(July 17) By Ruth Musser-Lopez
July 17, 2014. Sometime earlier this year, the sprinklers on the Capitol’s lawn in Sacramento were turned off.
During the height of the summer heat, the grass turned brown just in time for the historic Tuesday decision. On July 15, 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”), State of California will be begin to enforce the new law, SB 104, making it a crime to engage in “wasteful” routine outdoor water use practices. A potential $500.00 per day fine can be imposed on water customers who commit this crime.
Nice brown grass in front of the Capital was a visual prelude to this new penalty.
It is reported that the State staff is billing the drastic measures as an “opportunity for everyone … to do more for water conservation,” It is also reported that Marcus, in a press interview, said that the three year drought has been the worst in California since the mid-1970s and that she said the vote is historic not just because the steps are unprecedented in California but because the board is trying to spread the burden of the drought beyond farmers and agencies that are trying to protect wildlife.
The State Water Board, under the leadership of Chairperson Felicia Marcus implemented their historic action to discourage wasteful outdoor water use practices such as using potable water for such things as, direct application of water to wash sidewalks and driveways, letting sprinkler water run off into streets and gutters, using a hose without a shot off nozzle to was your car, and prohibiting the use of decorative fountains that do not recirculate the water.
The new law requires water agencies to make mandatory their existing restrictions on outdoor watering, and if they don’t have any regulations on the books, then they must limit outdoor watering to two days per week.”
Conservation measures by all is a good idea, but meanwhile, the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing “fracking,” California State Senate bill SB 1132 failed this year because of our desert area Senator, Jean Fuller, in part, who voted NAY. Onshore fracking turning billions of gallons of clean water into toxic waste is a reality now and we have yet to determine its long-term environmental impact. Now while fracking isn’t going on in San Bernardino County that I know of, wasteful use of water in another quadrant of the state having an adverse impact upon our minimal use here, is a heist.
A top contributor to Senator Jean Fuller’s campaign is the oil industry…California Independent Petroleum Association ($3,900), Occidental Oil & Gas ($3,900), Valero Energy ($3,900), plus a whole slew of others, Conoco, Kern oil, totalling $22,800 from the oil and gas industry.
Not to argue that there isn’t global warming or a drought, I would like to propose another bigger culprit of the water shortage: corporate waste dumpers including energy and oil companies in general.
Fracking is currently being investigated–in the potential contamination of drinking water in Kern County–the State Water Board is hosting a public meeting to commence the development of model criteria for groundwater monitoring related to oil and gas wells subject to “well stimulation treatments” as specified in Senate Bill 4 (Pavley, statutes of 2013). It will be held on Thursday August 7th, in the Kern County Supervisors Chambers, in Bakersfield, California from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
A proposed hydrogen energy plant (HECA) proposed for the Tulare/Kern area of the Central Valley in farm land territory will use over 6 million gallons every day for the next 25 years. This project is being sold as a “job maker;” at 200 jobs the number is about the same as a retail store. Carbon emissions, costs, and the price of energy and liability of transporting the imported coal are other problems with the project the California Energy Commission should consider. We need clean jobs not backward coal industry job using coal from states thousands of miles away. What good are jobs if the by product is a health risk to the workers and neighborhood around the emissions.
Here in California, we have so many alternative ways of making energy through solar, wind, geothermal and hydro power. HECA’s public relation machine claims this water is unusable for agriculture. This claim is undeniably false, according to local farmers who strongly oppose this misuse of water.
Heists through disposal of toxic waste directly over water aquifers is another form of destruction of potable water. The entire farming community of Hinkley, California has been adversely impacted by the chromium 6 contamination that resulted from Pacific Gas & Electric using hexavalent chromium as an anti-corrosive agent in the cooling towers for its pump engine systems to pressurize the natural gas line running from East Texas to the Bay Area. In the 1950s and 1960s, water from those towers was dumped in unlined trenches in Hinkley, from which the chromium 6 leached into the water table. This dramatic water heist has also resulted in lost county and state revenues from commercial and residential uses.
