are likely to surface well before then. It takes many years to build new reservoirs or expand current ones, and use of Delta water cannot increase until we are able to solve environmental problems.

There are other things CalFed could and should do such as improve conservation programs, particularly on farms, and increase underground storage. There is little time for more studies. Action on increasing water supplies is imperative. But CalFed must get its act together _ and quickly _ if it is to meet the challenge.