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California must now decide what's next for upgrading its water delivery system after a key player rejected Gov. Jerry Brown's plans to build two giant tunnels.
All sides of California's water war agree the north-south system needs a major overhaul.
The powerful Westlands Water District dealt a major blow to the project when it opted out, saying the $16 billion tunnels were too expensive.
University of California, Davis, professor Jay Lund says the "no" vote by the group of farmers creates an opening for robust political dialogue on California water.
He says water is so vital that somebody will always be advancing projects.
Another key group, Metropolitan Water District, isn't sure what's next. Jeffrey Kightlinger of the district, says a scaled-back version of the tunnels is a good starting point.
Two massive, $16 billion tunnels that looked to be the future of California's water system have been thrown into limbo by a group of powerful farmers, and Gov. Jerry Brown and other tunnel proponents are facing the prospect that the project may end up just a pipe dream.
The board of Westlands Water District voted to withdraw its participation from the project after more than an hour of tense discussions and comments from farmers who overwhelmingly concluded it was too expensive.
Water is a contentious issue in California, which leads the nation in agricultural production, growing nearly half of its fruits, nuts and vegetables. Irrigation water now flows through a complex system of reservoirs and canals managed by state and federal officials that was built decades ago.
Brown and other legislators say the aging water infrastructure must be modernized.