Tonight on National Geographic, a look at water and power in California

Big storms and a generous Sierra snowpack indicate that the historic California drought may be coming to an end (though whether it will end with a return to even-tempered weather or be replaced by more climate weirdness remains to be seen).

A new documentary promises to shape our appreciation of how water politics have shaped, and been shaped, by which entities hold power in the state, and it airs tonight on the National Geographic channel at 9 p.m. Eastern. Entitled “Water and Power: A California Heist”  and directed by Marina Zenovich, it looks at how heedless groundwater tapping and secret deals over water rights have endangered the sustainability and safety of California’s water.

The Los Angeles Times praised the film’s long view of policy, from the Monterey Amendments on, and called the film “a Compelling picture of timeless greed.” Hopefully documentaries such as this help bring the era of backroom deals and thoughtless overuse of water to an end.

You can listen to an interview with Zenovich here.

Timber Company Tells California Town, Go Find Your Own Water

by Thomas Fuller, The New York Times

WEED, Calif. — The water that gurgles from a spring on the edge of this Northern California logging town is so pristine that for more than a century it has been piped directly to the wooden homes spread across hills and gullies.

To the residents of Weed, which sits in the foothills of Mount Shasta, a snow-capped dormant volcano, the spring water is a blessing during a time of severe and prolonged drought.

To the lumber company that owns the land where the spring is, the water is a business opportunity.

Roseburg Forest Products, an Oregon-based company that owns the pine forest where the spring surfaces, is demanding that the city of Weed get its water elsewhere.

“The city needs to actively look for another source of water,” said Ellen Porter, the director of environmental affairs for Roseburg who led the company’s negotiations with the city. “Roseburg is not in a position to guarantee the availability of that water for a long period of time.”

For the past 50 years, the company charged the city $1 a year for use of water from the Beaughan Spring. As of July, it began charging $97,500 annually. A contract signed this year directs the city to look for alternative sources.

Roseburg has not made public what it plans to do with the water it wants to take back from the city. But it already sells water to Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring, which bottles it in Weed and ships it as far away as Japan. Crystal Geyser is looking to increase its overall supply.

Residents of Weed, including the current mayor and three former mayors, say the water was always intended for municipal and domestic use and should not be sold to the highest bidder.

“The corporate mentality is that they can make more money selling this water to Japan,” said Bob Hall, a former mayor of Weed and currently a member of the City Council. “We were hooked at the hip with this company for years,” he said of the timber company, the largest private employer in the area. “Now, they are taking advantage of people who can’t defend themselves.”

Bottled-water plants have met with resistance and in some cases protests in a number of places across California, including a Nestlé plant last year in Sacramento. In the water-rich towns in the shadow of Mount Shasta, residents have raised concerns over proposed bottling plants that they say could severely diminish local water supplies.

A measure on the ballot in the November election in Siskiyou County, where the towns are, would for the first time require that companies obtain permits to export water.

The disputes echo California’s broader water wars. Five years of drought have escalated competition among farmers, factories and residents over water use and have pitted the arid south against the more water-rich north.

“Water is money,” said David Webb, a resident of the city of Mount Shasta who follows the water disputes in the area. “If you can get it, you can make money from it.”

Bob Hall, a Weed city councilman, at one of the local springs that provide the city's water. Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

Bob Hall, a Weed city councilman, at one of the local springs that provide the city’s water. Photo: Jim Wilson/New York Times

The mayor of Weed, Ken Palfini, says the value of the city’s water was emphasized during a visit several weeks ago by Pierre Papillaud, the founder of the company that owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring. In what the mayor and another participant described as a tirade of abuse, Mr. Papillaud demanded that the city give up its spring water so that his company could have more.

“He said if he didn’t get his way, he was going to blow up the bottling plant,” Mr. Palfini said of Mr. Papillaud’s visit. “He said that twice.”

Mr. Papillaud’s son Ronan Papillaud came to Weed in mid-September to apologize for the brusque treatment and to rescind his father’s demands. But Mr. Palfini said it was a lesson on how small municipalities in the area need to protect themselves from water-hungry companies.

“They are just corporations,” Mr. Palfini said. “They are not your friend.”

