Protect our groundwater now

Powerful Southern California interests want to make use of it

The author is a retired Chico State lecturer who serves on the board of directors of AquAlliance. She lives in Chico.

It rained last year; it may rain this year, but the health of the Tuscan and other Northern California aquifers depends not only on rain, but also on the actions of the state and federal governments driven by powerful corporate farmers and developers to the south.

The federal government and a water authority south of the Delta are preparing an environmental review to transfer up to 600,000 acre-feet of groundwater each year over 10 years to the western San Joaquin Valley. That’s more groundwater than Chico would use in 200 years. There is also a bill in the House of Representatives that would guarantee industrial farms in desert lands water no matter how dry the year.

The state government is just as dangerous. Two proposals, the Delta Stewardship Council’s Plan and the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, seek to do the impossible: protect the Delta and export massive amounts of water to Southern California. They’ve promised more water than there is. Here is how a staff geologist of the state Department of Water Resources, Carl Hauge, wants to solve the problem. In September of this year at the state Water Commission he made these points on a slide:

Under the heading “Full Aquifers in Sacramento Valley,” he listed five steps in the process of making use of our groundwater: one, “export surface water”; two, “irrigate local land with groundwater—called groundwater substitution”; three, “aquifers are emptied”; four, “recharge with future surface water”; five, “may affect existing surface water rights.”

Taken together, these government programs represent a massive transfer of wealth from the family farms of Northern California to the corporate interests to the south. Emptying the aquifers would kill the oaks and dry the creeks with all their fish and wildlife. Think of Bidwell Park looking like the Owens Valley with a trickle of water in the creek, no fish, and the land without vegetation. Years of litigation there have failed to put that water back. Like the Owens Valley, our region could suffer economic depression and environmental blight.

What should you do? Get and keep informed. The AquAlliance website at has information on and links to these government proposals. Make sure your representatives—city, county, state and federal—are protecting your groundwater. Consider joining AquAlliance, the only organization dedicated to the groundwater of the Sacramento Hydrologic Region.

We can work together by using our voices and using the law to demand that our interests be protected.