Thursday, March 21, 2013

State Water Board Meeting Reminds Me of the Hunger Games

Yesterday, the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) opened a 3-day hearing dominated by a discussion of whether (and how much) to increase flows from San Joaquin River.  It brought out the fish versus farmers debate, and I watched passionate testimonials from both sides to the board.

I have worked with all these groups at one point or another (tributary farmers and cities, delta farmers and cities, and fisherman), and all of them are part of the region that we study and serve on a daily basis in our economic research center.  For me, this proceeding is pitting neighbors and family members against one another, an ugly and painful spectacle to watch.

Why did it remind me of the Hunger Games?

Exempted from the fighting arena, and undoubtedly watching the webcast on their computers, were a group of wealthy interests who are influential in the Capitol.

The state and federal water contractors divert massive amounts of water from this river system to places outside the watershed.  They have junior water rights, are wealthier, not even in the river watershed, and in many cases have cost competitive alternative water supplies that they aren't adequately utilizing.  They are a huge part of this problem, whether it is the lack of flow on the San Joaquin from their upstream diversions before it gets to this area, the contaminated runoff from their westside farming, and the massive diversions in the South Delta.

How can they be absent from this proceeding while the peasants (i.e. the relatively small farmers represented by relatively small water districts with senior water rights, both tributaries and Delta, the fisherman, and the environmentalists) are pounding the crap out of each other?

The state/federal contractors must be enjoying the webcast of this gruesome spectacle. I have been watching off and on, and it is making me depressed and angry.

I hope the warring neighbors can stop hitting each other for a moment and find some unity around their common problem with the state/federal contractors.  They need to jointly demand a change to the narrow scope of this process.

P.S.  Yes, I have teen and pre-teen daughters, so the Hunger Games books/movies have been everywhere since we moved past the Harry Potter days.


  1. Jeff, you hit the nail on the head.
    Those wealthy interests want nothing more than to have the "little people" fight among themselves.
    This allows for business as usual to continue.
    Unless and until people finally come to the realization that this isn't about watering golf courses in LA or even a 3" bait fish in the Delta no solution will be demanded.

  2. I keep reading about how the biologists demanding more water to save the delta did not use the latest scientific methods in their research which then pretty much nullifies the research altogether and demands for more research. Why is there no demand for agricultural interests to create and utilize the latest technology / methods in irrigation such as drip irrigation. Wouldn't legislation requiring upgraded irrigation systems create jobs and help solve this problem? It seems such a waste to see all that water just sitting there in ditches evaporating away. The other day I saw a tractor driving along spraying the water canal with...what? Pesticides? Herbicides? What the heck would he be spraying into the water? Ugh!!! this just kills me!!!