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Opinion

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Wendell Peart
05/29/2014 1:11 PM

Whenever there is an extensive period of drought, those in charge of our water resources begin discussing mandatory transfers of water. A recent decision by 9th Circut Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson ruled that California’s “Area-of-Origin” water rights do not require the Bureau of Reclamation to prioritize the allocation of federally appropriated California Valley Project water to the Sacramento Valley. Does this mean that, in times of drought, owners of “Origin Water Rights” may be forced to give up some water?

Insight into this gruesome prospect was revealed by Quincy attorney Michael Jackson, who has extensive experience with water law. Jackson addressed the Amador County Board of Supervisors on July 23, 1996 about the dreaded question of loss of water rights.

In a 40-minute presentation, Jackson noted that, “Southern California is making plans for an expansion of 20 million people by the year 2020. Those 20 million people are going to need additional water.” Jackson then cited a court decision known as “Racanelli,” in which, he said, “It (the court) made clear that the burden (shortage of water) of the urban areas (like Southern California) should be shared with other urban users.” As a result of this ruling, Jackson told the board, the State Water Resource Board became involved and “decided that the SWRCB is not bound by the ‘Area of Origin.’ We believe this is an ominous sign,”

As to the quantity of water consumed by a household, Peter A. Rogers, Chief of the Office of Drinking Water for the Department of Health Services, put some very chilling facts into the record at the 1991 Drought Hearings. “State regulations not only require that domestic water-suppliers serve drinking water of acceptable quality,” said Rogers, “but they must also meet the minimum quantity requirements.” Rogers also said that the average household in California (1991) “utilizes anywhere from 500 to perhaps 900 gallons a day.”

Rogers warned the board that “Public safety is threatened if there is insufficient water to respond to emergencies, such as fire. We would encourage the board to strongly consider the imposition of mandatory serious conservation on domestic water supplies during 1991.”

The introduction of still more discouraging facts about an already desperate state of affairs was too much for the audience to hear. They wanted solutions, not more problems to solve. Although the minimum quantity of water to a household was not defined, there was mention that the limit would be in the order of 300 gallons per household per day. For a family of four, this would amount to a reduction to 75 gallons per day per person. (To be continued ... .)

Wendell G. Peart, DVM, is a former member of the Amador Water Resource Advisory Committee.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
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