The purpose of this white paper is to:
1. Provide an overview of some of the major elements to consider when developing a well-designed groundwater market.
2. Introduce tools to help community stakeholders engage in the market design and implementation process.
3. Hold decision makers accountable in developing groundwater management strategies that are protective of community needs. This white paper prioritizes key recommendations for the protection of drinking water sources where groundwater markets are adopted.
Background on the white paper and recommendations:
Through the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), local groups called Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) are tasked with managing their groundwater basins sustainably and addressing groundwater overdraft — which occurs when more groundwater is pumped out of the aquifer than is replenished either by rain, snow melt, or through recharge basins. In order to do this, GSAs will develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs or plans) that specify how they will sustainably manage groundwater in their areas.
Under SGMA, sustainability is defined as avoiding unreasonable impacts of these six undesirable results: chronic lowering of groundwater levels, degraded water quality, depletion of interconnected surface water, reduction of groundwater storage, seawater intrusion, and land subsidence. GSPs will address three major components: 1) description of the plan area and basin setting, 2) defining sustainability criteria, and 3) projects and management actions which will help the GSA achieve the goals indicated under sustainable criteria, including projects, management actions, mitigation measures, and monitoring plans.1 GSPs will be submitted in 2020 and 2022 (depending upon basin prioritization) to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) who will be reviewing and approving or disapproving GSPs.
SGMA is likely to result in significant changes in Introduction - Groundwater Markets and Drinking Water Sources historical pumping patterns through the many management actions and projects that will be implemented over the next 20 and more years. One potential management action and project, and focus of this white paper, is to develop a system to trade groundwater pumping allocations.2 Though the trading or transfer of surface water is a fairly common practice, trading groundwater is a newer endeavor in California that requires the development of thoughtful frameworks and rules to ensure that all groundwater-dependent communities are protected.
In the Southern San Joaquin Valley, over 95 percent of residents depend on groundwater for at least part of their drinking water supply and many communities are entirely reliant on groundwater as their drinking water source. Further, California’s Human Right to Water law states that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes”. While this does not apply directly to GSAs, it does apply to DWR. Therefore, before any management action or project is implemented, including a groundwater market, it is important for GSAs to consider the possible implications and proactively plan to avoid or mitigate impacts to communities dependent on groundwater supplies.
Historically, many low-income rural communities have struggled with access to safe and affordable drinking water and a well-run market can assist, though not solve, in addressing this issue. However, negative impacts are also possible and must be avoided or mitigated. Often those most vulnerable to the negative impacts from groundwater management decisions are those reliant upon shallow wells, including communities reliant upon domestic wells.
These same stakeholders often lack the financial resources to secure additional sources of water through means such as by purchasing additional rights to pump groundwater or surface water supplies to meet basic needs.
On July 31, 2019, over 50 residents and community leaders attended a drinking water protection and groundwater planning workshop at San Jerardo Cooperative hosted by Community Water Center, San Jerardo Cooperative, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The majority of attendees get their drinking water from private wells and small water systems in the Salinas Valley.
This workshop was an opportunity to share information about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, sustainability indicators, and what is being proposed in the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan by the Salinas Valley Basin GSA. During the workshop, we received feedback on how residents would like to see groundwater managed and get involved in the process. Community Water Center will continue to work with those who attended to continue to increase engagement among drinking water stakeholders in around groundwater planning in the Salinas Valley.
For more information about how to get involved in groundwater planning in general, please visit: CWC Learn More about SGMA page.
For more information about the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, we encourage you to visit their website (https://svbgsa.org/) and sign up for their “interested parties” list.
Link to materials provided at the event:
Part 1: Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Overview
Adriana Renteria, Regional Water Management Coordinator for Community Water Center provided an introduction to groundwater and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the importance of groundwater, and how sustainability management criteria relate to drinking water. The presentation also included the powers and responsibilities held by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) and the requirements of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) to manage groundwater to prevent “undesirable results” that are significant and unreasonable. The focus of this workshop was on three sustainable management criteria which can impact drinking water supplies: 1) degraded water quality, seawater intrusion, and 3) lowering of groundwater levels.