Laws have been tweeked and loopholes have been made in state law to the point where the people cannot even control their own water usage by a majority vote within a region. Take for example Kern County where passage of Measure E which would ban the City of Los Angeles from hauling 75 percent of the city of Los Angeles’ treated sewage sludge to Green Acres Farm southwest of Bakersfield and spread it on cropland.
Los Angeles successfully obtained an injunction against the ban the people voted for and the case has been battled in court for years. According to James Burger of the Bakersfield Californian (July 7, 2014) the District Court of Appeal presiding Judge Rebecca A. Wiseman wrote in February 2013:
“We agree with both (federal district and superior) courts that plaintiffs were reasonably likely to succeed on two of their contentions: that Measure E is preempted by the California Integrated Waste Management Act, and that Measure E conflicted with a state constitutional principle known as the regional welfare doctrine and therefore exceeded Kern County’s authority.”
Now a Tulare County Superior Court judge will have to decide if the other three claims are strong enough to force continuation of the injunction, Goldner said.”
If Measure E is found to be unlawful the voice of the people of Kern County will be silenced and the water aquifer will continue to be at risk from yet another source of pollution as a result of tweaked and twisted California environmental laws.
Increased water usage was noted this year by the State Water Board and is attributable to two regions of the state: Southern California coastal communities and the far northeastern slice of the state.
Interestingly, it’s the southern coastal communities that continue to build ponds and lakes for rich people in gated communities. More of these water wasteful gated communities are in progress. Their exposed man-made ponds and lakes in an area that would be desert if not for irrigation, are subject to evaporation at an alarming rate using far more water than the natural underground reservoirs in the desert at Cadiz from which they propose to heist water for consumptive uses such as car washes, evaporating pools and lakes and golf courses.
Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc., after staking a claim to roughly 5,000 acre-feet of annual water pumping rights by operating a fruit and vegetable farm in Cadiz in the Eastern Mojave Desert, has bootstrapped that water pumping allotment into another heist, in this case a water privatizing scheme in which 50,000 acre-feet of water – ten times Cadiz, Inc.’s actual demonstrated water usage pattern – will be extracted from the East Mojave desert’s aquifer per year and sold by a corporation, directly pumped and piped out of the desert aquifer via pipeline to Orange County.
A few months ago, in March, the governor approved SB 104 which the legislature passed because California “is experiencing an unprecedented dry period and shortage of water for its citizens, local governments, agriculture, environment, and other uses.” Some provisions of the bill went into immediate effect statewide at that time imposing restrictions on appropriated rights immediately.
SB 104 expanded the State Water Board’s regulatory powers and increases the penalties associated with illegal diversions of water in times of drought. Those who have junior water rights—farmers mainly, get curtailed when there isn’t enough water because there are senior water right holders who had their historic water rights first thus are first in line for water and have priority for water use. In the past, after 2009 and up until this year, there had been a $1000 fine then after a 30 day correction period, a $500 a day fine –this was apparently not a strong immediate incentive to comply so some ignored the no pumping notices. To compound the problem, required hearings could have potentially thwarted enforcement. (http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/diversion_use/#penalties)
As for appropriated water rights, according to Continuing Education at the Bar’s (CEB.org) law alert on June 18, “An important feature of SB 104 is that during times of drought (i.e., a critically dry year preceded by two or more below normal, dry, or critically dry years or during a period of Governor-proclaimed drought emergency), the SWRCB is authorized to levy extraordinary penalties for certain violations. See Stats 2014, ch 3, §§13–14. During a drought, for example, the penalty for violating a SWRCB cease and desist order could be as high as $10,000 per day. In addition, SB 104 makes unauthorized diversions during a drought subject to penalties up to $1,000 per day and up to $2,500 per acre-foot illegally diverted. See Stats 2014, ch 3, §9.”
The signature of drought, failed water supply and the new strict water curtailment enforcement measures can be seen along State Route 99 in the central valley where reservoirs are running dry and farmers reportedly have left trees wilt and hundreds of thousands of acres unplanted.
About the author: Ruth Musser-Lopez is a candidate for California State Senator in District 16. Her name will be on the ballot this November. She may be reached at Ruth@RiverAHA.org. Be her friend on Facebook at Ruth Arlene Musser-Lopez or Ruth Musser-Lopez for California Senate District 16. 760/885-9374.