California has yet to address the fact that it over-allocated the surface waters (via permits and contracts) of the state by a factor of 5. Just last year the state began the process of regulating groundwater, only because groundwater overpumping and groundwater pollution has become immorally pervasive.
Yet the state is not requiring uniform and regular reporting of water uses. What is not being measured can not be managed. We continue to mine 10,000 year old water and allow the collapsing of our best water storage systems, our aquifers (by as much as 50-80 ft. New and greater water demands continue, evidenced by the addition of 48,000 new acres of almond trees planted in the 3rd year of this drought and even more acres planted in the 4th year. Each almond nut will take 1.1 gallons of water for the next 25 year waters. This water at stake is a foundational component of the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD). The PTD holds that certain natural resources (air, water, fisheries) cannot be exclusively owned or controlled, as they hold an inherent importance to the public and to future generations. California’s Public Trust responsibility regarding water is summarized by this court as follows: “...The state as trustee of the public trust retains supervisory control of the state’s waters such that no party has a vested right to appropriate water in a manner harmful to the interests protected by the public trust" (182 Cal.App.3d 82, 149).
But our trustees have not exercised the supervisory controls necessay to correct the over-appropriation of our surface waters and the overpumping of our groundwater. With some 20 communities running out of water, “contract” water being resold for private profits (Bloomberg has reported on individual water sales this year ranging from $26 million to $76 million), wells running dry, and the continued destruction of the best water storage system possible (our groundwater), we need real and transparent accountability of our water resources.
With some 20 communities running out of water, “contract” water being resold for private profits (Bloomberg has reported on individual water sales this year ranging from $26 million to $76 million), wells running dry, and the continued destruction of the best water storage system possible (our groundwater), we need real and transparent accountability of our water resources.
The Public Trust Water Team recognizes that California water policy will not substantively change at the legislative or executive levels because of the overwhelming political strengths of special interests and industrial agriculture. Though important litigation advancing the Public Trust interests in water is underway through the hard work of several conservation organizations (CSPA, C-WIN, NRDC, TU, SARA, etc.), the process is slow, expensive, and too often reduced to procedural issues versus the important policy issues. However, state and local levels of government and water agencies have substantively more latitude for addressing Public Trust issues than they either understand, or choose to accept. It is the California public that must come forward and hold our chosen government and water agencies accountable for honest and transparent stewardship of this Public Trust asset.