Part 2: Minimum Thresholds Activity
Coreen Weintrab, California and Western states campaign organizer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, led the group in an interactive activity on setting minimum thresholds in a hypothetical “Sun Valley GSA.” Minimum thresholds, determined locally by each GSA, are failure points to be avoided. In this activity, three options for minimum thresholds for groundwater levels (250 ft, 180 ft, or 130 ft) were provided along with information about the average depth of private domestic wells (150 ft) and community wells (200 ft), as well as social and economic considerations of each option. Each small group had to discuss and select and option for the Sun Valley GSA. Each small group then shared their decision with the wider group.
Part 3: Salinas Valley Groundwater
Heather Lukacs, Director of Community Solutions at Community Water Center, then shared a presentation on Salinas Valley Groundwater. The vast majority of drinking water in the Salinas Valley comes from groundwater. Groundwater is the only water source available for most residents in the Salinas Valley. The Salinas Valley Basin GSA is in the middle of the planning process that will impact groundwater levels, groundwater quality, and the coast of groundwater.
The goal of this presentation was to connect the experiences of individuals who rely on private wells or shared wells with the planning efforts of the Salinas Valley Basin GSA. An overview of pumping, sea water intrusion, groundwater levels, and groundwater quality in the Salinas Valley were provided, followed by a discussion of the timeline, location, composition, of the Salinas Valley GSA. In the Salinas Valley about 93% is agricultural use and 7% is urban. About 50% of the private wells sampled did not meet the safe drinking water standards for nitrate. The 180/400ft aquifer is the one critically overdraft (closer to the coast). Information was then shared on draft minimum thresholds from the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan Chapter 8 for the 180/400 ft aquifer, which is the subbasin of the Salinas Valley Basin closest to the coast.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, Self-Help Enterprises, and Community Water Center invite you to a panel discussion on local groundwater sustainability planning and the launch of the toolkit, Getting Involved in Groundwater; A Guide to California’s Groundwater Sustainability Plans. Speakers will include:
Dr. Joaquin Arambula, Assemblymember, California State Legislature
Eric Osterling, Manager of Water Resources, Kings River Conservation District
Virginia Gurrola, former City Council member and Mayor, city of Porterville
Cruz Rivera, Vice-President, Plainview Mutual Water Company
Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, toolkit co-author and Senior Program Officer, Water Foundation
The toolkit breaks down some of the technical components of the GSP process—such as water budgets and models, working with consultants, and setting sustainability goals—so getting involved and working together is easier.
Join us on October 26th, 2017 10:30 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. (lunch provided)
Broadmoor Room, University Square Hotel
441 N Cedar Ave, Fresno, CA 93726
Community Events & Announcements:
Armona Community Services Dedication of New $9,200,000 Well and Water Treatment Facility
The Board of Directors of the Armona Community Services cordially invites you to the dedication of their new $9,200,000 well and water treatment facility. The Dedication Ceremony will begin promptly at 11AM followed by facility tours and a light lunch. Armona is very proud of this state of the art facility and hope you are able to attend. If you would like to address the audience or make a presentation, please call Krystal at (559) 584-4542 in order for us to properly introduce you.
Friday, September 8th, 2017
10116- 14th Avenue, Hanford, CA (immediately South of the Old Kings Drive In Theater)
Community Water Center’s Water Justice Celebration
Join us for food, music, networking, and inspiring speakers! Check out our flyer and RSVP here: http://www.communitywatercenter.org/kehinton/2017visaliaevent
Thursday, September 21st, 2017
210 Cafe -- 210 W. Center Ave. Visalia, CA 93291
Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (SB 623) updates:
SB 623 (Monning) creates a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund with the State Water Board to fund drinking water solutions including capital infrastructure and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. Currently there is no available funding to help systems struggling to finance O&M costs and without being able to show ability to do so, these systems are ineligible for capital infrastructure grants and loans from the State. The fund will be partially funded through contributions from agriculture for communities impacted by nitrate contamination, and partially funded through a water user fee (less than a dollar for single-family homes) for all other barriers to safe and affordable drinking water.
