Groundwater giveaway?

Butte County’s supervisors may have done the right thing last week (May 8) when they unanimously signed onto an eight-county integrated water-management plan. Then again, they may have made a big mistake.

That’s the problem: Nobody really knows what the upshot will be. The terms of the county’s relationship with the joint-exercise-of-powers arrangement for implementing the plan are vague at best. Supervisors touted the plan as giving the eight member counties “one voice” in the water debate, but it’s not at all clear who will be doing the speaking.

The plan, after all, is designed to integrate the region’s groundwater into its surface-water system, and we all know where most of that water goes. It’s certainly worthwhile for the counties that sit above the Lower Tuscan Aquifer to work together cooperatively, but given the history of water in California—we’ve got it, they want it—it’s wise to worry that the supervisors have been conned into a scheme that has the potential to drain the aquifer, especially in the upgradient areas such as Chico.

The supervisors have indicated they want the county to have more say-so in governance of the agreement. We’re eager to learn what form that will take.