By Roz Rogoff
Solving our water woesUploaded: Jan 31, 2014
Boni Brewer, Public Information Officer for Zone 7 Water Agency, phoned me a few weeks ago to invite me to a presentation by California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird on the California Water Action Plan.
I was very interested in attending this presentation and appreciated Brewer's letting me know about it. I have been involved in local water issues for almost ten years. I ran for Director of the Dublin San Ramon Services District in 2004 and again in 2010. I lost both times, but I still follow water issues and have installed a large rainwater collection system at my house.
I wanted to see if the state would provide more support for rainwater collection and home water recycling instead of simply requiring cut backs on residential water use. I was hoping I'd have a chance to bring this up during the question session at the end of Laird's presentation.
The meeting began at 6 pm. Four Directors from DSRSD were there Pat Howard, Georgean Vonheader-Leopold, Ed Duarte, and Dawn Benson. Director Rich Halket was absent. DSRSD was one of the sponsors for the presentation, which was held in the Dublin City Council Chambers
Will Doerlich came over to say "Hello." I wondered why Will was there. He was on the Arts Advisory Committee with me for several years and then appointed to the Parks Commission about two years ago. "Why are you here?" I asked. "To pick up Gina's t-shirt." He said.
I gave him a "Read the San Ramon Observer" t-shirt I brought for Editor/Publisher Gina Channell-Allen and asked again, "but why are you here?"
"I'm a Commissioner, don't you remember?" I did remember, but I still didn't get it.
I saw Planning Commissioner, Donna Kerger, sitting a few rows away, but I thought she was there because she used to work for East Bay MUD.
When San Ramon City Councilmen Phil O'Loane and Harry Sachs came in I realized San Ramon was a co-sponsor of the event.
Daniel Smith, Director of Operations for the city of Pleasanton, MC'd the presentation. Smith introduced two speakers from water agencies followed by John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources.
Laird was very informative but rather scary about our current lack of rain. He called it "The worst drought in California History." He compared conditions now with the severe drought of 1975-77.
The snow pack where East Bay MUD gets its water is at 12% of normal for this time of year. That's not 12% under the normal snow pack. That's 12% OF the normal snow pack or 88% UNDER. In the '75-77 drought the snow pack was 22% to 30% of normal.
Northern California is now in the longest dry stretch in "recorded history." Even if it rains through February and March there would still not be enough for a "reliable supply of water."
Laird talked about the need for more water storage. He wasn't talking about my home storage but of large capacity underground storage by water agencies and the state. During the wet years of 2010-11, there was plenty of rain but not enough underground storage to save it for drought years like now.
During the question and answer portion at the end of the presentation I asked about supporting rainwater harvesting systems, like the ones I have, and home gray water recycling like the Aqus Home System.
His answer surprised me. He said there are "complications" with rainwater capture and I was lucky to live where I live. In some parts of California "water rights" are owned, and water cannot be saved by a homeowner.
I had not thought about "water rights," which I consider to be water wrongs. I am absolutely against any person or company owning someone else's water.
This has become a big issue now in Maine where Nestle has tapped underground springs to bottle and sell the water, depleting neighboring landowner's wells.
I'm not going to try to summarize everything Secretary Laird said. The meeting was broadcast live on Community TV channel 29. Laird said it would be rebroadcast at 4 pm on Friday, January 31st. It will also be available as video on demand on the TV30 Website this Monday. I plan to watch it over again myself, to drink it all in.