So far SB 623 has passed through the California Senate and one committee in the California Assembly, but it still has a number of hurdles ahead. In late August the bill will be voted on in Assembly Appropriations committee, then in early September it will go to the Assembly floor for a vote, then back to the Senate for another floor vote, and finally the bill will go to the Governor who has until mid-October to sign the bill into law.
SB 623 needs your support and there are a number of ways you can help. If your district has not done so already, you can submit resolutions in support of the bill. You can call your local legislator and let them know you support safe drinking water for all. You can also go to fundsafewaterca.org/ to sign a petition in support of SB 623. Together we can ensure California finally has a sustainable source of funding to support the human right to water.
If you have any questions please contact Jonathan Nelson at 916-706-3346 or email@example.com.
Low Income Rate Assistance Program (AB 401) update:
The State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) has concluded a series of public meetings to discuss options for a low-income rate assistance (LIRA) program to help Californians who have difficulties paying their water bills. Some local programs already exist, but AB 401 (passed in 2015) directs the Water Board to develop a plan for a statewide program that would cover many low-income households not currently served by a water LIRA. In the coming months, the Water Board will be working on a report to submit to the legislature in early 2018 that will include any recommendations for legislative action; if approved, a statewide water LIRA program could be in place in 2019. CWC will continue to be involved in the implementation process to ensure that the needs of California’s small rural communities are addressed in the proposal. You can help the Water Board design an effective, appropriate program to help low-income residents pay their water bills by submitting written comments on the published AB 401 scenarios until August 25th. This is an important step toward water affordability, and another step closer to achieving the human right to water for all Californians!
If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Sonia Saini at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t miss our next Network Briefing: September 28th, 4-5 PM
REMINDER: no Network Briefing call in August
Network “briefings” are monthly conference calls that provide members the opportunity to connect with each other, crowd-source questions, and receive information from the comfort of their own homes. As a reminder, we changed service providers which means, we have a new conference call phone number and passcode. To join, dial (929) 432-4463, when prompted, enter the access code 5254-59-7515 followed by the pound key (#). Let Adriana know if you need a pre-paid calling card in order to call long-distance.
1. Member updates and questions
2. Regional and state updates and questions
3. Monthly discussion topic: Prop 1 / funding projects
Upcoming Events and Trainings:
Find more events on our Community Water Leaders online calendar found at http://www.communitywatercenter.org/water_leaders_network.
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) Updates:
On August 1st, 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a resolution to remove the the current MCL for the pollutant hexavalent chromium (chrome 6). This resolution was passed after a Superior Court of Sacramento County ruling invalidated the hexavalent chromium MCL on May 31, 2017. In 2014 the MCL was set at 10 parts per billion (ppb). Hexavalent chromium is a naturally occurring heavy metal that may cause cancer after long-term exposure.
The hexavalent chromium MCL will be deleted from the California Code of Regulations in late September. The Board will begin the process for adopting a new MCL and will have a new MCL in approximately 18-24 months. While the State will not enforce hexavalent chromium compliance plans, the state MCL for total chromium (both trivalent and hexavalent chromium) of 50 ppb will remain in place. The Board estimates that the new MCL will be at the same or similar level as the now invalid one. Public water systems that planned/completed projects to treat hexavalent chromium may use that information once the new MCL is established.