Residents of Weed, which is still rebuilding after a major wildfire two years ago, say they believe that their dispute with Roseburg will end in the courts and that they have a document showing that the previous owner of Roseburg’s timber business here, International Paper, handed over water rights to the city in 1982.

But they describe a David and Goliath battle between Roseburg, a wealthy corporation capable of paying for high-powered lawyers, and a relatively poor city with just 2,700 people.

Residents in Weed followed the legal battles of Missoula, Mont., where the State Supreme Court ruled in August that the city could seize water from a private company by eminent domain to secure the municipal water supply.

The alternative to legal proceedings for now is to drill a new well at a cost of around $2 million, according to Ron Stock, the Weed city administrator.

Roseburg has suggested a site on its property, but city officials say it is potentially dangerous: The well would be located a few hundred yards from a former wood treatment facility that is contaminated with highly toxic chemicals including arsenic. The facility, which is managed by Roseburg, was fenced off in 1986 and has been declared a Superfund site.

Because of the complex hydrology of the area, including lava tubes that carry water in various directions under the mountains, the city would not know whether the water was safe until it drilled a test well, Mr. Stock said.

“The city has to be very careful,” he said. “We don’t want a Flint, Mich., situation.”

Ms. Porter, the Roseburg representative, said the proposed well site was “well outside any area of contamination.”

In an interview at the company’s timber plant outside Weed, where logs are spun and shaved into thin sheets used for plywood, Ms. Porter blamed Mr. Hall, the city councilor, and others in the city for casting Roseburg in a bad light.

“We are becoming the corporate bad guy, and that’s really unfortunate,” she said. The city already has wells that serve around half the population, she said.

Ronan Papillaud, the president of CG Roxane, which owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring together with a Japanese pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, was also defensive when asked about his company’s plans.

“We do not belong in this story,” Mr. Papillaud said. “We are not depriving anyone of anything.” CG Roxane has bought water from Roseburg since the late 1990s and dedicates one of its production lines in its Weed plant to bottling water bound for Japan.

Mr. Papillaud described his deal with Roseburg as a simple relationship between a buyer and seller.

“Is this blood water? Are they involved in child labor?” he asked rhetorically. “We are clients, end of story.”

Watching the water dispute warily are members of the Winnemem Wintu, a small Native American tribe that considers the slopes of Mount Shasta sacred.

According to tribal beliefs, one of the springs on the mountain is the place where animals and mankind emerged into the world. Six years ago, for the first time in the oral history of the tribe, that spring dried up, according to Luisa Navejas, a tribe member.

The water around Mount Shasta is not limitless, she said.

“This mountain is calling us now, and we need to listen,” Ms. Navejas said of the inactive volcano.

“This mountain will talk,” she said. “The time will come.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/us/california-drought-weed-mount-shasta.html?emc=eta1

Nestlé Can Keep Piping Water Out of Drought-Stricken California Despite Permit Expiring in 1988

In a major setback for environmental groups, a federal judge in California has tossed out allegations that the U.S. Forest Service allowed Nestlé’s bottled water operation to take water from the San Bernardino National Forest on a permit that expired back in 1988.

The decision regards a lawsuit filed against the Forest Service in October 2015 by the Courage Campaign Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Story of Stuff Project. The groups alleged that the agency was allowing Nestlé Waters North America to pipe water from public lands on a permit that had long expired.

With the ruling, the multinational food and drink corporation can continue its use of a four-mile pipeline that siphons thousands of gallons of public water a day from the Strawberry Creek watershed and sell it back to the public as bottled water. The water is sold under the Arrowhead brand.

U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal wrote in a Sept. 20 order that since the Forest Service received a request to renew the permit in May 1987, the effort was considered a “timely and sufficient application for renewal,” thus keeping the original permit valid.

Bernal rejected the plaintiffs’s argument that the Forest Service’s failure to act on the May 1987 request renders the permit invalid.

“Plantiffs do not identify, and the court cannot find, any authority holding that an agency’s failure to act within a reasonable time” invalidates a special use permit, Bernal wrote.

The decision was criticized by the three environmental groups that initiated the lawsuit.

