Letters to the Editor

Adjudication can aid water management

If you read Laurie Gage’s recent pro AB 2453 water district Viewpoint (Oct. 19), you may have been as bemused as I was. In the opinion piece, Gage argues that adjudication is not an appropriate basin management tool. Ms. Gage, recent legislation excludes adjudicated basins from state management and adjudication has been successfully used statewide for many years in multiple basins. According to Gage, an untested, risky water management district, crafted in backroom secrecy with broad powers to tax and regulate with no accountability, is appropriate.

Adjudication is not a mysterious legal process pitting neighbor against neighbor or landowner against municipalities. Adjudication occurs when California groundwater users ask the courts to settle groundwater rights consistent with maintaining the long-term sustainability of the basin. Yes, Ms. Gage, adjudication will entail the use of expert scientific studies to determine the exact boundaries and safe yield of the basin.

The court has an obligation to follow the law. California Constitution Article 10 section 2 protects the basin, while at the same time it requires the maximum possible use. The long-term health of the basin is the key objective. Simply put, property owners can withdraw groundwater for reasonable use as long as they do not damage the basin or harm their neighbors.

We need to remember that the water issues the Paso Robles groundwater basin is facing are nothing new to California. After all, “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting” has been a well-known mantra for years.

The California Constitution was written well over a century ago, and case law has evolved over the past 100 years to deal with and settle these issues in a legal and equitable fashion. The law is clear, and legal experts, including Eric Garner, legal counsel for the city of Paso Robles, agree that groundwater basin management by adjudication is the highest form of basin management.

Ah, but therein lies the rub. What PRAAGS/PWE (Paso Robles Ag Alliance for Groundwater Solutions/Pro Water Equity), county and municipal pumpers want is not permissible under the current law.

Ms. Gage, please be honest about the real reason that you are not a proponent of adjudication. The truth is that adjudication of the Paso Robles groundwater basin will likely result in the inability of private investors to make money off commercial exploitation of the groundwater. Some of the PRAAGS/PWE board members represent private investors.

Gage correctly points out that even a number of adjudicated basins are on the watch list. Perhaps it has escaped Gage’s notice, but we are in an unprecedented drought. No basin is exempt from nature. Where I disagree with Gage is the answer to the question: When we finally emerge from this drought crisis, will our water rights be intact? Gage and her small coterie apparently don’t care. POWR (Protect Our Water Rights) members are only asking that the law be followed and our rights be upheld in management of the basin!

Finally, I was very surprised to see Gage in favor of “developing sources of supplemental water.” Supplemental water from the state Water Project is the top source suggested. There is no supplemental water in the state.

State water project water is five times over-allocated and over-sold. Entering the state water game will hurt landowners, city residents and cities alike. The entities who will benefit by bringing nonexistent “state water” into the PRGWB will be the water brokers who will take “it” out and sell our precious resource elsewhere.

Once again, Ms. Gage, you are showing your hand. Paso Robles voted years ago to stay off state water, and I affirm their choice.