Featured Resources of the Month:
The State Water Resources Control Board just released an updated guide that provides information on the various ways to engage with your local Water Board. The guide includes information ranging from: government structure and overview of water board programs, basin planning processes, water rights application processes, and a series of Water Board maps. The guide provides examples of available databases such as My Water Quality, a web portal for monitoring water safety, and GeoTracker, a data management system for impacted groundwater sites where users can layer data onto a map. No matter what your current level of engagement with our Regional Water Board, this guide is a helpful reference for navigating processes and getting connected with water resources.
The Groundwater Information Center (GIC) is a web portal where visitors can access groundwater information ranging from: groundwater management plans, water well basics, well permitting processes, and information on bulletin 118. The portal also offers links to an interactive groundwater map application and a link to the Water Data Library (WDL) with data for over 35,000 California wells.
REMINDER: Reduced Annual Fees for DAC Public Water Systems
On May 15, 2017 the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water issued a letter to Community Public Water Systems informing them of the possibility of reducing their Annual Fee if the system serves a Disadvantaged Community (DAC).
If you qualify (the Median Household Income in your community is less than $49,454), the reduced fee for your water system will be based on the number of connections that you serve. Systems serving fewer than 100 connections will pay $100. Systems serving 15,000 connections or less will pay $100 plus $2 for each service connection greater than 100.
If you believe your water system is eligible and wish to receive a reduced Annual Fee, submit a request in the form of a signed letter and include information demonstrating that your community meets the definition of a Disadvantaged Community, the DDW will respond.
You can find the letter they sent here. If you have any questions, contact your District Engineer.
By: Sean Breslin
Published on March 24, 2017
Read the original story HERE
Nearly 300 water systems in California did not comply with safe drinking water standards, many of which are located in disadvantaged communities. "It becomes an economic stress issue," said Jenny Rempel, Director of Education and Engagement here at Community Water Center. "People are paying as much as 10 percent of their income on drinking water alone." Additionally, more than 3,000 household water wells remain dry from the drought and groundwater depletion. California lacks the proper funding for fully addressing these issues.
By: Susan Sward
Published on March 23, 2017
Read the full story HERE
Groundwater regulations are being implemented throughout the state of California to meet long-term deadlines for protecting critical water infrastructure. However, a great deal of uncertainty exists within local agencies about whether these measures will protect disadvantaged communities or stay focused on agricultural interests.
Then main issue at hand: “[Groundwater regulation is] certainly a huge opportunity for small, disadvantaged communities and small farmers to come together and demand a place at the table of these newly created local agencies where groundwater decisions will be made. But I also think there’s a possibility of institutionalizing the same inequitable system that has ruled unofficially for the last century where the more powerful players monopolize the groundwater.”
A water well in Del Rey, California, a small community in Fresno County. Del Rey is one of dozens of communities in the San Joaquin Valley that has found 1,2,3-trichloropropane, a likely human carcinogen, in its water.
CARLOS ARIAS IS asked by many residents in the small town of Del Rey, California, if the water is safe to drink. He is the district manager of Del Rey’s community services district, which is tasked with providing drinking water and other services to its 2,000 residents.
You might think it would be an easy question to answer. But it’s not. “We’ve been told by the government that prolonged use of this water could cause cancer – that’s all I can tell them,” said Arias.
Del Rey, in Fresno County, is one of dozens of communities in the San Joaquin Valley with wells that contain 1,2,3-trichloropropane.
1,2,3-TCP, as it is commonly known, has been classified as a likely human carcinogen; in 1992 California added it to the list of chemicals known by the state to cause cancer. The first known detections in wells in the San Joaquin Valley came in 2000, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. And between 2001 and 2015 there have been detections at 471 wells ranging from 5 parts per trillion to 10,000 parts per trillion, with the most contaminated wells being found in Kern and Fresno counties.
Despite the prevalence and the risk, the state had not regulated the chemical.
But that will change in the next few months and when it does, it could mean two major companies having to pay out millions in remediation costs for contaminated wells.
