Mark Twain is credited with saying that out West, “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting.”
There’s really no evidence that Twain started that saying, but it’s a good quote and still true – particularly in Sonoma County.
This afternoon, the Editorial Board met with four representatives of the Sonoma County Water Coalition which this month filed suit to prevent the Sonoma County Water Agency from moving forward with its recently released water management plan.
The Water Agency is required by state law to explain where it will get enough water to meet the region’s anticipated growth over the next 20 years. The coalition – which is made up of more than a dozen organizations – has sued, saying that the Water Agency’s plan is based on false assumptions and inadequate work.
For example, the plan projects that Sonoma County will have enough water for the next two decades as long as the agency gets state approval to increase the amount of water it takes from reservoirs by 35 percent.
Given the many unsettled issues about fish protection, water flows, watershed protection, etc., that is a big “if.”
Brenda Adelman of the Russian River Watershed Protection Committee noted that even if the agency got these approvals today, it would take the Water Agency at least until 2016 to get the improvements in place to take more water from the reservoirs. “This document is only good until 2010,” she said.
The battle in court may hinge on how much the Water Agency is required by law to examine not only where future water supplies will come from but to analyze the political realities of being able to deliver it to customers.
Others who met with the Editorial Board were David Keller of Friends of the Eel River, H.R. Downs of the O.W.L. Foundation and Stephen Fuller-Rowell, head of the Water Coalition.
We will be meeting with Water Agency officials soon to get another take on this contentious issue.

— Paul Gullixson