Board approves emergency water rules as Brown promotes tunnels and fracking

By Dan Bacher | July 19, 2014 | As the State Water Resources Control Board approved new emergency regulations to fine residential “wat...

By Dan Bacher | July 19, 2014 |

As the State Water Resources Control Board approved new emergency regulations to fine residential “water hogs” up to $500 a day, Californians Against Fracking urged Governor Jerry Brown to ban the environmentally destructive, water intensive oil drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”

A dozen activists rallied outside of the EPA building in Sacramento where the regulations were approved. They held signs including, “When in Drought Ban Fracking,” “You Can’t Have Your Water and Frack It Too,” and “Save Our Water: Ban Fracking.”

“It’s critical to California’s future that we conserve water in the face of the serious drought,” according to a statement from Californians Against Fracking. “If the Governor and the State Water Board are really serious about protecting California’s water supplies, the Governor needs to ban fracking and similar methods. These techniques permanently poison and remove millions of gallons of water from the water cycle. If the Governor stops fracking, not only will he save Californians’ water from being wasted during this historic drought, but he’ll also protect their health and climate as well.”

“Big Oil is one of the state’s largest and dirtiest water users,” the group said. “If Gov. Jerry Brown wants to lead on climate change and effectively address our dwindling water supplies, he must ban fracking to protect and conserve water in California.”

Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of environmental, business, health, agriculture, labor, political, and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking in California.

The Board approved emergency regulations Tuesday that would allow water agencies to ask courts to impose a maximum $500-a-day fine on water wasters. On the same day, data released by the state revealed that water use statewide has increased 1 percent over the past three years, in spite of calls by Governor Jerry Brown for Californians to slash water use by 20 percent during the drought.

“The new conservation regulation is intended to reduce outdoor urban water use,” according to a statement from the Board. “The regulation, adopted by the State Water Board, mandates minimum actions to conserve water supplies both for this year and into 2015. Most Californians use more water outdoors than indoors. In some areas, 50 percent or more of daily water use is for lawns and outdoor landscaping.”

State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus said, “We are facing the worst drought impact that we or our grandparents have ever seen. And, more important, we have no idea when it will end. This drought’s impacts are being felt by communities all over California. Fields are fallowed; communities are running out of water, fish and wildlife will be devastated.

The least that urban Californians can do is to not waste water on outdoor uses. It is in their self-interest to conserve more, now, to avoid far more harsh restrictions, if the drought lasts into the future. These regulations are meant to spark awareness of the seriousness of the situation, and could be expanded if the drought wears on and people do not act.”

Ironically, the Board approved the regulations after a drought year, 2013, when the state and federal governments drained Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs to export water to “corporate water hogs” including corporate agribusiness interests farming toxic, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies, and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injections in Kern County. None of these “water hogs” were fined for draining northern California reservoirs to abysmally low levels – and leaving little carryover storage for 2014.

Even more ironically, the same Brown administration that supports fining residential “water hogs” is fast-tracking the biggest and most environmentally devastating public works project in California history, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels under the California Delta. The tunnels won’t create one drop of new water, but they will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species. The project will also imperil the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

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