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“Give me water or give me death”

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The drought is worsening across California. Here in Napa, the reservoirs are low and the state has said they’d only supply 5% of the water they planned to deliver to Napa’s cities from the State Water Project. The cities are responding by asking for citizens to deepen their cuts to water usage. As I write this, American Canyon, whose only water source is the state pipeline, is cutting back residential (“health and safety”) use by 20%, giving it priority over commercial uses and promises deeper cuts.

Recently, the city of Napa acted to reduce the amount of water to be made available for trucking to residences and “interruptible” Ag users outside the city in the county. This makes sense for the city but exposes county residents with dry wells to a health disaster. To date, the county hasn’t acted in response to the public health problem but only talks of the gazillion gallons of water in the valley floor (sub-basin) and the need to maintain its “sustainability.”

There is no action regarding all those who live in the watershed hills whose wells are drying. For those of us living in the hills, it is hard to describe the unease of wondering just how much water we have in our well.

Ultimately this is all about fair sharing. Therefore, the county and municipal governments need to act together to coordinate sharing to deal with this public health emergency-the best place for that planning would seem to be the Flood Control District, the only agency where all constituencies are represented: cities and county.

For starters, I recommend that the county purchase some of the water conveyed by the state pipeline and contract with Napa city to treat it and transport it to specified hydrants for trucking to needy county residents. Difficult? Never been done? Well, now is the time to act as was done to vaccinate most of the population against the pandemic. This is a public health emergency and needs to be dealt with as such.

As the drought tightens it makes sense that the cities begin to tap into the groundwater sub-basin that has traditionally been reserved for Ag. Difficult? Never been done? Well, now is the time to act. After all, the Water Code as Section 106.3, the state statutorily recognizes that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.”

At some point, there will not be enough water for all of us, our visitors, and industry. Isn’t it time to place a hold on development of new housing and hotel projects? Longer-term fixes will involve metering all water use in the county and increased use of recycled water. We need cooperation and coordination to provide some measure of water security to all of our residents.

Daniel Mufson

Napa

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