Thursday, June 27, 2024

Summer 2024 Update

Another TWD Election is Coming

There will be another Tuscan Water District election, mostly likely in February 2025.

Like last December's election, voting power will be based on the value of land owned, which in our opinion renders it unfair and undemocratic from the get-go. 


Because the California constitution requires a 2/3 majority to approve the kind of new tax assessment Tuscan Water District is requesting, the path toward victory this time is somewhat narrower.

It remains a possibility that the ag community itself will balk at raising its own fixed costs.

Nut prices are depressed and the orchard economy is already under a lot of strain. From the beginning of the TWD saga, we have argued that it represents big ag interests preying upon the vulnerability and panic of smaller family growers. The new water district, with cooperation from a County government dominated by ag-industry interests, is promising them that expensive and scientifically dubious recharge infrastructure will protect them from eventual State of California metering of wells in order to slow the decline of the aquifer.

Our group is well positioned to make the case publicly, once again, that TWD cannot keep those promises, and that behind closed doors it is actually a water grab on behalf of those farms with the most extensive water rights.

Will the residents and smaller growers dependent on at-risk shallower wells heed the warning? All we can do is make the case, once again. And we will.

Public Meetings

This summer our crew is keeping tabs on the public-facing aspects of local water politics by attending meetings of the Tuscan Water District, the Vina Groundwater Sustainability Agency, the Butte County Water Commission, and (as relevant) the Butte County Board of Supervisors. 

The Vina Groundwater Sustainability Agency's 2022 Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), already approved by the State, states quite openly that the water table will be allowed to drop to unprecedented lows, and 20% of monitoring wells allowed to fail, before the County must take any action to reverse the damage.

Even in its approval document of the Vina GSP, the State Department of Water Resources issued this caveat:

"The GSA does not access how the proposed minimum thresholds for the chronic lowering of groundwater levels may impact other sustainability indicators (e.g., groundwater storage, depletion of interconnected surface water, etc.). Considering the GSA is choosing to manage the Subbasin below historic lows (italics are ours - ed.), understanding this relationship will be important during plan implementation."

You don't say! We'd love to understand why the Vina GSP is "choosing to manage the Subbasin below historic lows." Perhaps nothing is being said about this elephant in the room at every water-related meeting because AquAlliance sued the Vina GSA (and other agencies) over this and the case is making its way through court.

One thing we have observed is that the key players determining Butte County's water future are mostly a handful of the same faces, same consultants, through the years. Unlike us, they are paid to be there. They smile at us when we show up. They express the warmest welcomes even though we were on TV last fall accusing them of selling out democracy and the public's vital interest in the aquifer.

We play along. We collect the agendas. We compare notes. We believe most of the people we're observing really mean well. But the devil is always in the details.

Butte County Recharge Action Plan

Butte County has adopted a set of policies and ideas to encourage and enhance groundwater recharge in wet years. G4B has asked to be present at the Butte County Department of Water Resources and Conservation meetings this summer where projects will be prioritized for funding.

As things stand, those choices are due to be made with input heavily weighted toward the private industry association that has driven and funded the Tuscan Water District’s establishment, and from the same consulting firm that put together the Vina GSP.

G4B generally supports locally-managed, low-cost strategies to help nature recharge the aquifer during wet years. But we find the Recharge Action Plan rather long on hopes and short on details. The science is also shaky on whether artificial recharge is even worth attempting. Underground flows are only vaguely understood, and water recharged in Butte County’s foothills tends to seep southwestward to the proliferating deep wells of Glenn and Colusa Counties.

As money begins to flow into these experimental recharge projects, consultants, construction interests, and political actors in league with them will all want us to believe they are solving the problem. If it turns out that the “recharge” projects Butte County focuses on are mostly just a gravy train powered by wishful thinking, we’ll  be the ones to say so.

But for now, we're hoping to help steer the process toward less expensive ideas that do not require higher property taxes or concentrated private power over the aquifer.


Do you have time to help us keep local officials honest?

We would welcome more citizen watchdog helpers. Going forward, a community brain trust of seasoned water defenders will be essential. It should be clear to all by now that in an era of virtually unrestricted political campaign donations by business interests, the public interest can only be safeguarded by an engaged citizenry.

Up until now, local compliance with the State of California's 2014 Groundwater Management Act process' has been oriented toward organized business interests, with domestic well owners, creek and valley-oak ecosystems, and the long-term viability of the aquifer secondary. 

Contact us at info@groundwaterforbutte.org to volunteer.

Donate here to our fund for media buys and public education leading up to the election.

Please consider doing your own part to ensure that our leaders know they will be held accountable, now and 10 years from now, for the actions they take regarding our groundwater.


We oppose the formation of the Tuscan Water District and demand that Butte County officials step up to their responsibilities under State law. The groundwater belongs to the public and must be managed transparently by publicly elected authorities - not privatized as a "water bank."  

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