Unfortunately, discussions with Shasta County Supervisors Moty and Baugh regarding the need to better manage the approval and pumping of new agricultural wells (ag wells) within the county failed to result in any effective action.
Rather than implementing common-sense measures intended to protect our aquifer from over-pumping and needless damage to existing domestic wells, county officials have chosen the ‘wait and see’ approach.
Supervisor Moty advised it’s better to wait until a problem develops and then hold an “emergency meeting” to decide what to do.
Frankly, I expected more.
Sitting back and waiting for a problem to develop, which might have lasting impacts on our fresh water supply, is neither smart nor in the long-term interests of county residents. By then, it’ll likely be too late.
Just ask the folks down in the Central Valley where aquifers have been emptied by over-pumping, are collapsing, and may never completely refill. In hindsight, I suspect they now wish they had taken common sense measures long ago to protect their aquifer.
So, in a nut shell, here’s where we stand here in Shasta County.
Presently, all that’s needed to secure an ag well drilling permit is property agriculturally zoned and the funds necessary to pay the permit fee. Once approved and the well placed in operation, there are no limitations placed upon the volume of water pumped from the aquifer. The only exception is that it cannot be exported off the property.
That’s it. Dig a well and feel free to pump away until the cows come home.
Allowing unregulated pumping of ag wells appears contrary to demands for all of us to reduce our consumption of water today. So, why the mixed message? Why not some common sense measures to ensure our basin remains healthy and full indefinitely? Why wait until a crises develops to do something?
Surely, immediate action is required to strengthen the current ag well drilling permit application process.
It must contain, at a minimum, a mandatory, comprehensive assessment to identify all potential impacts of any newly proposed ag well, well owner liability for any negative impact to nearby domestic wells and authority permitting the county to limit the volume of groundwater extraction by ag wells as determined appropriate given noted impact to neighboring domestic wells and the basin in general.
Currently, none of these controls exist today.
A copy of the Tehama County Aquifer Protection ordinance was provided to county supervisors as an example of what has already been accomplished to better protect their groundwater supply and existing wells. See it at www.municode.com/library/ca/tehama_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT9HESA_CH9.40AQPR
Folks, delay is not an option.
The drought may continue with no end in sight. Demand for water will only increase commensurate with expected population growth. And, large growers can be expected to look northward to places like Shasta County for new supplies of water no longer available to our south where ground levels are sinking due to deep well drilling and long existing residential wells are going dry.
Your help is needed.
Please take time now to communicate directly with Shasta County supervisors. Tell them our aquifer and existing domestic wells need to be protected from over-pumping by new ag wells. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, call them at (530) 225-5557, fax them at (530) 225-5189, or send a letter to Shasta County Board of Supervisors, 1450, Court Street, Suite 308B, Redding, CA 96001-1673.
Dare I Say, county supervisors appear ready to gamble with your access to fresh water in the future. Are you?