“The court has just confirmed what many Americans fear, massive corporations play by a different set of rules than the rest of us,” Eddie Kurtz, executive director of Courage Campaign Institute, said in reaction to yesterday’s decision. “Nestlé has been pulling a fast one for nearly 30 years, taking a public resource, depriving plants and animals of life-sustaining water, and selling that water at an obscene profit without the right to do so, but apparently our justice system is OK with that.”

“We’re shocked by the court’s decision to let Nestlé continue its operations, and we will continue to stand with hundreds of thousands of Californians and people across the nation to take back control of this public water,” added Michael O’Heaney, executive director of the Story of Stuff Project. “This fight is far from over.”

Let’s not forget that California is experiencing its fifth year of an epic drought. The Center for Biological Diversity pointed out that in 2015 alone, Nestlé had piped away an estimated 36 million gallons of water from the forest to sell as bottled water. Nestlé pays an annual permitting fee of $524 for permission to run its pipeline.

“Reports from the end of 2015 and the summer of 2016 indicate that water levels at Strawberry Creek are at record lows, threatening local wildlife that are already dealing with the ongoing drought in Southern California,” the Center for Biological Diversity said.

“The court’s decision is disappointing, but the real tragedy lies in the fact that Strawberry Creek is drying up, dooming the plants, fish and animals that have relied on it for tens of thousands of years” said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Bottling water is not worth sacrificing Strawberry Creek, so we’re considering our options for appeal.”

Environmentalists have long decried bottled water as wasteful, expensive, unnecessary and a major source of plastic pollution.

Annie Leonard, the executive director of Greenpeace USA, argued in November: “A four-year review of the bottled water industry in the U.S. and the safety standards that govern it, including independent testing of over 1,000 bottles of water found that there is no assurance that just because water comes out of a bottle it is any cleaner or safer than water from the tap. In fact tap water is tested more frequently than bottled water.”

Nestlé Waters was not a party in the case but told EcoWatch in a prepared statement it was “pleased” with the ruling.

“The Forest Service has acknowledged that our permit is in full force and effect until the renewal process is concluded,” Christopher Rieck, spokesman for Nestlé Waters North America Inc., said. “We look forward to working in close cooperation with them to continue to manage the Arrowhead Springs in Strawberry Canyon sustainably for the long-term.”

The company added that it recognizes “the impact the drought is having across the state, and we have implemented new technologies in our California facilities that will conserve 55 million gallons of water each year.”

Nestlé carefully monitors all spring sources and manages them to ensure long-term sustainability and healthy habitats, he said.

Source: http://www.ecowatch.com/nestle-bottled-water-drought-2012310851.html

Directly drinking treated wastewater could be in Californians’ future

For the first time, California regulators have warmed to the idea of directly serving up treated sewer water to residents, underscoring the difficulty officials have had in uniting around alternative means of setting the state’s water policy on stable foundations.

Direct use
“A new report released by the State Water Resources Control Board last week outlines what needs to happen before drinking treated wastewater, also known as ‘direct potable reuse,’ becomes a reality,” Southern California Public Radio reported. In sum, a battery of new regulations, focused on ensuring that filtration processes meet a number of rigorous criteria, would be required—a goal the board opted not to suggest a timeline for.

“But in Southern California, many of us already are drinking treated wastewater—at least, indirectly,” the station added. “Places like Orange County, the Chino Basin and coastal Los Angeles have been blending treated wastewater with groundwater for years. But the difference is, the treated sewer water has been sitting in a reservoir or underground aquifer before it gets delivered to our tap. That means the water is diluted, and it also gives water managers time to wait for lab results from the wastewater treatment plant, and make last minute changes if something goes awry.”

Fish or foul
At the same time as it has warmed up to sewer water, however, the board has unsettled the water debate still further by pushing for more aquatic protections for fish. According to its new plans, “the amount of water in the San Joaquin River and its major tributaries that would remain available for fish during certain times of the year would more than double to a suggested starting point of 40 percent of the river water from nearly 20 percent,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Right now, around 80 percent of the river water is diverted for use by farms and cities,” the paper noted. “The diversions have helped sustain some communities through the state’s five-year drought, but have left fish vulnerable. Officials of the regulatory agency said the increases were needed to help restore endangered salmon and steelhead, populations of which have plummeted. Some tributaries fall to as low as a trickle in places.”

