Mar 22 2014
Today is World Water Day
.but my guess is there are only a few water wonks
that have noted it. I’m not even sure why there is a day so noted. Is there
a purpose? The average person flushes the toilet and draws a glass of water
with no thought about how the water came to be so handy. Only those who have
visited the water stressed areas of the world really understand that water
is a critical resource in fact, THE critical resource. It is life, without
it there is no life, like the air we breathe. Water is always there for those
fortunate enough to live in nations like the United States. So we have it,
and others don’t.
In political discussions, the subject usually gets around to the
distribution of wealth. Equality is the over-used word. So it is with water.
Some have the right to a lot of it, and some of us have no water rights at
all and have to buy the right to consume water for our needs. Is it wrong
for there to be such inequality? In a short blog like this, I cannot begin
to attempt to answer that question, but I can highlight what I believe.
First let’s get something out of the way. Water is not liberal or
conservative, progressive, democrat or republican. Water has no political
affiliation. It arrived here several billion years ago, and in the last
several thousand years, among all of the inhabitants of this globe, man (and
Fast forward to the 19th century, and we find settlers arriving in the Western US seeking fame and fortune (and water). One of those was Will S. Green who on Dec.18, 1883, nailed a notice to an oak tree on the west bank of the Sacramento River.
“The posting announced that he was diverting 500,000 miner’s inches of the
river’s flow, the equivalent of several million gallons a minute. Green made
his claim under a water rights system that developed with settlement of the
West and remains a central principle of state law.
Known as “first in time, first in right,” it was established in California
by the Forty-Niners who used prodigious amounts of water to blast gold out
of the Sierra foothills and essentially says that whoever is the first to
divert a set quantity of water from a source has priority rights to it1”
The Glen-Colusa Irrigation District inherited that senior water right, and
now together with other senior rights holders use 2.2 million acre-feet a
year to irrigate rice and other crops. They are virtually untouchable
legally. No one is willing to challenge them. It is not a political issue,
it is a legal one.
We value the right to hold private property in this nation, and without
getting into whether or not water rights are equal to property rights, in my
mind they equate easily. No government entity should attempt to take them
The object in writing Water Shock is to highlight our water problems
and to attempt to influence public water policy. Instead of looking at the
Glen-Colusa Irrigation District enviously and working the pols to take away
that right secured by Will. S. Green in 1883, public water policy makers and
implementers should do what Green did using his own initiative to secure
water for Southern California. Not by nailing a notice to an oak tree, but
by funding the design and construction of indirect and/or direct potable
recycling of the water we are currently dumping in the Pacific Ocean.
We don’t advance our civilization by taking from the haves and giving to the
have-nots. We advance by using innovation and creativity. The previous
statement would likely be interpreted by some to be a conservative bias on
this blog, but it is not. As said above, water has no political
affiliations, yet it has been used and abused in the political arena for
centuries, here in the West and around the world. So on this World Water Day
(3/22/2014), let us celebrate it not by coveting
that 2.2 million acre-feet discussed above, but by gaining that and much
more with IPR and DPR.
1 Quoted from Drying up the delta: 19th century policies underlie today’s
crises, LA Times, 3/22/2014 by Bettina Boxall.