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Op-Eds focus on meeting water needs and addressing problems associated with increased groundwater withdrawals

Newspapers have been rife with opinions and editorials expressing various solutions to meeting California’s future water needs and with the discussions about potential problems associated with groundwater pumping.

Editors from the Monterey Herald have mounted a strong call to the Monterey public, soliciting their support of a $300 million desalination plant in Marina proposed by California American Water Co. (Cal Am) and scheduled to open in June 2018.  They acknowledge the cost but argue that are not many potential alternatives.

Under a cease and desist order from the State Water Resources Control Board, Cal Am must reduce its pumping from the Carmel River by 70% by the end of 2016—meaning, in effect, the region will lose 70% of its water supply.

This proposed project follows multiple failed attempts to launch a joint regional desalination plant and is itself jeopardized by a local ballot measure on the June 3, 2014 ballot.  Measure O, which will ask those residing in the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District whether the district to look into taking public ownership of Cal Am’s water system.

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Rep. Tom McClintock (R–CA) emphasizes the need the water storage capacity.  McClintock decries President Obama’s $1 billion climate change study and the Delta tunnels proposal because neither gets to the heart of the problem and advocates abolishing the state’s environmental regulations that prevents capturing and storing as much water as possible.

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Discussions about groundwater include a prediction of groundwater as the next major source of water policy conflict and solutions to address the problems associated with drawing down groundwater tables. 

Columnist Thomas Elias projects that groundwater will be the next stage of water wars in California.  Problems associated with groundwater use, including land subsidence, the resulting problem of upsetting systems, and introduction of brackish water into freshwater aquifers give  legislators something to latch onto in order to demonstrate their commitment to solving contemporary issues.  But regulating groundwater is likely to stir great controversy and pushback among farmers and water districts.

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Jerry Meral, former deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources, argues that California needs to confront the most insidious aspect of its water crisis: groundwater overdrafting.

The state’s groundwater is supply is huge, but due to the drought, demand is ballooning—especially in the Central Valley.  Meral advocates a “pump-and-trade” system that would allow for responsible use of groundwater while avoiding unappealing alternatives such as lengthy litigation processes to adjudicate the groundwater, state regulation of the resources, or taxes on groundwater withdrawals.

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The Editorial Board of the San Jose Mercury News supports the Association of California Water Agencies’ (ACWA) solution to addressing groundwater overdraft and consequent land subsidence, which includes modeling two practices that have been standard in Santa Clara County for 50 years.

The practices will be controversial because they involve imposing a tax and regulating withdrawals.  A pump tax would give water agencies revenue to put water back in the ground during wet years.  Regulation of withdrawals would be triggered with land begins to sink.

The board declares ACWA’s proposal to be “a real breakthrough” and punts the issue to legislature to turn it into reality.


Written by Marta Weismann & Stratecon staff