Sacramento turning attention to wells

Mariposa County Health OfficerApril 22, 2014 

Most Mountain Area residents are likely to have some degree of it by now. I won't insult your knowledge by discussing how much effect the rain this season will have on our California drought. But I thought you should know what's going on with water issues at the State level.

A "Task Force" met several times in the fall to discuss the Governor's proposal to move oversight of the state's drinking water. He wants to transfer the program from the Public Health Agency to the Water Quality Board. I represented the State's Health Officers and frequently repeated our position (similar to that of the State's Directors of Environmental Health) that oversight of drinking water should remain with Public Health — where it's been for approximately 500 years. But, in the end, it looks certain that the Governor will transfer regulation of drinking water to the agency which currently regulates sewage disposal.

With the increasing pressure on the state's dwindling water supplies, there is now serious investigation of the concept of piping treated wastewater directly into plants that produce drinking water. This is not as alarming an idea as it may sound — the technology exists to do it safely and it's being done in other states. But making it happen will require a lot of education to reassure the public.

Finally, with dwindling underground aquifers and surface level reservoirs, Sacramento is turning its attention to wells. Only a small percentage of the state's population obtains its drinking water from individual wells, but those of us in the Sierra are certainly in that group.

So, as all these state-level activities evolve, what should we be doing?

1. Conserve water. As we have learned, there is not an inexhaustible supply of it.

2. Plant vegetation with low water needs. Replace high water demand plants with other plants, acclimatized to hot and dry climates.

3. Run your dishwasher and laundry only with full loads.

4. Explore using (legal) Grey-water systems.

5. Plant a garden and irrigate by drip. Commercially grown food may become more expensive.

6. Fix leaks. A leaky toilet can waste up to 1,000 gallons a day.

7. Fire-proof your home. It could be an ugly fire season.

8. Eliminate stagnant water to reduce mosquito breeding. West Nile Virus surges in drought conditions.

We will keep an eye on state-level policy discussions, so we can be part of the process — part of the solution, and keep you informed.

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