Wednesday, May 02, 2007

El Dorado Water

The growth in the surrounding area impacts all of us in the region when water is in short supply, which it is after this dry year and as Twain said [probably while in a bar in El Dorado] "In California whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.”

Editorial: Looming water fight
El Dorado prepares to challenge Sacramento
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, May 2, 2007

El Dorado County officials are looking downhill to Sacramento for water to shore up a local supply needed to sustain the subdivisions, ranchettes, vineyards and apple orchards. Why Sacramento? The capital city and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District have long been using a supply of American River water that originates in El Dorado County. SMUD captures the water in a series of dams to produce electricity.

Then once downstream, Sacramentans pump it and drink it (or their lawns do). The arrangement is all down on paper in water rights claims. But El Dorado governments are beginning to set aside hundreds of thousands of dollars to challenge these water rights. This could be the region's biggest water fight in the years ahead unless the two sides can find that elusive compromise -- or the water from somebody else.

El Dorado's water strategy is to test a body of law that will be increasingly important for counties in the Sierra Nevada that have more water than water rights and need more water than they have rights to. Various statutes dating back to the 1930s have given "areas of origin" the opening to apply to use water that had been going to downstream users. The laws were a political response to the construction of the mammoth water projects in California, the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project, that constructed dams in the Sierra and Cascade ranges and then moved the water hundreds of miles to farms and cities via rivers, pumps and aqueducts. But is this a slam-dunk case for El Dorado? Hardly. As one legal analysis put it, there is uncertainty "due to the lack of clarity to the statutes themselves and the lack of judicial decisions interpreting them."