In his recent letter to the editor, Mr. Stuart Smith expressed his views on Measure C, the Oak Woodland Initiative. He wrote the initiative discriminates against “an entire group of stakeholders” and “is anti-agriculture in a right-to-farm county.” He accuses Measure C supporters of trying to seize the watershed rights of others, so they can have more water themselves.
Here are some facts:
-In California, according to the California Department of Water Resources, agriculture uses 80 percent of the state’s water.
-According to a recent Napa County Ground Water Report to the State, the Napa Valley subbasin has an annual sustainable yield of between 17,000 to 20,000 acre-feet of groundwater. During the recent drought, groundwater pumping averaged about 17,506 acre-feet. Vineyards accounted for pumping 12,263 acre-feet of the water and municipalities 317 acre-feet. It is important to note that the county’s groundwater report did not include the Coombsville, Carneros or hillside areas, where many of the area’s groundwater problems have been reported. The fact is, we don’t know how much water the hillside vineyards are currently pumping.
-In St. Helena, there are about 2,600 water customers with an annual sustainable yield of 1,950 acre-foot of water. Eleven winery water customers are allocated almost 19 percent of the sustainable yield. (From a customer standpoint, 11 winery customers represent .005 percent of the total water customers, yet the 11 wineries are allocated nearly 19 percent of the water.
-In 2012, St. Helena passed a moratorium prohibiting residential customers from drilling any new water wells, while agricultural and commercial customers can continue to drill as many wells as needed.
-A recent appellate court decision in San Juan Capistrano now provides protection for all large water customers regardless of the quantity of water purchased. According to the court case decision, vineyards and wineries can consume as much water as they desire and obtain all their water at the same price residents pay for their water. Yet, businesses are able to write off the cost of their water, an option residential customers do not have.
In his letter, Mr. Stuart writes: “If a great financial burden is to be borne for the good of the community, shouldn’t we all bear this burden?” I would submit, we are bearing the burden. I would also ask: How much more do you want?