Top local water officials gathered on Wednesday at Fresno State to do their part in the fourth annual “Imagine a Day Without Water” event.
The event is a nationwide effort at education. No one doubts that water is indispensable to life. But American civilization for the most part has reached a stage where consumers take water – clean and reliable – for granted. It always comes out of the tap when we need it. Therefore, it always will.
That’s not true. And that’s why the event – at least Fresno’s version of it – might more accurately be titled “Imagine a Time Without a Modern Infrastructure to Deliver Water to All of Society’s Customers in a Timely and Reliable Manner.”
I know – that’s a mouthful. But that was the message from Wednesday’s speakers.
I’ll give you a sense of that message by letting the officials speak for themselves. Part of the message is in their words. Another part of the message is who they are and the institutions they represent.
There was City of Fresno Communications Director Mark Standriff, who spoke on behalf of Mayor Lee Brand.
Standriff was followed by Michael Carbajal, Fresno’s Director of Public Utilities. Next up was Tommy Esquesda, Fresno State’s Associate Vice President for Water and Sustainability (and, until recently, Fresno’s DPU director). Esqueda was followed by Ryan Jacobsen, Chief Executive/Executive Director at the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Kassy Chauhan, Senior Engineer with the California Water Resources Control Board and a long-time ally to the Central Valley on all things water, provided the concluding remarks. Everything was addressed to reporters who would spread the word to a public that couldn’t be there.
The management responsibility of City Hall; the innovation responsibility of Fresno State; the free market responsibility of agribusiness; the regulatory responsibility of the state; the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) responsibility of reporters; the ultimate responsibility of The Sovereign People.
Get it? We’ve all got to work together if we are to avoid that day (or longer) without water.
STANDRIFF: “This is a nationwide day of education and advocacy about the value of water and the need to provide a reliable water supply. Hundreds of organizations around the country are going to events just like this, aimed at raising awareness of crucial need for investment in our nation’s water infrastructure. As most of you hopefully know, the City of Fresno has already done its part. It has recently completed the very successful $600 million water infrastructure project called Project Fresno…. But that plan went only so far. There is more for us to do.”
CARBAJAL “Amazingly, in many places access to water is taken for granted. People turn the tap on without having to think about what it takes to bring safe, healthy water to their tap. But that’s not the case here in the Central Valley. For decades we’ve watched our groundwater supplies lower at an alarming rate. We’ve watched our residents make conservation a way of life. And we’ve witnessed our neighboring communities run out of water and be forced to bring in temporary supplies for bathing, cooking, flushing and all the daily activities that healthy, thriving communities depend on. We don’t have to imagine a day without water because we’ve seen it. Fortunately, our city put a stake in the ground several years ago, committing to stop our overuse of groundwater and making sure our residents and businesses can count on having safe, reliable and drought-proof supplies of water…. (Recharge Fresno) establishes a bright future for generations to come.”
CARBAJAL II: “Much has been accomplished, but at the same time much remains to be done.”
CARBAJAL III: “It’s our job (at City Hall) to think about water supply every day and around the clock. There’s no time to rest on accomplishments. Instead, we need to continually plan and put systems in place to ensure that 1,800 miles of water mains, 250 wells, water treatment facilities and the technologies and people are equipped and able to deliver 108 million gallons of water every day without interruption. By continuing to focus on the role of clean, safe water to vibrant communities, and taking the steps to make sure we don’t fall behind, Fresno will continue to stand out as an example of a responsible City that won’t ever have to imagine a day without water.”
ESQUEDA, “I would like to start by recognizing the City of Fresno and the work that they have done for their residents to not have to imagine a day without water. It’s unfortunate, but not too far from this campus there are going to be families that are going to be thinking about what’s their strategy for water tomorrow. Are they going to go get bottled water? Are they going to get it delivered? Are they going to do something of that nature? They are living a day without water. At Fresno State, we are very focused on trying to helping those agencies be a good, strong partner with the City of Fresno, build on the lessons that they have learned, build on the infrastructure and technology and training that they developed for themselves and bring that knowledge to other utilities, small utilities, disadvantaged communities, rural communities that struggle with water supply every day. So, that’s a very key focus for us as we go forward – working with those agencies to solve that problem. That is a problem to be solved and we are going to work every day on that.”
JACOBSEN: “We don’t have agriculture without water… Water is the fuel for our local agricultural industry, our economic engine that drives this region. Through droughts and floods and everything in between, the precipitation that falls on this state and how it’s determined where it goes helps to decide the fate of this region. The lack of a reliable water supply over the last decade has cost this region billions in economic activity, agricultural production and, most importantly, those jobs that we rely upon. Every day, millions and millions of consumers throughout this nation and throughout this world are enjoying products that are grown on these neighboring farms right here in our back yard.”
JACOBSEN II: “Our crop per drop has increased dramatically since the 1970s.”
JACOBSEN III (He prefaced the following comments with praise for earlier generations of Californians that built the state’s great system of dams and canals): “However, we cannot continue to live off of this aging infrastructure. We need to invest back into it. We need to build additional infrastructure…. We need more reservoirs, including right here in our backyard Temperance Flat. We need additional and better conveyance systems throughout the state. We need a balancing between human needs and environmental needs – a responsible balancing of it. Central Valley agriculture is critical to this nation’s well being, and every single penny that we invest is incredibly important. I, for one, cannot imagine this Valley without water. It’s hard to believe our economy without water. It’s hard to believe anything taking place in this Valley without water.”
CHAUHAN: (she noted that more than 90 water systems in the Central Valley, many of them small in scale and serving rural, often disadvantaged communities, are out of compliance with water quality rules. A chemical used long ago in some farming operations and found as a residue in our aquifer system – 1,2,3-TCP – is the main problem): “We are working tirelessly with those communities to mitigate their water quality contamination issues…. There is water flowing but it is not meeting the drinking water standards. And because of that, there are public health concerns associated with it…. We recognize that is a challenge for the Central Valley.”
Standriff was the event’s master of ceremonies. I headed for home with six of his words ringing in my ears: “Conservation is a way of life.”