By a 3 to 2 margin, the Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) Board of Directors voted in the third week of March to sell surplus public water outside the boundaries of the district. At the time, nearby urban residents were still under a state order to reduce water use by 36 percent below 2013 usage. Ironically, OID can sell water to outsiders while local residents are still subject to draconian rationing. Supposedly, the Oakdale Irrigation District is a non-profit organization. The sale of the water was justified on the grounds that the funds could be used for unspecified projects within the district.
Exactly how will the money generated from the water sale be spent? Will the money be used to subsidize the infrastructure of preferred customers or be spent to provide service to new customers?
Will the money be used to replace mainline pipes? Will the money be used for salary increases for select employees of the district? Exactly where will the common good result from the money generated in the sale?
Who will benefit from the water? How will the water be used? Will the water use benefit the economy of those living within the Oakdale Irrigation District? Is the real intent to ship more local water to southern California? Water sent south can’t be used for local economic development.
By sending water out of the area, how will local ground water be recharged?
Phony Local Surplus for Southern Buyers?
The longer citizens are required to ration locally, the more water will be available to ship south. The California State Water Board knows that enough rain and snow have fallen to reduce the need for rationing. Is the board deliberately keeping northern counties on water rationing so that a phony “surplus” can be shipped south to Westlands Water District or Southern California?
The State of California telegraphed its intention of taking Northern California water when it suspended historic 1914 water rights in favor of those who benefited from the suspension of the rights. Can the state arbitrarily take anyone’s water and give it to those that it favors by declaring “a state of emergency”?
Is Monetizing Public Water Good Public Policy?
Allowing any public agency to divert water from the customers it is supposed to serve for the purpose of profit is contrary to the spirit of Proposition 218. The proposition stated that public water agencies are only allowed to charge their customers for the actual cost of delivery. Selling water as surplus while local citizens are rationed is bad public policy. Funds from the sale will not necessarily be ongoing and thus difficult to justify for the continued operation of the organization.
Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health
The sign on the Modesto Arch says it all. With water, there is wealth, contentment, and health. Without water, a community shrivels up and dies. We must never forget how the Owens Valley in eastern California died after its water was taken by Southern California.
When the Oakdale Irrigation District decided to sell public water outside its boundaries, it took the first step towards killing the community it is supposed to serve. After four years of drought, the district still did not learn of the need to conserve and preserve. It is not using so-called “surplus” water to recharge badly depleted groundwater.
The decision seems like a crime against the community. Too bad that the citizens don’t realize what is being done to them, or maybe they do and feel powerless to stop it.
The majority of the Board of the Oakdale Irrigation District seems dazzled by the dollar signs of monetized water. Only the minority on the Oakdale Irrigation District, Gail Altieri and Linda Santos, are trying to protect the long term interests of the area. OID is in need of another election.