President’s Message

Is Man-made Water Storage a Good Thing?

President George Hollister

Is it OK to say that man-made water storage is a good thing?  Good for people, and good for the environment?  Water storage includes everything from 3,000-gallon water tanks to spring fed ponds, to off stream reservoirs, and in stream lakes created with dams.  They’re all good.  After the last 25 years where anything looking like a man-made pond or lake has been vilified as being bad for the environment, we see exactly the opposite.  A drought can do that.  Now we see it would be a benefit, to all, to invest in more  storage.

Where would the Russian River, and the upper reaches of the Eel River, be without Scott Dam and Lake Pillsbury?  Where would the upper Russian River be without Lake Mendocino?  Where would Dry Creek and the Lower Russian River be without Lake Sonoma?  The answer is dry, or at least close to dry. 

Water storage projects capture water resources in times of plenty and improve water security for multiple uses when drought conditions occur.  Too often, during low water years, agricultural water use becomes the scapegoat for accusations of water waste. Priorities for stored water are put in place for public health/safety.  It is easier to reduce supply to a single economic industry than it is to convince the multitudes that their lawns staying green truly isn’t a benefit to the public health cause.

In relation to environmental in stream uses, water does not by itself define what fish habitat is, but fish do need water.  And increasingly what we see is fish depending on stored water, like many other two or four legged creatures, for survival.   Farm Bureau encourages our local, state and federal leadership to focus current drought relief efforts on multi-benefit projects, like increased storage, that can address the water needs for agricultural, municipal, environmental, recreational and fire suppression purposes.

Hopefully, the larger message on the need for more water storage gets through to the voting majority urban, and suburban public who are sure the tap is the source of their water.  And to our elected leaders who are sure that the solution to a water shortage can be addressed by solely making water use more efficient.  Efficiency as a strategy works until you run out.

In Comptche, we have many privately owned ponds.  Most are spring fed; some are in stream. As this drought year progresses, it will be these ponds that provide water in the case of a fire.  It will be these ponds that provide the only habitat for many aquatic species, and a source of drinking water for many more of our diverse native fauna.  We have been told by some state resource agencies that these ponds are a bad thing.  For the people in my neighborhood, and around Mendocino County, please explain again why this is true.