SCWC often submits Opinion Editorials to publications across the state in order to maintain an active role in the statewide dialogue on critical water issues. In this section, you’ll find a chronological archive of SCWC Opinion Editorials.
California Residents and Businesses Need Safe Water Supply
San Fernando Valley Buisness Journal
By: Rich Atwater
The recent spell of minor earthquakes in Southern California and the hundreds of aftershocks that have followed highlight the risks involved in living in a seismically active area. The timing could not be more appropriate – April is Earthquake Preparedness Month in California. As families and businesses are reminded to create disaster plans and build earthquake kits, we should also remember just how badly our state’s water supply needs earthquake-proofing.
As it stands, Southern California’s major source of fresh water is extremely vulnerable to earthquake damage. About 30% of Southern California’s water supply, including here in the San Fernando Valley, comes from snow melt that flows through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta), the hub of the state’s water delivery system. But the only thing separating the fresh water in the Delta from the salt water in the San Francisco Bay is a system of 100-year-old dirt levees. This antiquated system is not fit for protecting this critical water source that supplies water to two-thirds of the state.
California’s Water Supply: Seismic Retrofit Needed
Los Angeles Daily News
By: Rich Atwater
Posted: April 10, 2014
Earthquakes have been shaking things up around the Southland, reminding long-term residents and transplants alike that we live in an earthquake-prone region and that a devastating quake could strike at any time.
While scientists say a major quake is inevitable, we as a state are woefully unprepared for the next disaster.
Nowhere is this more evident than in our water supply. The hub of our state’s water supply is protected by a series of 100-year-old dirt levees that have grown dangerously fragile over time and are increasingly vulnerable to a major quake.
Since these levees were built, we have put a man on the moon, invented the Internet, cell phones and global positioning systems. Yet this critical source of water is still safeguarded by century-old levees literally made out of dirt and sand.
A “First” Not Worth Striving For
Fox & Hounds
By: Peter S. Silva, PE and Richard Atwater
Posted: October 11, 2013
There’s usually very little argument that striving to be “the first” is something worth aspiring to. The United States took tremendous pride in being the first to walk on the moon. And California routinely trumpets being the first in many things, from banning smoking in restaurants to enacting environmental protections. However, California is running down a path to be the “first” to set a standard in water quality that could easily place it last among the other 49 states.
In its quest to be the first to set a standard for hexavalent chromium, also known as Chromium 6, California, unlike the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), is using outdated science. This approach has serious consequences that could easily spread beyond California’s boarders, posing new hazards and trade-offs never seen before in the advancement of safe drinking water.
Proposed Limit For Chromium-6 Is Not Balanced
By: Jim Barrett
Posted: October 3, 2013 12:00 AM PST
The Coachella Valley Water District’s primary mission is to provide safe, high-quality drinking water at a reasonable cost to more than 300,000 residents of the Coachella Valley. The agency has been meeting that goal for decades through highly trained staff, dedication to the community, sound water management decisions and a natural drinking water source that has required almost no treatment.
The California Department of Public Health has recently proposed a drinking water standard of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for chromium-6 and, if adopted, would be the first in the nation. Chromium-6 is naturally occurring in local groundwater due to the erosion of rock and sand found in the Coachella Valley and adjacent mountains, and not as a result of industrial sources.
Atwater: Tribal water rights suits lead to costly courtroom battles
By: Richard Atwater
Posted: August 28, 2013 12:00 AM PST
On summer weekends, the Truckee River is a favorite spot for vacationers, rafters, bike riders and anglers chasing the elusive trout plying its fresh, clear water.
Most are unaware that this 120-mile river in Northern California and western Nevada has been ground zero in a long-running and costly fight over tribal water rights.
The U.S. government filed the first lawsuit seeking surface water rights for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indians in 1913. Since then, several generations of lawyers have waged legal battles over the Truckee River water rights, and the matter’s still not resolved. The latest resolution awaits congressional action.
This case and many others like it serve as a cautionary tale for the Coachella Valley since the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians sued the Desert Water Agency (DWA) and Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) over water rights and groundwater management in May.
Guest Column: Expanding local water supplies with stormwater
Fact: Southern Californians conserve more water per capita than any other region in the state. Forget about the visions of swimming pools and golf courses — we are leaders in water conservation.
But there is more to making the most of water supplies than using less. We also need to capture more.
Stormwater — a fancy word for the rain pouring outside — is a local water supply that we can make better use of by capturing it before it runs through our streets and out to the ocean. We need to capture it, save it and use it when we go through dry spells.
Water resource managers, conservation groups, local governments and leading engineers throughout typically parched Southern California know how to make the most of what we’ve got when it comes to our water supply.
Wilson: It's time for action on Delta proposal
Ventura County Star
By Charles Wilson
Posted: 09/22/2012 3:00 PM PST
Southern Californians know that a big quake here would be devastating, but they should also know that a quake 400 miles away would take a toll on the whole state.
The hub of California's water supply lies just east of San Francisco, and it's a disaster waiting to happen. That's the bad news. The good news is that a plan is advancing to protect against that disaster — the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
We've been repeatedly warned by leading scientists, engineers, water managers and other experts that a significant portion of the state's water supply could be wiped out for months if a major earthquake strikes Northern California.
Valley Voice: Shore up California water supply before major earthquake hits
By Richard Atwater, Steve Robbins and David K Luker
Posted: 03/26/2012 12:32:21 AM PDT
As Californians, we're all keenly aware of the “Big One” that's looming.
We imagine that most local residents consider the potential impact of an earthquake in their community. So we buy earthquake kits, flashlights, bottled water, extra canned food for our homes — we take action to prepare.
And we imagine most people expect those who manage our state's infrastructure and other public services also take the necessary steps to prepare for a major earthquake. In many ways, California is ahead of the game. Billions of dollars have been spent to retrofit bridges, highways, hospitals and schools.
Building An Earthquake Kit For Our Water Supply System
Fox & Hounds
By Richard W. Atwater
Posted: 01/12/2012 09:15:00 AM PDT
As Californians, we’re all keenly aware of the “big one” that’s looming. I would imagine that most people consider the potential impacts of an earthquake in their community. So we buy earthquake kits, flashlights, bottled water, extra canned food for our homes—we take action to prepare. And I imagine that most people expect that those who manage our state’s infrastructure and other public services also take the necessary steps to prepare for a major earthquake. In many ways, California is ahead of the game. Billions of dollars have been spent to retrofit bridges, highways, hospitals, schools and prisons. But to date, no effective measures have been taken to secure our water supply in the event of an earthquake.
Guest View: Increasing storm-water capture is doable
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
By Richard W. Atwater
Posted: 03/30/2011 07:49:21 PM PDT
There are always two sides of a coin. Southern California has been gripped by powerful and fierce storms this year that have wreaked havoc and caused extensive damage in some communities. Drought warnings, mandatory water conservation and rationing may be distant memories, but we should not rest easy.