Thursday, June 14, 2007

Drowning in Water Facts

It is not generally the case that water gets in the headlines and stays there for such a long time, unless you have wonderful fluke photo opportunities of wayward whales wending their way up and down the Sacramento River.

Sometimes, you just have to start tying things together to see where the problems lie and where the liars are a problem.

Hank Chapot provided one California Green email list with a copy of a water news item from Idaho Statesman, from which I quote.
ROCKY BARKER, IDAHO STATESMAN - Idaho Water Resources Director David Tuthill said he is prepared to use sheriffs or Idaho State Police officers if necessary to shut off pumps irrigating 22,000 acres of crops in the Magic Valley this week. Food processing plants, 13 cities and dozens of dairies also would lose access to groundwater under Tuthill's order to meet the demand of two trout producers. Overall, the curtailment could directly cost Idaho's economy more than $28 million this year, based on Tuthill's estimate.
The tone of this story sounds very much like that of some of the stories that surrounded the shut down of the large pumps near Tracy in the California Delta. Take this one from CBS outlet in San Francisco, KPIX.
"This highlights the fact the system is broken," said Jeff Kightlinger, the water district's general manager.

Kightlinger said more needs to be done to cut back on other sources of stress on the species, including agricultural runoff that brings pesticide into the delta, invasive species that compete with the smelt, and predatory fish that eat them.

Water districts more heavily dependent on delta water showed more concern about the immediate impact of the pump shutdown.
Everyone looks for a reason to continue taking all the water they need, even when there is none. That is why Sonoma County announced a mandatory 15% reduction in water use beginning July 1.

To illustrate just how much the system is broken, let me quote from a job opening notification that I picked up form another email list yesterday.
Butte County is about to embark on a nationwide search for a new Director of Water and Resource Conservation. Toccoy Dudley has retired and left CalFed's Vickie Newlin in charge. The county will publish a job search in July or August ( The head hunter is Avery Associates ( with Bill Avery heading the search.

The job pays over $100,000/year. We need someone heading the department that will prioritize local water management sustainability rather than State water supply.
There is that word "sustainability". It is so commonly used and it so rarely practiced. When you look behind the way some use the term, it means being able to sustain growth, no matter what the cost. Let's look at the "mission" of my local water wholesaler, the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
The mission of the District is a healthy, safe, and enhanced quality of living in Santa Clara County through watershed stewardship and comprehensive management of water resources in a practical, cost-effective, and environmentally sensitive manner.
That is a mission statement which says that they need to deliver the water no matter how unreasonable the requirements may be. Don't do anything that might affect the standard of living or those precious suburban lawns.

I added the link to the Butte County Water and Conservation Department in the notice above. Here is a place where Butte County Greens can try to exert some influence on the decision as to who will end up heading this agency and what policy direction it may follow. We need someone who can think of the needs for water sustainability ( that work again ) until the 7th Generation. Now, we don't even ask if there is enough a sustainable supply of water for the next housing development.

There are going to be many opportunities, such as this in Butte County, where Greens speaking up can make a difference, can push things in the right direction, can have a say about the relationship between the engines of growth and the limitations on our resources. I will watch out for them, but please let me know if you find them yourselves.

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