The eyebrow-raising news deepened rifts with farmers and others desperate to return as close to pre-drought levels of use as possible. Merced County supervisor Deidre Kelsey, describing herself as “kind of aghast,” told BuzzFeed News the plan was “so preposterous” that it “can’t work. Unless everybody picks and moves out of the valley.”

Tunnel trouble
The fish issue has not created the only impasse in California’s long-term plans for protecting and managing its water resources. In a disappointment for supporters of an ambitious plan to send Delta water underground toward Southern California consumers, a financially discouraging report requested by Sacramento recently came to light. “Giant tunnels that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to build to haul water across California are economically feasible only if the federal government bears a third of the nearly $16 billion cost because local water districts may not benefit as expected,” the Associated Press reported, citing the unreleased analysis, which was commissioned last year.

“Further, no local water districts have agreed to pay their slated share for the tunnels because of uncertainty over regulatory approval and whether it would be worth the expense for them. Spending on the project has become the subject of an ongoing state audit and federal financial review. With districts balking, the state for the first time is dipping into public funds — fees paid by users of existing state water projects — to get the project through the planning phase, state spokeswoman Nancy Vogel told The Associated Press last month.”

Source: http://calwatchdog.com/2016/09/19/directly-drinking-treated-wastewater-californians-future/

Susana De Anda honored at White House event

Congratulations to Community Water Center Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director Susana De Anda, who was honored by the White House as one of ten “White House Champions of Change for Climate Equity” in July. De Anda was a leader in California’s long fight to pass the nation’s first statewide Human Right to Water legislation, and for the past decade she has worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone in the state enjoys clean, safe, and affordable drinking water.

The passage of the Human Right to Water bill doesn’t mean that the struggle for clean water is over. Years of drought have hit rural, low-income communities and communities of color hard, resulting in dry wells and increasingly contaminated drinking water supplies. Long term climate instability is another threat to water security. According to De Anda, the Community Water Center works “to ensure these residents are at the decision-making table so their communities can emerge from this drought more resilient to climate change.î

We hope this timely recognition helps with that important work! You can read more here.

Source: http://www.communitywatercenter.org/whchamps?utm_campaign=enews_late_july&utm_medium=email&utm_source=communitywatercenter

Does LA Have Enough Water for the Next 25 Years?

by Elijah Chiland, Curbed LA

A comprehensive plan approved this week by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lays out strategies to continue providing water to this drought-afflicted city for the next 25 years. As KPCC notes, the plan says the area will have enough water–even if the drought continues and population increases by 500,000.

State water agencies are required to update urban water management plans every five years, but in the midst of a historic drought, this latest revision will be especially important in ensuring the city has the resources to continue to grow and prosper…and, you know, take a shower every now and then.

The most ambitious part of the new plan is its goal of reducing LA’s dependence on water from outside sources. Right now, the city imports the vast majority of its water; much of it still flows through the trusty Los Angeles Aqueduct. But in recent years, the city has been obligated to divert much of that water back to the Owens Valley in order to keep harmful dust from rising out of the dry Owens Lake bed. Since 2012, DWP has purchased most of its water from the Metropolitan Water District, which in turn gets its water from Northern California and the Colorado River.

Under the framework put in place by DWP officials in the new plan, the agency would obtain as much as half of its water locally by 2040. This would be accomplished by improving infrastructure to capture and treat stormwater and groundwater. The agency also wants to continue promoting water-saving strategies to help reduce demand. Since 2007, overall water use in the city has dropped off considerably.

LA's population has grown but its water use has fluctuated, encouraging planners to look to local sources for the future.

LA’s population has grown but its water use has fluctuated, encouraging planners to look to local sources for the future.

LA now uses less water than it did in 1970, when population was just over half of what it is today.

Still, some are skeptical of DWP’s optimism on this front. In an article published in City Watch, blogger Casey Maddren points out that much of the infrastructure needed to obtain water from local sources doesn’t exist yet or is not in working condition. Ensuring DWP’s plan is successful will at the very least require significant investment.

