Local versus regional control…(what is the watershed area?)

by David Zetland

 Local versus regional control

In response to this:

“The public sector is often better at handling inter-agency cooperation and the private sector is often better at delivering cost-effective, measured results. In either case, the local government plays the most important role as it needs to oversee and regulate all players. Poor regulation can lead to bad results, regardless if projects are done through the private or public route.” Zetland interview with BNamericas [PDF].

Jim Brobeck of AquAlliance sent this example:

The concept of local control is being touted in the creation of the Northern Sacramento Valley Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (NSVIRWM). Individual counties are the units of local control that are considered. The “local control” ideology is preventing the regional counties from devising a regional plan to manage export/transfer/sale of water. Counties and irrigation districts all have different groundwater management plans.

The Tuscan Aquifer System is a complex multi-layered high production basin that is located under 4 different counties. Two of these counties (Butte & Tehama) are located on the upgradient side of the system where it is thought most of the recharge occurs and there is GW interaction with streams and vegetation. The other two (Glenn & Colusa) are perched above the deepest portion of the semi-confined system. While members of irrigation districts comprise about 1% of the regional population they weild a disproportionate measure of political power, particularly in Glenn and Colusa. Butte has a Groundwater Transfer management ordinance that has discouraged GWS transfers using wells in the county. Glenn Colusa Irrigation District, adjacent to Butte, is moving ahead with GWS transfer/sales using wells 1-2 miles west of Butte that tap the shared aquifer with 700-1000′ deep wells. DWR and USBR seem to appreciate the inability of the region to come up with a plan to regulate the basin as a whole and allows management on the “sub-inventory unit” (political rather than geological boundaries).

The irrigation districts are well funded with state/federal grants and with the economic prowess that comes with river diversion water rights. Butte County (which has a dept. of water and resource conservation) is stretched thin fiscally as are NGO advocacy groups.
My point is that local control absent regional/state/federal regulations can sap regional resources.

Regions that are rich in natural resources often seem to be chronically economically depressed with a hierarchy of oligarchs that control the resources. Paying off a small (rich) local family is cheaper than spreading wealth evenly. Rice farmers in irrigation districts comprise about 1% of the population but control most of the water used. In the Sierra/Cascade east of the basin most of the private timber land is owned by one family (Red Emmerson: Sierra Pacific Industries). This allows exploitation to occur by outside investors in a cost effective manner.

I agree with Jim, since I define “local” as the watershed, i.e., how he’s using “regional.”