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Editorial Environmental Council Newsletter, Summer-1998

On June 9, based on the "Water Resources Management" report
presented and accepted that day, I requested (on behalf of my organization and the people of this community) that our County Board of Supervisors declare a county-wide water emergency. 

Additionally, I requested that our board immediately initiate a regionally-coordinated strategic water use and management effort with Monterey and San Benito Counties, commence an all-inclusive and regionally-wide well metering/monitoring program for all existent (starting with my own) and new wells, and immediately begin the process leading to a water surcharge for all water users to provide the needed substantial revenues which will be required for the costly water projects which we must necessarily and expeditiously undertake. 

Sounds pretty extreme maybe? Neither the director or president of the board of PVWMA, who both also addressed the board after me, seemed to think so. 

In fact, board president, Jim Dutra, when asked for comment from Supervisor Belgard included in his comment, "We are in an emergency situation at this point. We cannot go on." 

Check the facts. We use around 100,000 acre feet (a/f) of water a year in the county. Pajaro uses 68,000 a/f/yr of this with a safe supply of only 31,000 a/f/yr, 80% for agriculture. This overuse cause a permanent and irretrievable loss of 10,000-15,000 a/f storage capacity of the aquifer, our most precious water resource. If you can believe it, they have also just voted down there to cut their cost of water in half. To put this figure into perspective, 15,000 a/f is more water than is delivered annually by all water districts in Mid-County, Scotts Valley and in the San Lorenzo Valley. 

Thanks in part to Pajaro's agricultural overuse, Soquel Creek Water District, once our groundwater juggernaut, is also now also in serious overdraft, as are all groundwater resources in the entire Monterey Bay Area Region. 

Monterey County uses around six times as much, over 80% agriculturally, with far more serious groundwater problems and salt water intrusion to Salinas. Groundwater conditions are degrading on a seemingly exponential basis, and we depend (with the sole exception of Santa Cruz) entirely on wells for our supplies.

For example, the standard for chloride (salt) in drinking water is 250 ppm (with backgrounds levels normally 20-40 ppm and sea water at 19,000 ppm). The concentration of chlorides at Sunset Beach is 10,000 ppm and La Selva Beach has gone from 10-165 ppm in 1993 to 2720 ppm in 1997. 

Salt water intrusion and basin draw down, with resultant reduced stream flows and habitat degradation, are not the only problems. Ask them in Chular. 

If we are going to successfully aspire to become the exemplar community and global example of sustainability that we might, we must bring our use and control of our water resource into a state of local equilibrium. 

Water is the lifeblood of our people, our region, and our economy. We are seriously bleeding and band aids won't cut it. We must take significant meaningful action now or suffer the same destiny that history teaches us inevitably awaits communities that do not.

Doug Deitch


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