We need a progressive water policy platform for the San Joaquin Valley.

A whole bunch of progressive Democrats won election today.  We have progressives running against incumbent Republicans in the San Joaquin Valley.  Thing is, for federal elected officials, there has been a very limited set of issues for water policy: more dams, restrict the ESA, undo the SJ River restoration.  The water ‘policy imagination’* has become very narrow, and that set of issues has deadlocked indefinitely.

Progressive candidates are going to need some other water policy issues to run on.  I don’t know what they are.  I am not a local; I can’t know from this distance what progressive water policies would appeal to SJV voters.  I can imagine some progressive water issue areas:

  • Drinking water quality, of course.  O&M funding.  District consolidations.
  • River access.  Promoting river access, urban and rural, for all residents.  Parks, trails, urban river fronts?
  • SGMA participation.  Supporting participation in SGMA planning for all voices.
  • Climate Change adaptation and mitigation. Urban tree coverage.
  • Connection to the mountains and protection for source waters.
  • Planning for large scale land retirement.
  • Clean governance and anti-corruption, given the financial improprieties we’ve seen so often recently.
  •  Land subsidence. (Added 11/9; thank you J.K.)

I believe we could assist the progressive candidates in the Valley by helping to develop a menu of specific, place-based, progressive water policy items that candidates can choose among.  I propose that those of us who aren’t local offer support for a gathering to elicit progressive ideas for water management in the San Joaquin Valley.  We could offer funds, facilitation, and serve as technical or legal resources in support of a gathering of people who do live in the Valley and know their own dreams for water.  If this is to be useful, sooner would be better.  Early next year, perhaps?

If you are interested, please email me: onthepublicrecord@gmail.com .  I’ll collect a list of names, and start to convene an organizing group.  A quick note about what you have to offer would also be helpful.  I hope you join us.

11/9:  I’ve gotten a wonderful response so far.  I believe we can pull this off.  I’ll collect names through this long weekend.  Next week, there’ll be an organizing email to get us started.  Thank you, to those who want to participate.  I think of this as a small, useful thing we can do for the Resistance. Have a great weekend.


By “policy imagination,” I mean the both the scope and variety of ideas available to policymakers, activists, and pundits, and their own intellectual horizons – whether they can envision a world different from today, and how different they can get. Policy imaginations can help us move beyond slapping Band-Aids on social ills that may require more profound treatment, and inspire us to think about long-term, big picture problems in creative ways. Or they can condemn us to prescribing the same solution to every problem, regardless of whether that makes sense.


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2 responses to “We need a progressive water policy platform for the San Joaquin Valley.

  1. Chris Gilbert

    Hooray for “large scale land retirement”. I don’t see that enough in plans, books, papers, etc.

  2. Saul Travers

    I would say that progressives (whatever that means) and centrists should focus on the hard work and depressing realities of implementing SGMA, guided by the vision of all of the (former) Tulare Lake basin becoming East Porterville. Sure, the State bailed out EP by hooking it up to the nearby City Of Porterville at a cost of $60,000 per home, but that will not work for the entire Tulare Lake Basin with the present water use policies. There just isn’t enough water.
    I am certain that the existing water users are planning to eliminate SGMA just as soon as people forget the drought. From a business interest standpoint, I don’t blame them. But the recent vote by the stakeholders in the Westlands District not to fund the Twin Tunnels doesn’t seem very grounded in water flow reality. I don’t see how farmers think they can continue to grow export crops without unsustainable groundwater use.