In today’s Water Works, brought to you by AquiMax, the latest plan for restructuring flow rates in the Tuolumne River is receiving diverse opposition from various sectors of the state. While water rights and usage often pit the interests of agriculture against urban centers, the proposal put forth by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has resulted in a unified voice between the two groups.
The San Francisco Bay Area has historically been advocates of environmental causes and directly opposed to agricultural interests, but the Bay-Delta Plan has resulted in multiple agencies agreeing with farmers. The Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), along with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) have both come out against the proposed plan. SFPUC gets most of the city’s water from the Tuolumne River and delivers it to the 2.7 million people living in San Francisco. The agency claims the water restrictions that would be imposed on the city would be unachievable.
Representatives from multiple school districts are also opposing the board’s plan and are asking for a more amicable compromise that would not adversely affect communities. “We simply ask for equitable decision making,” Superintendent of Merced Union High School District Alan Peterson said during a water rally in Sacramento.
For areas that are already affected by a lack of clean and reliable water sources, the plan would increase the pressure on those communities and their reliance on bottled water and water supplies trucked in from other areas of the state. “We can’t afford to spend money on bottled water and port-o-potties because the restrooms are shut down due to lack of water,” said Superintendent of Planada Elementary District Jose Gonzalez.
The diverse opposition to the Bay-Delta Plan is also apparent in the political sphere. The impact that the proposal would have on communities has appeared to put partisan politics on hold with representatives from both sides of the aisle publicly criticizing the state water proposal. For many areas that rely on agriculture as a main economic driver, a significant loss of financial activity from a decline in farm production could be catastrophic for entire communities.
After receiving more than 250 written comments and listening to public comments for two days, SWRCB has postponed the final vote on the plan until November 7. If the proposed plan is approved, 40 percent unimpaired flow requirements for the Tuolumne River would be implemented by 2022.
Listen to the report below.