Of course, no long-range plan is without a fair amount of guesswork. Fingers crossed DWP continues to make strides in reducing demand and increasing local supply. In the meantime, those concerned about Los Angeles’s parched and apocalyptic near-future can rest a little easier, knowing there’s at least this plan.

Source: http://la.curbed.com/2016/6/8/11880976/dwp-plan-water-use-drought

Nestle balks at US Forest Service water withdrawal terms

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Nestlé is objecting to the U.S. Forest Service’s terms for issuing it a new permit to continue piping water out of a national forest, saying the agency is overstepping its authority and infringing on the company’s water rights.

Nestlé Waters North America detailed its concerns publicly for the first time in a 79-page document submitted to the Forest Service. The company, the largest producer of bottled water in the country, has long drawn water from the San Bernardino National Forest to produce Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water.

The agency in March released its proposal for granting the company a new permit to operate its wells and pipelines in the mountains near San Bernardino for five years. The Forest Service took up the issue after an investigation last year by The Desert Sun revealed that the agency has allowed Nestlé to keep using water from the national forest under a permit that lists 1988 as the expiration date.

Nestlé Waters said in a statement Friday that it’s concerned “the action proposed by the Forest Service would disrupt established water rights and the long-standing legal process of regulating water use in the State of California.”

“The proposals currently being suggested by the Forest Service would create a situation in which the federal government overrides more than a century of California law,” the company said. “This would have potentially far-reaching consequences for businesses, agencies, individuals and other water rights holders throughout the state.”

Nestlé piped 36 million gallons of water from the national forest last year to produce bottled water. That has sparked an emotional debate during the drought, with opponents arguing that taking water harms the environment and wildlife along Strawberry Creek — and that the impacts on the ecosystem need to be scientifically assessed.

Three environmental groups sued the Forest Service in October in an attempt to shut down the 4.5-mile pipeline that Nestlé uses to collect water. Opponents also submitted a petition that they said was signed by more than 280,000 people demanding the agency carry out a “thorough and unbiased” environmental review.

Water from Arrowhead Springs was first bottled for sale more than a century ago. It’s named after the famed arrowhead-shaped natural rock formation on a mountainside north of San Bernardino and the springs near it — both hot and cold. The hot springs were once the central attraction of a glamorous resort, which closed in the late 1950s and now stands vacant at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The company’s water pipelines and horizontal wells on the mountainside have been authorized under various permits since 1929. Forest Service officials have said Nestlé’s 1978 permit, which was issued to predecessor Arrowhead Puritas Waters Inc., remains in effect until they decide on the renewal application.

Nestle raised its “legal concerns” in a document submitted to the Forest Service on May 2. It released the document Friday.

Nestlé took issue with a proposed management plan that would require it to modify its operations if monitoring showed the extraction of water was affecting the flow of the creek. The company said that plan, as it’s now proposed, “exceeds the Forest Service’s authority.”

The agency’s proposal “disregards the state laws that administer water rights both on and off federal land,” Nestle said in the document. It said that would “create a problematic precedent nationwide.”

Nestlé said it owns rights to collect spring water from Arrowhead Springs, and those rights are “among the most senior water rights” in California.

The company said its ownership of spring water in Strawberry Canyon “can be traced to a possessory claim to the waters” recorded in 1865 by David Noble Smith — who first built a simple “infirmary” hotel where people eased their ailments at the hot springs. Nestlé also pointed to a subsequent U.S. patent obtained by Smith and recorded in 1882. It said the water rights were upheld in court in 1931 and have not been legally challenged since.

Nestlé said the Forest Service’s proposal is a “substantial departure” from the company’s previous 10-year permits, and from its renewal request. The Forest Service has not been following its own regulations, Nestle said, arguing that under its proposal the agency would regulate the company’s “water rights by controlling its water collection.”

The Forest Service has received hundreds of letters about its proposal, including a few from the bottled water industry. The International Bottled Water Association and Nestlé competitor CG Roxane LLC, which sells Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, have raised similar criticisms.

Many of the people who sent emails and letters voiced opposition to letting the company take water from public land, especially given the longstanding lack of independent studies assessing the impacts on the environment.

