Calling for water wisdom

North State interests must tackle the issue in whole

Chico-based advocacy nonprofit AquAlliance recently held a two-day conference titled “Water for Seven Generations: Will California Protect or Squander It?” As summarized in the CN&R (“Water bound,” Nov. 24), experts from various fields—science, law, activism—pushed for a holistic approach to managing this most precious resource.

They showed how the California water wars of the early 20th century, waged in the Owens Valley, have begun to resurface in the 21st century, notably where the Central Coast meets the Central Valley. They explained the interconnection between surface water and groundwater, despite laws distinguishing the two, and how major projects such as Sites Reservoir and the Delta tunnels may not pencil out water-wise because planning overlooks climate change.

So, how should we move forward to connect all the dots?

Awareness is a start. Paramount, however, is unity.

The North State needn’t follow the path of greed that turned the Owens Valley into Los Angeles’ tap. Instead, we should emulate the Central Coast, where diverse interests share common ground over the Paso Robles basin, literally and figuratively: Voters who in March halted privatization of that aquifer included family farmers and anti-tax, anti-government and pro-transparency activists.

Our region could marshal resources to ensure laws and big-money projects make sense from a water-science perspective.

Policy-makers keep approaching water problems with piecemeal answers. From dams and diversions to dust mitigation and groundwater replenishment, people in charge jump from one fix to another—with most every new solution requiring more water, thereby competing with others. As one conference presenter said, “That’s the problem with not planning.”

We cannot afford counterproductive management. Let us, who live where the flow originates, coalesce as a source of water wisdom.