So what does California groundwater management have to do with the fabulous anthem by the Mamas and the Papas? Actually, it has more to do with the Mamas and Papas themselves: it's about as messed up as their personal lives.
What prompted this comparison and the (expected) rant? Actually, it's just a lame reason for featuring one of the great songs of the rock era.
I just got off the phone with a couple of good folks - Doug Woodcock and Ivan Gall - hydrogeologists from the Oregon Water Resources Department. They interviewed me for a volunteer position on the OWRD's Groundwater Advisory Committee (GWAC). At one point one of them asked me a question along the lines of what I thought about groundwater management issues.
Well, you might as well wave a red flag in front of a bull. If you've been reading this blog, you know the drill: Groundwater as Rodney Dangerfield; the Water Budget Myth; California Groundwater (here and here).
Ah, California groundwater management - what a fertile topic for discussion!
Then I thought of an article friend and colleague Ari Michelsen sent me two days ago. It was from the Capital Press. The story by Tim Hearden described a day-long workshop in Corning, CA, that was organized by the University of California Cooperative Extension. The gist of the article was nothing new - concern over California's groundwater use, recharge, the state's role in groundwater management and regulation, etc.
The story begins:
The debate over what to do about declining groundwater supplies took center stage during a recent water seminar here.
In California, 30 percent of total water usage is provided by groundwater, making the Golden State the biggest user of groundwater in the nation, and 43 percent of the state's residents obtain drinking water from aquifers, said Kelly Staton, a senior engineering geologist for the state Department of Water Resources.
Studies show that water tables in the Sacramento Valley dropped an average of 5 feet from 2004 to 2010, although they've gained back about 2 feet since last year, Staton explained.
Here is some more:
Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams, an oat and alfalfa hay producer, said there's a "quiet movement" in the state to have groundwater included under California's Public Trust Doctrine, which applies to surface water and migratory wildlife.
"There are folks who'd like to see California become like other states where the state has control over all water ... and in dry years can deny usage," Williams said during the workshop. "As a farmer, and I know there are a lot of farmers here, I know if you can't have water you can't grow a crop and you can't make a living.
"We need to pay attention, we need to be educated and we need folks to talk to their local leaders and help them understand ... both sides of the issue," he said.
Environmental folks had their say, too:
Environmentalists such as Marty Dunlap of the Chico, Calif.-based Citizens Water Watch wondered aloud whether the aquifers will ever fully recharge. They blame what they see as over-use of wells for endangering the creeks and trees that rely on the aquifers to thrive.
More from reporter Hearden:
The exchanges highlight what may be the next key battleground in California's ongoing water conflicts, as conservationists seek to have groundwater use regulated as it is in other states.
Already, the Environmental Law Foundation and other groups are suing the State Water Resources Control Board and Siskiyou County over well irrigation they say is depleting water for salmon in the Scott River. The suit could affect farmers' use of groundwater throughout the state, Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong has said.
Dunlap had the last word:
It seems to me that it's not very prudent to wait for an emergency situation to see that counties have the authority to make sure their ecosystems are protected," she said.
I know some people extol the virtues of local groundwater management in California and I am certainly not opposed to such approaches. But there needs to be some state oversight, because pumping or polluting groundwater in one groundwater district/basin can have effects outside the boundaries of that district/basin. And you also have the likelihood of multiple aquifers in the vertical dimension, which means that water pumped in a given district can come from different source areas. Groundwater reservoirs don't necessarily follow political or watershed boundaries. Groundwater management is less straightforward than surface water management, but many people don't understand that fact.
Enough already - it's the holiday season and I am trying to be kind. I'll stop for now before I say something controversial.
But I can dream, can't I?
"I'm just wondering who's going to step in when groundwater is critical in Northern California. It seems like nobody is really taking responsibility." - Marty Dunlap, workshop participant