Bill Gates of Palm Desert called it “downright insane” for Nestlé to be allowed to reap big profits from the public’s water supply while homeowners face stiff watering restrictions and are letting their yards go brown.

Some of the people who object to the bottling operation say it’s outrageous the Forest Service doesn’t collect fees for the water itself. The agency has been charging Nestle an annual permit fee of $524 per year.

Under that longstanding arrangement, the company collects water from its pipeline in a roadside tank and transports the water in tanker trucks to a plant in Ontario, one of five Nestlé bottling plants in California.

In some of the 568 letters that have been posted so far on a Forest Service website, critics question whether the company actually holds valid water rights. Greg Ballmer, president of the Tri-County Conservation League, said an initial review of historical documents in a local archive “has failed to corroborate the validity of Nestlé’s claim to the water.” He urged the Forest Service to investigate.

Stiv Wilson, campaign director for the Story of Stuff Project, one of the three groups suing the Forest Service, said in a letter that while Nestlé claims water rights, “public records show that the Forest Service has not done its due diligence with regard to determining whether Nestlé owns a valid water right in the first place.”

The proposed permit would allow Nestlé to keep using two water collection tunnels, 10 horizontal wells, water pipelines and other infrastructure in the national forest.

In a letter on behalf of California’s State Water Resources Control Board, Senior Water Resource Control Engineer Victor Vasquez offered assistance to the Forest Service and said the “basis of right” hasn’t been clearly defined in the federal agency’s proposal. He said the national forest should require the company to “identify its basis of right, and to what extent the water being diverted is percolating groundwater, surface water subject to appropriation, or developed spring water” for each of the locations where water is collected.

Nestlé noted that the state is in charge of administering water rights, and said its rights aren’t “subject to Forest Service discretion or control.”

If the Forest Service imposes controls that infringe upon those rights, the company said, “all parties with state-based water rights will be threatened, the hierarchy of senior water rights undermined, and long-term economic expectations thrown into doubt.”

The company made clear it has legal options, saying the current proposal could hinder its ability to collect water and entitle it to seek “just compensation.”

As an alternative, Nestlé Waters proposed voluntary measures. The company said its voluntary management plan would include rigorous monitoring and its scientists would “continually address the environmental conditions around the spring sites and respond appropriately to any changes.”

The company said it hopes the government will reissue the permit in line with its comments.

John Miller, a public affairs officer with the Forest Service in San Bernardino, said it would be premature to respond.

“The Forest Service has received quite a bit of input,” Miller said in an email, “and our next step is to organize and begin evaluating the materials submitted.”

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/05/09/nestle-fights-feds-water-rights/84163260/

California’s Thirsty Almond Acreage Increased by 60,000 Acres in 2015!

by Dan Bacher, Daily KOS

As Governor Jerry Brown urged Californians to “Save Our Water” by taking shorter showers and letting our lawns turn brown, corporate agribusiness continued to expand its acreage in water-intensive almond trees in the Central Valley.

California’s 2015 almond acreage is estimated at 1,110,000 acres, up 6 percent from the 2014 revised acreage of 1,050,000, according to a California Department of Food and Agriculture report released today.

That’s up 60,000 acres from 2014’s estimated acreage. “Of the total acreage for 2015, 890,000 acres were bearing and 220,000 acres were non-bearing. Preliminary bearing acreage for 2016 was estimated at 900,000 acres,” the report stated.

Kern, Fresno, Stanislaus, Merced and Madera—all located in the San Joaquin Valley—were the leading counties in almond production. These five counties had 73 percent of the total bearing acreage. Nonpareil continued to be the leading variety, followed by Monterey, Butte, Carmel, and Padre.

“This acreage, planted in Drought Year Four, commits about 180,000 AF/year to those trees, a constant burden on groundwater basins and our political system for every one of the next twenty-five years,” commented onthepublicrecord.org. “Had the Brown administration banned new permanent crops in basins with declining groundwater levels, that demand might be in annual crops, flexible in times of high climate variability.”