1,2,3-TCP is a man-made chlorinated hydrocarbon. It is used in industrial processes for cleaning and degreasing. A byproduct of the plastics industry, in the 1940s and 1950s it became part of a soup of chemicals formulated as a soil fumigant – a pesticide injected into the ground to kill tiny worms known as nematodes. Shell manufactured one of the fumigants, known as D-D, and Dow had a competing product called Telone.
They were “two of the most widely used soil fumigants in California” according to a 1983 report from the resources control board’s toxic substances control program.
“The really egregious part of this whole story is that this was a totally man-made problem and was totally avoidable,” said Andria Ventura, toxics program manager at Clean Water Action, the grassroots pressure group. Internal company documents discovered during litigation have shown that Dow and Shell knew early on that 1,2,3-TCP was not an active ingredient in the products and served no purpose in killing nematodes.
“It offered no extra benefit to farmers using [the] product,” said Ventura.
Despite that, the products were labeled for decades as 100 percent active, when in fact the primary active ingredient was known to be 1,3-dichloropropane. The rationale appears to have been purely economic, namely to “retain the definite sales advantage of a 100 percent active ingredient claim,” according to a 1949 letter by Shell regarding the federal registration of D-D.
“There are several reasons why we prefer not to list all the ingredients,” the letter states. “Some of the components that make up D-D … have little or no nematicidal effectiveness and we would not be able to defend our claim of 100 percent active ingredient if the names of any of these compounds appeared in the ingredient statement.”
It was not until 1974 that Dow began to reformulate its product (now sold as Telone-II) and eventually removed 1,2,3-TCP. Shell dropped its product altogether in the 1980s after stricter regulations for pesticides were put in place.
Because of ongoing litigation, Dow declined an interview but in a statement said “TCP was a trace constituent associated with certain historical, highly beneficial agricultural products and product formulations that controlled agricultural pests that otherwise would have caused millions of dollars in annual crop losses. Those products and product formulations have not been on the market for several decades and include products that Dow did not manufacture or sell.”
However, decades after products containing 1,2,3-TCP ceased to be used in the San Joaquin Valley, the consequences remain. It persists in the environment, leaches from the soil to the water and sinks to the bottom of an aquifer.
Many of the communities that have been affected, such as Del Rey, have few resources to fix the problem. “It’s such a small community, such a disadvantaged community,” said Arias. “I don’t think the people, especially poor people like we have in this community, should pay for something that was done by somebody else. All we want is the responsible parties to take responsibility in this matter and fix it.”
Arias said that there was no way Del Rey, whose residents mostly work in agricultural fields and packing houses, could clean up the drinking water by raising its water rates. “I know it’s costly – in the millions, which we don’t have,” he said.
Del Rey is one of about 40 communities that so far have engaged in litigation to recoup remediation costs. Attorney Todd Robins has represented dozens of small valley communities suing the companies to help pay the cost of removing the contaminant from drinking-water wells. He said that while some of the lawsuits have already been settled out of court, most are moving slowly because California does not currently have a maximum contaminant level (MCL) stating how much of the chemical is safely allowed in public drinking-water systems.
The state has been moving toward establishing an MCL for some years.
In 2009 California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment set a public health goal of 0.7 parts per trillion (ppt), a level deemed to be safest for protecting public health. But public health goals are guidelines and not enforceable regulations. The next step is establishing the MCL, which is also in the works.
The SWRCB staff have issued a preliminary recommendation for an MCL of 5 parts per trillion, which is higher than the public health goal, but is the lowest detection level for most laboratories. A 45-day public comment period on the proposed draft MCL has just started and the water board will hold a public hearing on April 19.
After that feedback, the board is expected to adopt the MCL this summer, according to the SWRCB. Water systems would need to begin sampling for 1,2,3-TCP by Jan.1, 2018.
When the state issues the regulation, “that should have some significant reverberations on how the litigation comes out,” said Robins. “It will certainly result in more water systems joining the fray. A state rule would mean even the smallest water providers will have to test and most will not have the resources for remediation.”
