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The Buckhorn

Copyright (c) 2010
Winters Express
312 Railroad Avenue, Winters, CA 95694
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Water solutions
are everywhere

With what may turn out to be a never ending drought, those in charge will have to make some tough decisions about water in California. Our state and federal legislators should be the ones to make those decisions, but we need to hold them accountable. We need to add water storage facilities, we need to regulate and measure groundwater supplies, have a plan to recharge our groundwater during wet years, and design a water delivery system that pays its own way.
Whether you believe in climate change or not, California has a perpetual water problem. If our legislators won’t get their hands dirty, or can’t make a decision, they should all be replaced. It may be up to water agencies, or irrigation districts, to step up to the plate and make the hard decisions that can give California a chance to have a sustainable water supply system. The Farm Bureau has taken an active roll in finding solutions and supporting good ideas, but even if it means farmers will have to pay more and do with less water, they need to push for a long term plan to keep California growing.
There are solutions, but solving our water problem won’t be easy and a lot of people won’t be happy. The system is broken and needs repair, just ask people who are letting their lawns turn brown, finding dry wells, or farmers who are letting their fields go fallow because they can’t get water delivered. Remember, less than 20 percent of the water used in California is for residential use, the rest is farm and industrial. Everyone needs to learn to conserve and manage their water use, residential customers alone cannot fix the problem.
We need more storage facilities, i.e. dams. It isn’t as easy as saying lets build more dams, the easy dam sites have already been developed. There are several sites in California that have been identified for new dams like Temperance Flat dam on the San Joaquin River and Sites Reservoir in Colusa County to name two. Why didn’t we build them 20 years ago and why are we still waiting? If we are waiting because no one wants to pay for these dams, charge the people who will be using the water. If the farmers growing cotton in the central valley want water, they will have to pay for it. The years of cheap, subsidized water that made many of them rich are over. The argument that everyone benefits from cheap food is just bunk and waiting for the taxpayers to fund new dams doesn’t seem to be working.
When you drive down Highway 5 you see a lot of signs about water and congress. When those same farmers were asked to pay for new storage and guarantee water contracts, their answer was no. They don’t want to pay for water they don’t need during wet years, but during droughts they scream that their water rights are being violated. Tough. If they want guaranteed water, they need to step up and pay for added storage whether they need it every year or not. Don’t ask the taxpayers to pay for new dams just so you can buy more desert land and plant more almonds. Add a tax on every acre foot of water delivered in California and get building. If you don’t want to pay the tax, sell your land and run for Congress.
A real problem during droughts is that groundwater is pumped to excess. California is the only western state that doesn’t regulate ground water. The state regulates rivers and reservoirs but if you have a well you can pump all you want and sell it to whomever you want. It doesn’t matter if the ground water passes under your neighbor or if their wells are going dry, there is no limit on how much you can pump. If the ground starts to subside and the aquifers collapse, too bad, you can keep on pumping and selling your water.
It is time to regulate ground water and find out what is normal recharge. It should be criminal to pump ground water and sell it off site. In drought years when groundwater makes up for the lack of above ground storage, there has to be limits on pumping. Once the ground subsides and you lose underground storage, it doesn’t come back, ever. Ground water needs to be artificially recharged during wet years, nature alone can’t make up for all the water that is being pumped. Adding underground storage during wet years isn’t anything new, it just isn’t being used enough.
I’m sure you will hear farmers and cities crying that it is their water and they can pump all they want. Groundwater is just a river underground and belongs to everyone. You can’t pump all the water out of Putah Creek and sell it to Los Angeles, so why should you be able to pump groundwater and sell it?
We are running out of time. When you see your state or federal legislator, tell him/her to implement laws that will help solve our water problems. If they can’t come up with solutions, vote for someone who can.
Have a good week.