Doug Deitch for Supervisor

"Balance for a Self-Sustaining Community"

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Op-Ed Piece, Sentinel and Pajaronian-May/1998

Just Say No(pe)!
"We didn't inherit the earth from our parents.
We're borrowing it from our children"...,
Chief Seattle (1788-1866)
Suquamish/Duwamish chief

And we've been running up quite a bill on this borrowed legacy in the Pajaro Valley.

On April 14, a comprehensive county-wide water resources report presented to our Board of Supervisors indicated that Pajaro Valley last year pumped well over twice as much water as can currently be pumped on a safe and sustainable basis.

Pajaro (PVWMA), with an 80% agricultural usage, accounts for around 70% of the county's total water consumption. The report indicated that all county groundwater resources are being similarly overused, with Pajaro well in the lead in both total volume and rate of overuse.

The report's conclusions on Pajaro were confirmed by the "second opinion" study just completed by Pajaro. According to the report, last year Pajaro pumped 68,000 acre feet of water from a resource that can currently safely annually yield only 31,000 acre feet.

This excessive pumping caused the permanent and irretrievable loss of about 10-15,000 acre feet of fresh water storage capacity of this resource caused by the invasive inland subterranean movement of the ocean called salt water intrusion.

With just-reported agricultural production up in double digits for this current year regionally, figure on a substantial increase in our agricultural water consumption and salt water intrusion as well.

To address this situation, all that anybody in Pajaro is talking about doing (whether by pipeline, conservation, local projects, or smoke and mirrors) is reducing the ongoing annual damage to this resource from the current unconscionably high level to an annual "acceptable" damage of 1,000 a/f fresh water storage capacity loss per year. This is the objective of the basin management plan.

In other words, the 10-15,000 a/f "debt" that we ran up last year (in addition to all the previous and future years' accumulated "debts") are never planned to be repaid.

You know why? We can't afford to because it's not "economically feasible" to do so. Instead, at some point in the indefinite future, we're only planning to mitigate (not cease) our future overuse to an annual level which is "economically feasible" to achieve.

Further, we're not in any manner going to repay any of the prior "debt" we've already run up and repair any of the damage we've already caused to the resource by our prior aggregated overuse because we can't afford to.

Over the years, we've consistently used this water we didn't really "have". We've actually already "bought" it. We just haven't paid for it yet. We didn't know at the time we were using it just exactly how much it really would cost us.

However, we're finding out now from the costs of the projects to mitigate this ongoing degradation that, irrespective of the solution, this "financed" water that we have already bought and used, was and is really very expensive.

So, now let's see if you have followed me so far. We now use well over twice as much water as we safely can and have been causing ongoing, permanent, and progressively worse annual damage to our resource in the process.

We have a number of different proposals, local and otherwise, on the table, all expensive, problematical, and all subject to a rigorous and strict environmental scrutiny. The Pajaro Valley water fees will be used to pay for the necessarily expensive solutions caused by the past, present, and future overuse of the resource. It will take years to implement any solution and the current level of degradation (or worse) will continue in the interim.

The NOPE INITIATIVE (Proposition D), in its last provision, permanently "rolls back" the acre/foot charge for water in Pajaro Valley to $50 a/f from the rate of $95 a/f scheduled for July 1 (the rate is currently at $75).

Furthermore, if NOPE passes, a subsequent 2/3 "super majority" vote will be required to raise the fee.

If we were talking gasoline instead of water, is there anybody out there who would seriously propose that cutting the price of gas in half at the pump will be an effective means to promote responsible use and meaningfully address the oil crisis?

Doug Deitch

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