Water use and profit in the vineyards, state declares another drought year

California will have another year of drought. We continue to devastate our watersheds by cutting down trees that refresh our dwindling aquifers. And all for a few more acres of wine grapes. From the northern coastal forest, think Dogwood and now German south to Napa and Walt Ranch and boutique resorts to Angwin, supervisors and government officials from both Sonoma and Napa are approving the destruction of our watersheds. Low water quality in Napa is a reality as we have reported previously Napa (29 an Flint 20) is not far from Flint Michigan in ratings. Water means profit and the environment gets no credit for all the services it provides all of us……for free.

Right now both county’s are filling panel positions for the Groundwater Sustainability Act (GSA) without diversity of water users and science based decision making.

This panel must be completed in all counties by June 30, 2107. A few of their enormous powers are the ability to regulate water extractions, set well spacing standards, call for studies, implement capital projects, have imminent domain powers, assess fees on all water users to cover costs, require extraction reports. In other words, dictate our water use and who gets it. In Sonoma County the Board of Supervisors (BoS) and the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) are taking the lead. So far only one small mutual company has been invited to the panel with elected holding most of power on the panel.

cchangeNo independent hydrologists, biologists, geologists or well owner representation have been approved. No technical panels with powers to make the appointees use science over politics have been formed. The wine industries formerly tried to get on all panels in Sonoma County but were rebuffed by the state. This will be the back door for control of water if diversity of stakeholders and science are not made part of the equation. As PRSC says about their influence, “Your neighbor winery will have more rights than you.” WWW will post sample letters and bullets for talking points on their website shortly. We all need to send letters to the BoS, City officials and SCWA to get full representation of our community and enforce science to be part of all decision making for generations to come. This is a big one folks!

According to the Sonoma County Agriculture Crop Report online, water use has greatly increased corporate wine profits. Vines were not watered prior to 1970 when we had 12,597 acres of vineyards producing an average of 2.37 tons per acre and were paid and average of $255.70 per ton. By 1990 we had 33,164 acres planted and tons per acre were 3.80 with the average ton getting $1,004.30.  Shoot forward to 2014 with 62,650 acres of wine grapes producing 4.39 tons per acre and prices rising to average $2,319 per ton. Pinot grapes get around $4,000 a ton. No wonder our coastal areas, which are prime pinot growing climates are under corporate threat.

Our water belong to all of us. If the drought continues, who will pay the price for the enormous amounts of water used in the vineyards? Please write your supervisors now and insist everyone be represented and all decisions are based on science and not politics as usual!