Lesson learned: Do no harm

With water as with oil, caution should come first

Ms. Deveraux is a glass artist, a member of the Chico Sustainability Group and AquAlliance, and “a worried owner on a well.”

We have reason to be angry, sad, and resolute. BP Corp. has caused horrific devastation in the Gulf of Mexico, after arrogantly asserting there would never be a drill-rig problem they could not rectify. Hundreds of thousands of marine animals and water birds will die, and Gulf Coast fishermen will lose their livelihood because of BP’s hubris!

But is this a disaster only because of what we in the United States lose? What about the Caribbean, Mexico? How far will this ooze travel in the ocean currents?

This points to the absolute necessity of using the precautionary principle—“proceed only if we can guarantee it will do no harm”—in all our risky decisions related to the environment.

We in the Sacramento Valley face such a risky decision now. The federal Bureau of Reclamation and state Department of Water Resources want to transfer almost 400,000 acre-feet of our water in 2010 and 2011 each (possibly with up to 150,000 acre-feet of it each year being local groundwater) to feed giant agribusiness water districts like the San Joaquin Valley’s Westlands.

With a resulting lower water table in our region, agricultural and residential wells could have to be drilled deeper at great expense, our treasured heritage-oak tap roots would struggle for water and could die, creeks could permanently be lowered or go underground, and we could lose the endangered salmon. Do we want to be another Owens or San Joaquin Valley, with 20-year lawsuits needed just to get a trickle of river water back? We must not allow them to proceed without adequate knowledge of the connectivity of the Tuscan and neighboring groundwater basins. So far, only a cursory environmental assessment, not a full environmental-impact statement, has been conducted.

Until those who profit from our water can prove without a doubt that there will be no harm caused by such action, they should not be able to buy or receive it. The burden of proof should be on them, not on us, just as the burden of proof should have been on BP in the gulf.

AquAlliance.net has formed to address this water emergency. See on the website how you can be part of the solution. The time is short to protect our water. We need to understand that this affects all of us in the North Valley.