The water board estimates that remediation will cost $34 million annually statewide for the affected systems if the MCL is indeed set at 5 parts per trillion. The numbers could climb if more communities are affected or if contamination worsens in wells, said Mark Bartson, supervising sanitary engineer with the control board’s division of drinking water.
In one of the few cases that have gone to trial already, Shell was ordered to pay $22 million to the city of Clovis in December. The city previously settled with Dow for $7.5 million.
A contamination problem, when faced by small, poor communities, “creates a dilemma between clean water and affordable water,” said Robins. “And the whole purpose of the litigation is to say people have a right to both; they shouldn’t have to choose.”
By: Beenish Ahmed
December 30, 2016
A protestor behind a flag at the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota. (Stephen Yang/Reuters)
From toxic levels of lead coursing through pipes in Flint, Michigan, to the ongoing fight for clean water raging in California’s Central Valley—where chemical waste sites have contaminated local water sources for decades—to the start of a massive protest over an oil pipeline that could poison groundwater in the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, water was a hot-button issue throughout 2016.
I spoke with activists on the front lines of the push for clean, affordable, potable water. Here, they reflect on 2016 and their hopes for the new year.
We’ve been working in crisis mode this entire time. We’ve been just taking water to people, getting filters to people, and trying to get the facts out. What we’re doing is building up a whole organization of residents. We’re pulling more people now that we can see the bigger picture and what the fight is, instead of [thinking], ‘Oh my God, we’re poisoned, we’re sick, we have to help each other.’
Now, instead of trying to get the word out that the water is poisoned, we’re like: ‘Ok, we know that the water is poisoned and they’re fighting us on the only fix, which is replacing the infrastructure. Now we’re gonna educate more people and organize in a true fashion.’ We’re going to go door-to-door and bring people into the fight. They can ignore a few pockets of us here and there, but they’re not going to be able to ignore this entire city standing together. I just want people in other cities to know that this has been a people-powered movement from day one and it’s going to continue to be that way.
It doesn’t matter what your background is. You can force change. That’s the one thing I want to teach my kids: When something is wrong, you don’t have to sit back and take it because it’s the government or some large corporation that you’re up against. It’s going to be a hard fight, but people have power and can make change. The biggest thing that I’ve noticed is that utilities, governments, whoever you’re working against, they want to see people divided. So there are people put into place to break up movements. I learned that through history, but also [from] talking to people who have been there before.
I had no science background. So, oh my God, did I have to learn water chemistry and science—but the more you learn, the harder it is to fight against you because an educated public is a scary and tough one. So that’s a huge thing for becoming an activist: Get educated in your cause so that way they can’t say that you’re just being emotional. Especially as a woman they’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re just being emotional. You’re just being a mom.’ So then I’ll just start nailing them with science, like, yeah I’m a mom—but guess what? I’m hitting you with facts and showing you that you’re wrong. (Melissa Mays, Water You Fighting For, Flint, Michigan)
Volunteers distribute bottled water to help combat the effects of the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. (Jim Young/Reuters)
We started handing out water on a consistent basis in September 2014. We’ve been doing it a while and we evolved to the point where you’re doing something and then you can see how it can be a little bit better.
We started going door-to-door [with water donations]. Then we realized the need for recycling. With this many water bottles being used daily, we would trade one disaster for another with our landfills being filled with water bottles. So in February, we got a 22-foot dumpster [to fill with recyclable bottles]. When you get going, you just get caught up and try to do it better and better, but I’m really looking forward to being able to slow down once the state takes over and fulfills the court order [mandating that it take water] door-to-door.
We have hubs now around the city where people can go and get water, but you got your seniors, you got your wheelchair users, you got people without a vehicle—you got a lot of people who don’t have access to go to the water sites to pick up water so you really do need it to be door-to-door. (Bobby Jackson, Mission of Hope, Flint, Michigan)
I am not an activist. I am a grandmother who stood up. Because I live and grew up on the Cannonball River and the mouth of the Missouri River, I know my rivers and I know my water. We must protect the water at all costs. The water is an obligation of the females to protect because water is female, because through water we bring life into this world.
