A state water tour – seeing where our water comes from

August 13, 2008 § 1 Comment

The problem...and the solution?

LA Creek Freak may have been silent this past week, but hardly on recess.  Joe Linton and I were fortunate to be invited to join Miguel Luna and his Urban Semillas/Agua University kids on a statewide water tour.  In fact, Joe is still touring with the kids – I had to end my share of the fun early.  Miguel’s purpose:  to show kids how water travels from distant sources to LA (where most of our water comes from), and the impacts our consumption has on those sources.  He gave each of us a water spout, a symbol of both the problem and the solution.  

For some of the kids, this was the first time they’d gone camping, and bonding with nature has definitely been part of the experience.  Just two days ago I was watching kids jump onto the top of picnic tables as an overeager baby skunk came out of the bushes to feast on our leftover dinner.  But deeper experiences have also been presented, and made a powerful impression on us all.  We spent a week in the company of the Winnemem Wintu tribe, to whom the waters, landscape and presence of Mt. Shasta are sacred and intimately connected with their existence. We visited the McCloud River with them, heard stories about their lives and culture, and also about the struggles and challenges they face with water and tribal recognition.  

Mc Cloud River Middle Falls

Bottling plants are sending water away from Shasta – at the expense of local groundwater. Last year the tribe’s sacred spring ran dry for the first time in its very long history, and they are concerned that excessive pumping is the cause.  It is easy for us here in LA to not understand, or to forget, that there is more to life than commerce and commodity.  This water is the lifeblood of the Winnemem Wintu, it is precious and priceless. We Angelenos have done our share of unreflectingly pumping springs dry; I stand on the side that says we shouldn’t sacrifice culture for commerce.  

Additionally, the water bond proposed by Dianne Feinstein and Arnold Schwarzeneger would raise Shasta Dam, flooding much of their remaining sacred sites while still not rectifying the loss of the Mc Cloud (and 3 other rivers behind the dam) as salmon spawning grounds (you may have heard that this year-for the first time- California and Oregon fishermen were grounded because there’s simply not enough salmon). The water bond offers little in the way for community input, or a truly integrated approach to sustainable water management while promising more dams and diversions to us (follow this link to page 2 for an example of principles that could improve the bond).    

It was hard to leave such a beautiful place, and such beautiful people, sharpened by the awareness of our impact on their lives.  There will be more blogs on snippets of the experience, as well as missives from Joe, who is spending some time on the American River and then off to Mono Lake with Miguel and the kids.

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