The State Water Resources Control Board has released its Water Quality Control Plan which, if implemented, will cause significant harm to California residents without quantifying any specific environmental benefits.
In taking this step, Felicia Marcus, the Board’s Chairwoman noted that San Joaquin River flows have not been updated since 1995. We fully agree it’s time that state policy be aligned with current science which is why we find this proposal so wrongheaded. Science clearly shows that decades of releasing water to the ocean has failed to halt the decline of Chinook salmon and Delta smelt.
And yet, the Board proposes to flush out to sea enough water to serve the domestic needs of 2 million Californians or produce almost 5.8 billion salads. If we know twenty years of failed efforts won’t do the job, why not try some of the proposed alternatives first?
Chairwoman Marcus goes on to say that “The issue is not about choosing one over the other. It is about sharing the river because Californians need and want healthy communities, healthy agriculture and a healthy natural environment.” We couldn’t agree more. The only way farmers survive is by being good stewards of the land, and we’re not alone. We hope that the Board will listen to the voices of education officials, health departments, farmers, Latinos, cities, economic development officials and more who have all spoken out about the need to find a solution that works for all instead of continuing to rely on failed strategies. It’s time we moved on to solutions that science tells us will help.
Below, some of the people that will be impacted by this new plan give their thoughts:
Drinking Water Quality & Availability Will Be Negatively Impacted
“Let us be clear. The detrimental impacts of the Board’s plan will be felt strongly by the children that we serve. . . it is unclear why you have not taken the time to study the financial implications to school districts that would be forced to provide bottled water and portable toilets, or relocate schools entirely, as wells go dry. . . Access to drinking water and water for sanitation is a basic requirement for us to fulfill our mandate to provide quality education to the children of our districts.”
Steven Gomes, Merced County Superintendent of Schools &
Tom Changnon, Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools
“Many communities in the Merced area are already experiencing well production problems and drinking water quality issues . . . Over 800,000 people live in the two counties [Stanislaus and Merced]. Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for the majority of the local population. The plan sorely understates the devastation this recommendation will cause. As an Interim Director of Environmental Health, I am required to ensure that safe, adequate, and dependable water supplies are available for domestic use.”
Vicki Jones, Interim Director of Environmental Health
Merced County Department of Public Health
Jobs & The Economy Will Suffer
“Over 55% of the residents of Stanislaus County are members of minority communities, with a majority of those residents being Latinos. As you know, our economy is largely driven by the agricultural sector, of which Latino workers play a vital role. Our unemployment rates in Stanislaus County are already consistently higher than the state and national averages. There is no doubt that your plan will have devastating economic consequences to an already disadvantaged region.”
Maggie Mejia, President
Latino Community Roundtable
“I am all for protecting the environment to the best of our ability, but not at the expense of our farmers, businesses and citizens. . . When farmers are forced to fallow more land, our food prices go up and the poor in our communities suffer the greatest. This proposal will raise the cost of water and electricity, as well.” ~ Pamela LaChapell, Modesto
“As the Director of Environmental Resources for the County, I am responsible for the administration and oversight of over 200 public water systems, approximately 2,000 retail food facilities and countless other businesses. This would be devastating to the local economy.”
Jami Aggers, Director of Environmental Resources
“We grew up in Stanislaus County and our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were all farmers. . . We also are grateful that our children were raised here and their children will be raised here . . .Without water there will be many of us who will not be able to farm and those that work the fields and canneries during the harvest will be unemployed and unable to feed their families, buy clothing and supplies in our local stores. Our electricity costs will increase and our ground water will be depleted . . . we implore you to reconsider.” ~ George & Annemarie Espinola, Hughson
“Food production is a multi-billion dollar industry in our county and adds tremendous value to the State of California. . . Tens of thousands of people are dependent on jobs in agriculture, food processing, and its related industries. Our businesses pay millions of dollars in taxes each year to sustain our state government . . . We ask that you please consider our needs in the Central Valley with others’ needs and wants.”
David White, Chief Executive Officer
Stanislaus Business Alliance
The Board Wants To Keep Doing More Of The Same, Even Though It Has Been Proven Ineffective
“Simply flushing water down the river in the spring and fall does not work – a fact supported by more than two decades of proven science.” ~ Robbie Lake, French Camp
“I’ve lived on the Stanislaus for 40 years. Salmon are declining and the striped bass are increasing. What the state is doing is creating the opposite effect of what it says it wants.” ~ Jeff McPhee, Oakdale
“[The proposed regulation] is yet another demonstration of the complete disregard you hold for the people you are supposed to be serving. . . I encourage you to reduce your personal water use by 35% and pour that extra water into the street and watch it flow away. That is what you would be doing to the people you serve.” ~ Roxanne Garbez, Oakdale
People Are Asking for Common Sense, Balance & An End To Tactics That Just Makes A Bad Situation Worse
“We need a common sense approach to how this water is used. . . In your efforts to help, you are creating a bigger problem than we had before.” ~ Nancy Petersen, Hughson
“We have worked hard to be good citizens and lower our water usage in the face of this drought. In fact, the Central Valley has led the state in water conservation efforts . . . We implore you to send staff to meet with us and come up with a common sense approach to this situation.”
David White, Chief Executive Officer
Stanislaus Business Alliance
“Why add water to the ocean? Does it need more?” ~ Suzy Fivecoat, Waterford
“It is time we manage our water resource in a way that is fair to everyone and strikes a balance between water supply and the environment.” ~ Roseanna Swanberg, Modesto
This article was originally published on September 16, 2016 at the California Farm Water Coalition.