I have been on the ground for eight months, 28 days. I established Sacred Stone camp on April 1. We started off with about three people, and then it grew to 15 or 20. By July, we were in the thousands. By Labor Day weekend, we were 11,000 on the ground. By Thanksgiving, we were 15,000 on the ground. The world has come to stand with Standing Rock to protect the water.
Now as 2017 is upon us, all of these individuals who came to stand with us have gone to different parts of the United States and the world to protect their own water. When injustice happens people stand up, and this is injustice.
Every human being has the right to access to clean, potable water. That is why it’s in the forefront. It’s time. It’s time for the world to stand up. By protecting the water, we protect life. I will be opening a village [in 2017] to teach people how to be totally wind power, solar power, hydropower [reliant] and to teach people how to live with the earth again, how to respect the earth. (LaDonna Bravebull Allard, enrolled member of Standing Rock Sioux tribe and closest landowner to the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline)
Veterans march with activists near Backwater Bridge just outside of the Oceti Sakowin camp. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Veterans march with activists near Backwater Bridge just outside of the Oceti Sakowin camp. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
I live in Southern Maryland and I haven’t been able to get to Sacred Stone, but I have been doing local activism. Me and a friend organized an event in Fredericksburg and informed people of what was happening and we made packets of information about NoDAPL and resources that people could use to support the fight. We weren’t met with a lot of friendly people. People were looking at us like they were offended just for us standing there and holding signs about it, but we did meet some people who were interested and asked questions. I’ve also been attending rallies in Washington, D.C.
I would like to be there [in Standing Rock]. It almost makes me feel helpless at times, but there need to be people raising awareness to what’s happening all over the country. You can have everyone in one area, but if the rest of the country has no idea, it’s not really going to help. From my experience with the events I organized, people didn’t know what was going on at all.
It felt empowering to me to be able to advocate for [Standing Rock] and bring awareness, because water crises are happening all over the country—in Flint and on other reservations. I also see it as a very symbolic message for Native people, because we’ve been so erased up until this point. Resistance has been ongoing but I really feel like Dakota Access brought visibility to indigenous issues. The fact that indigenous people came from all over the world to North Dakota, that’s huge to me.
I would like to take up the challenge brought by water protectors who asked people to be more involved in our local communities. This is about questioning our relationship—not only to each other, but to the land that’s being exploited. More mindfulness towards the land, the water, the resources, will mean more mindfulness when it comes to building relationships with each other. (Danielle Miller, contributor to The Last Real Indians)
We have children who are afraid to brush their teeth with tap water and people who are struggling because they’re not able to cook with it. And people say, ‘Why don’t you leave? Why don’t you get out of there? You’re stupid for staying there.’ But if we leave without fixing the problem, then there will still be people suffering, and that’s not right. It’s a lot scarier than a lot of people realize.
I know communities in the Central Valley that have to wait daily for a truck of water to be taken to their homes so that they can take a shower, or where wells have dried completely. No matter what the state says about our water levels being within the threshold of what’s considered safe for arsenic, I know that no level of arsenic is safe. It just means that it’s under what the government has said is the limit.
I think people need to continue to educate themselves and let other people know. If it’s happening here, it could be happening in other communities that don’t even realize they have a problem. These years and years of campaigning and talking to [government officials] and sometimes being a thorn in their side, as long as we keep that up, we’ll eventually see that water plant and that will be a really good day in our community. (Maricela Mares Alatorre, GreenAction, San Joaquin Valley, California)
Well water has dried up in some of the towns in California’s Central Valley. (Gregory Bull/AP)
Well water has dried up in some of the towns in California’s Central Valley. (Gregory Bull/AP)
Looks can be deceiving. Many of the contaminants California communities are dealing with are colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Water polluted with nitrates, arsenic, and pesticides looks, smells, and tastes safe, but drinking contaminated water can cause nausea, miscarriages, and cancer.
