People hardly ever think about a "water
agency" because when people turn on the tap, water
comes out. That's about it. We rarely even wonder where
our water comes from let alone who is regulating and managing
it. And you know what? Water agencies like this anonymity
Well, if you only knew . . . .
Back in 2001, Janet Wells wrote a fascinating
article for the Bohemian called "Ripple
Effect: Welcome to the byzantine world of north bay water
politics". This article is a brilliant introduction
to the unsupervised, nearly omnipotent power of the SCWA.
Wells says that the Sonoma
County Water Agency (SCWA) operates with virtually
no oversight or public scrutiny. For example, she states, " Interestingly,
in 1961--the year before the Warm Springs Dam project
was approved by Congress--the water agency's board won
the right to authorize revenue bonds in any amount without
a vote of the people, giving the agency an avenue for
financing projects without having to kowtow to public
approval." This is a remarkable behind-the-scenes
County's Board of Supervisors also sit as the Board
of Directors of the Sonoma County Water Agency. I know.
It sounds impossible, but it's true. This incestuous
relationship means that growth, urban sprawl, water resources,
land use, and open space are decided by five people who
never have to consult the public. Oh yes, the Board of
Supervisors are also the Board of the Open Space District.
Sonoma County's cities are trapped in
a vicious circle of creating urban sprawl to get out of
debt, but these massive building projects create further
debt because cities become over-extended and are forced
to provide more services to larger populations. City authorities
then ramp up for yet more development projects that create
more urban sprawl hoping to get out of the last round of
debt, and so on ad nauseam. Obviously, developers, contractors
and land speculators encourage all this irresponsible sprawl.
Unfortunately, the only direction that
cities can possibly build is out and inevitably urban sprawl
destroys open space and agricultural land. By covering
up groundwater recharge lands and then populating this
land with enormous numbers of water consumers, cities also
deplete groundwater resources.
Urban sprawl requires water, lots of it.The
vast shopping malls and airport-hanger sized Home Depots
and Costcos cannot exist without vast amounts of water.
The people who move into vast housing developments use
vast amounts of water too. But the asphalt driveways and
parking lots prevent winter rains from filling up the underground
So you might wonder, why does all the
building continue? With studies revealing water overdrafts,
groundwater depletion and numerous dry wells across Sonoma
County, you might think that authorities would demand that
building be balanced with water availability. Everything
hinges on the availability of water. Well, this is exactly
why water has remained such a "secret" and why
you probably have never heard of the water agency. All
the water in reservoirs, in rivers and under the ground
is earmarked for more growth. That's why they tell you
to conserve water. That's why we have low-flow toilets;
everything is geared to created more urban sprawl.
Read Janet Wells' article "Ripple