Sunday, October 11, 2009

Water Diversions Are Not Real Solutions

The state of California is still looking to aqueducts and diversions as a quick out. Gov. Schwatzennegger is currently holding up 700 bills on his desk until he gets yet another diversion approved. The California Aqueduct, the proposed diversion of the Delta waters to the Central Valley, Owens Lake and the Hetch-Hetchy are examples of such projects.

Continuing this model is simply running from one source to the other without addressing the impact on local users. The issues of population growth, efficiency of uses, implementation of urban and rural conservation or the needs and concerns of those from whom the water is taken are not even on the scale when it comes to such diversions. The state legislature currently has its fingers choking off the pulse of water flows and the Governor is attempting to hold his breath until he gets his way.

The fact is that diversions are stop-gap measures with inherent limitations in addressing either supplies or demand. Past practice has not provided long-term solutions. There are aqueducts galore in California and yet the state continues to run from one crisis to the next. And the best they have come up with is yet another massive diversion!

The Green Party of California stepped forward at its state Plenary session October 10th by approving a Water Planning Plank for the state Platform. Unlike the other parties, the Green Party begins on the foundation to: “Develop regional water plans that assure public input into the state water plan that in turn must be based on sound science and on priorities that are in the public interest.” There are no supplies of water that are not connected to the people, wildlife and ecosystems of the regions in the state. There is no state plan absent the formulation of regional plans based on an open and transparent process and inclusion of the input of the stakeholders, the science and the environment.

The present controversy around the diversion from the Delta to the Central Valley has made visible the inherent inequities on those from whom water is taken. A recent article in the Tampa Tribune illustrates how regional processes are becoming increasingly recognized to assure equity and input into water decisions. The collaborative regional effort in regards to the Tampa Bay was so successful that: “This will be the first time nationally that pollutant load limits have been developed by such a local cooperative effort.”

Greens are increasingly becoming engaged in the water issue. As a political party, we have a distinct agenda that is represented by our candidates and elected public officials. At the National level, the Eco-Action Committee was set up as a Standing Committee of the GPUS. Also, the National Committee passed Resolution 380 establishing water as a priority of the work of the GPUS. Now, the Green Party of California has presented an alternative to the policies of the Democrats and Republicans.

Section 10 states that we propose to: “Use an ecosystems/watershed approach to ensure sustainable water use. All stakeholders need to participate in the planning. Environmental justice, ecological impact, and depletion of groundwater supplies need to be integrated with the ongoing process for approval of new withdrawals.” Section 14 declares: Integrate land use with water use for urban planning decisions. Political bodies, such as municipal water authorities, need to be more inclusive in the representation of users, hydrologists, environmental health professionals, and environmental advocates in the region and address the issues affecting the regional supply and demand of the resource, as well as water quality. Presently, the interests and concerns of real estate and development interests have a disproportionate voice in new allocations.”

Our Water Planning Plank presents to the public our direction to: “Achieve a truly sustainable water policy in the light of climate change considering, for example, snow packs, aquifer recharge, available water supplies and rising sea levels.” We have the edge in being able to unite with farmers, urban users, planners, and various communities that have been subjected to diversions to other regions in the state regardless of their impact.

The Green Water Planning Plank for California promotes a sound decision-making process that assures grassroots democracy while representing the needs and concerns of our voters and supporters in defining and supporting legislation to implement our state Green Party Platform. Structural reforms in our political entities are a fundamental focus in accomplishing both goals. Population increases, increased agricultural land use, dedicated surface water inflow increases, aquifer depletions and salt water intrusions in our estuaries pose challenges that simply cannot be addressed through political machinations in the State Legislature.

The Water Planning Plank for the Green Party of California creates a new vision for reform. It provides the means to include the concerns of state residents. It advocates for real solutions at the regional level and presents new priorities at the state level in supporting them. It provides our candidates, voters and supporters with a clear blueprint from which the ideas can become the reality. Leadership will emerge from those whom we are able to motivate through our work and the alternative that is the Green Party.

The Earth is the model for the Green Party. The water is its life force. Its people are its creative force.

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