Seeing other communities organizing around the right to safe and affordable water makes us feel connected to a larger water justice movement. We have been fighting for access to this basic human right for over a decade, and many community partners have been fighting for decades before that. It has definitely helped to have more awareness nationally and politically around this issue, but we have a long way to go. [In 2016] we helped put 678 East Porterville homes on track to receive safe, reliable water after many residents in this low-income, unincorporated community had gone more than three years without this basic human right.
Information about water quality needs to be accessible and understandable. Too many families are receiving conflicting or confusing notices. In some communities, basic health warnings are not even translated into the languages spoken by significant parts of the community. We also need to establish protective drinking water standards and require testing for the chemicals we know have contaminated too many of our drinking water sources. That is a basic function of government. For too long government agencies have been allowing chemicals to be applied to land without establishing protections for the drinking water sources.
1,2,3-TCP is an example of this. It took significant community advocacy to make this a priority and finally get regulators to start the process of establishing a drinking water limit. In California, we have succeeded in getting the state to create a Human Right to Water Indicator that is being launched in early 2017 to [highlight] which communities lack access to safe drinking water in our state. That is an important first step to being able to direct resources and action to ensure all communities have access to this basic right. (Jenny Rempel, Community Water Center, Central Valley, California)
By: The Porterville Recorder
December 14, 2016
It may have taken longer than some wanted, but Tulare County Supervisors last week agreed they need to look at some form of a well ordinance, but not tie the hands of rural residents or farmers.
Supervisors instructed county staff to come up with a draft ordinance which right now would place a moratorium on the drilling of new ag wells on land which is not presently being farmed.
The county also instructed staff to study the need for a hydrologist who could further study impacts on new well drilling.
What the supervisors stopped short of doing, and we agree, is placing a moratorium on all new well drilling in the county.
Tulare County has been the epicenter of the drought. More than 1,600 wells have gone dry, the majority of those shallow domestic wells and the majority of those in East Porterville. Five below-average rain years and a lack of snowpack, coupled with pumping restrictions in the San Joaquin Delta, forced farmers to rely on the underground water supply to produce a crop, and in some areas keep their permanent crops alive. Many growers had to let their orchards die because of the lack of surface water and no ability to pump water.
We agree with statements made by a couple of the supervisors that while farmers have been lowering their wells to reach a falling underground water supply, they are not pumping any more water than they did prior to the drought. Water is expensive and underground water is not as good for crops as is surface water. The water that flows out of the mountains into reservoirs and then should be sent to the Valley to sustain agriculture, is the least expensive and best water for crops. That surface water not only stops farmers from pumping from the underground, but it helps to replenish the underground water supply by seeping into the ground as it flows in the many canals and ditches.
The county has reached a point, in light of a lack of surface water, where it cannot let more farm land be developed. Supervisor Mike Ennis said the county should not allow new wells where land has not been farmed in years when there is a shortage of water for the farmland already in production.
We hope the county never has to stop all well drilling, but stopping the development of new wells for new ag land is not sustainable under the current conditions.
Talking about groundwater regulations and governance can occasionally seem a little dry and boring, but it’s a huge issue for California. And while the drought may be dry, its potential implications for the state are anything but boring.
In fact, the future of California as a whole is tied up in the health of groundwater basins. Did you know, for example, that groundwater has been providing nearly two-thirds of the state’s water supply during the recent drought? Even if your water supply doesn’t use groundwater, there’s a good chance you’re connected to a system that does.
The NGO Groundwater Collaborative is premiering it's film "Groundwater Matters" soon and you can be part of it! See CWC's own Regional Water Management Coordinator, Kristin Dobbin, as well as local communities Allensworth and Alpaugh featured during the film. Sign up here, to reserve your spot in their upcoming webinar where the full film will be premiered and watch the trailer here!