The almond acreage was estimated at 870,000 acres at the beginning of the drought, according to onthepublicrecord.org. That means that the total almond acreage in California increased by 240,000 acres during the drought!

Representatives of fishing groups, environmental organizations and Indian Tribes have criticized the expansion of acreage for almonds, a water-intensive crop, at a time when Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, and other fish populations are being driven closer and closer to extinction by poor water management by the state and federal governments—and when urban users are mandated to cut back on water use by 25 percent.

Last March, Stewart Resnick, Beverly Hills billionaire and the largest tree fruit grower in the world, revealed his efforts to expand pistachio, almond, and walnut acreage during the drought at the annual pistachio conference hosted by Paramount Farms.

During the event covered by the Western Farm Press, Resnick gloated about the increase in his nut acreage over the previous ten years, including an 118 percent increase for pistachios, 47 percent increase for almonds, and 30 percent increase for walnuts.

Resnick and his wife, Lynda, are among the most avid proponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s California Water Fix, the new name for the Delta Tunnels, potentially the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history. The tunnels will divert water from the Sacramento River for export to agribusiness corporations on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water companies, and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods in Kern County.

See this story for more information about the Resnicks and their influence over the UC system and California politics.

source: http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/4/27/1520853/-California-s-Thirsty-Almond-Acreage-Increased-by-60-000-acres-in-2015

As California Water Infrastructure Crumbles, Water Districts Consider Wasting $1.2 Billion on the Delta Tunnels

Stockton, CA – Opponents of the Delta Tunnels today questioned the wisdom of state water districts investing another $1.2 billion in the plan while local water infrastructure in Santa Clara Valley and Los Angeles continues to leak and burst.

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday, “Silicon Valley’s largest water provider will have to spend at least $20 million to drain, test and repair a critical water pipeline that failed last summer and may have more hidden problems.” The ruptured 8-foot-high, 31-mile-long concrete pipe brings up to 40 percent of the drinking water to Santa Clara County’s 1.8 million residents from the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County.

In Los Angeles, leaking water mains and pipes lose eight billion gallons of water each year. The repairs to the Los Angeles water system will cost rate payers at least $1.3 billion and take at least a decade to fix.

State Needs Another $1.2 Billion to Keep the Tunnels Alive
Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the state Natural Resources Agency, has told both urban and agricultural water districts she will soon request from them another $1.2 billion to fund engineering and design studies for the proposed Delta Tunnels project.



Fix LA and Santa Clara Valley First!
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta said:

”It’s absurd that the Santa Clara Valley Water District would even consider moving forward with raising millions of dollars from ratepayers to advance the Delta Tunnels project when they cannot maintain their own existing water infrastructure. The tunnels project, misnamed California Water Fix, and their propaganda arm, Californians for Water Security, sell the Delta Tunnels as needed to save California’s water supply when, in truth, the Delta is not the weak link in the water delivery system. Californians lose 10 to 15 percent of our water supply each year due to water main breaks and leaky pipes in urban areas.

“It is also ironic that pipes laid just 30 years ago by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are already corroded and breaking apart. If we cannot build and maintain an 8-foot pipe in the Santa Clara Valley Water District, what can we expect with two Delta tunnels, 40 feet wide, built in peat soil?

“Let’s instead spend precious ratepayer dollars to fix the decaying LA and Santa Clara Valley Water infrastructure before considering a massive new proposal with an Environmental Impact Report the EPA has already issued a failing grade of ‘inadequate’.”

Source: As California Water Infrastructure Crumbles, Water Districts Consider Wasting $1.2 Billion on the Delta Tunnels
, Advocates Say “Fix LA and Santa Clara First!”

Activists shut down Nestlé water bottling plant in Sacramento

(By Dan Bacher, posting originally on Daily Kos) Environmental and human rights activists, holding plastic “torches” and “pitchforks,” formed human barricades at both entrances to the Nestlé Waters bottling plant in Sacramento at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, March 20, effectively shutting down the company’s operations for the day.

Members of the “Crunch Nestlé Alliance” shouted out a number of chants, including ”We got to fight for our right to water,” “Nestlé, Stop It, Water Not For Profit,” and “¿Agua Para Quien? Para Nuestra Gente.” Continue reading