How to save our water

There’s only one way to do it: organize

Mr. Suzuki-Brobeck is a water policy analyst affiliated with the new regional water-resources watchdog group AquAlliance ( He lives in Chico.

First they drained the Owens River, and that valley’s groundwater. Then they took the San Fernando Valley’s water and polluted it. Now, with the San Joaquin Valley’s waters degraded beyond recognition, all sights are set on the last California watershed with quality water to extract—the great Sacramento Valley.

On Jan. 5, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation posted environmental-review documents for public comment on a water-transfer and -sale program that would pump 395,000 acre-feet of Sacramento Valley water out of the Delta in 2010 and 2011. The agency allowed only 14 days for public response. This was a remarkably short time for such a huge project. Nonetheless, AquAlliance prepared and submitted 45 pages of detailed comments.

The two-year program allows a three-fold increase from 2009 in water transfers and sales using groundwater from the Sacramento Valley. Last week, Glenn Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) announced it plans to participate in the sales by pumping out 20,000 acre-feet of groundwater, enough to fill a tank the size of a football field with 20,000 feet of pristine aquifer water. GCID would collect cash for an equivalent amount of river water sold to agribusiness in the San Joaquin desert.

This is the same scheme the state used in the 1994 Drought Water Bank transfers when water in domestic and agricultural wells in the Durham area dropped dangerously.

To defend the hydrologic health of the Sacramento River region, it is necessary for an experienced, public advocate to thoroughly review and comment on critical environmental documents and present legal challenges to unfettered water sales. Failure to do so leaves the public vulnerable to escalating water transfers and sales that drain creeks, lower water tables, and threaten native and orchard trees.

GCID’s project is open for review until May 6. AquAlliance will comment on its environmental and economic impacts. The public is encouraged to refer to our Web site for information on submitting letters.

If we want the power to legally challenge schemes that de-water this region, we must organize around an alliance that is capable of leveraging environmental laws on behalf of the North State’s communities, farms, streams, trees and fish.

I am contributing my energy to AquAlliance, a local advocacy group, to prepare that challenge. I encourage residents to join me in donating needed resources to this key player in California water policy.