Guest Commentary: ‘WATERPALOOZA WEEKEND’ Highlights Valley and State’s High Stakes ‘Water Wars’ and ‘Soul of the Delta’

By Bob Saunders
Special to The Vanguard

SACRAMENTO, CA – There have been, for more than a century in California, huge political battles fought at the State Capitol and throughout the state for water.  There’s good reason.

The Sacramento River Basin provides drinking water for residents of northern and southern California, supplies farmers with the lifeblood of California’s agricultural industry, and is a vital organ for hundreds of wildlife species, including four separate runs of Chinook salmon.

It is also home to more than 2.8 million northern Californians.  From the mountains, to the valley, to the small towns and cities, it is the place where we live, work, eat, drink and play.

All, or mostly all of the watershed is threatened by a number of issues that are currently harming and/or threatening, and may permanently destroy the sensitive areas involved – from damming of rivers, leaching of heavy metals, the use of pesticides and herbicides, pharmaceuticals, mercury toxicity, plastics and micro plastics, privatization by corporate entities, mass water bottling operations by global corporations, mismanagement practices and of course, climate change.

In fact, several reports came out last year that mentioned the fact that we have both micro plastics and glyphosate in our bodies.  It is unknown what that will do to our health given the fact that it is not measured within each individual person nor evaluated by most people’s physicians.

If you drink water or wine in California, or eat rice, vegetables, nuts and fruits, or use natural gas to heat your home, all of those goods are available to you at the relatively low price you pay because of the Delta’s existence.

From picking wild blackberries to fishing, boating (there are 100 marinas in the Delta), canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, and wind surfing are available in the Delta.

There always is some kind of special event or festival along the Delta, or there was, until the encroachment of those interests looking to grab more of the Delta’s water through a Delta Tunnel water conveyance boondoggle plan, heavy construction, shutting down bridges and ferries, etc., negatively affecting traveling freely in the Delta.

The stakes could hardly be higher. Gov. Gavin Newsom, like governors before him, wants to overhaul how water moves through the delta. He’s proposing a 30-mile tunnel that would streamline the delivery of water from the Sacramento River, a bid to halt the ongoing devastation of the delta’s wetlands and wildlife while ensuring its flows continue to provide for the rest of the state.

Unfortunately, this opens the Delta waterway to a plethora of dangerous issues…salt water intrusion, negatively affecting San Franciscans drinking water, lower capacity water levels that would affect fishing and boating for commercial business owners who rely on this for their living, the loss of more and more species (the famed Delta Smelt is almost completely extinct), invasive plants not part of the local environment, toxic runoff from herbicides, and more.

The pressures of climate change on water supplies have only increased the urgency to act. And the coronavirus pandemic and months of shelter-in-place orders haven’t slowed the planning as Department of Water Resources (DWR) and  Metropolitan Water District in Southern California (MWD) have had meetings both in private, and held a few Zoom meetings to “listen” to the public.

A tense situation is unfolding even as many Californians’ attention is distracted elsewhere.

There is a long history of California fighting over its water, including the fight over the Delta for the past 50 years. The names of the project may have changed, but the goal and focus remained the same…divert the Delta water for profit and gain.

For too long a time, water, an incredible and necessary life source, is seen as a commodity to be bought and sold.

There are people on one side (water agencies like DWR and the MWD, wealthy Big Ag corporate farmers, like the Resnick’s/owner of the Wonderful Company and some others, politicians, water brokers, and more, who want to reshape the Delta, build a massive tunnel, take the water and send it South, in order to create massive corporate wealth for the Big Agricultural corporate farming industries and large planned development in areas that are not conducive to or near water sources.

Think:  Massive projects built in a desert like area.

Michael DiMartino, Executive Director of the Water Protector Tour and the Producer of the forthcoming documentary film, “Soul of the Delta,” said:

“The people on the other side of the fight against the tunnel are people who live in the Delta, and are fighting for their homes, livelihoods, culture, history and way of life, in this unique region, and fighting for a sane and sustainable water policy for the whole state.

“They are joined by a number of environmentalists, sport fisherman, bird watchers (cranes and other wildlife), farmers, recreationalists, business owners, and more throughout the greater Sacramento region and in Southern California.

“Which way the Delta goes may be a preview to what happens to California in the next 20 years and beyond.  We need to stop the single tunnel plan now, and help restore and save the Delta for future generations.”

A series of dramatic events will be held the weekend of May 22-23, 2021 as part of the Water Protector Tour series to highlight opposition of the proposed Delta Single Tunnel Conveyance plan.

The events will act as a fundraiser for the “Soul of the Delta” documentary film that is going into post production and was made to generate opposition against the proposed Delta tunnel project. This is an event that unites arts and activism.

EVENT:  WATERPALOOZA WEEKEND FUNDRAISER – MAY 22-23, 2021- along the Sacramento River Delta: On Saturday, May 22: Various locations throughout the Delta from 10 a.m. to Midnight.  On Sunday, May 23: A Special Event at the Ryde Hotel, 14340 Highway 160, Walnut Grove, CA, 95690 from 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Soul of the Delta,” highlights the personal stories, culture, history and importance of the Delta.  A trailer of the film will be shown at Sunday’s fundraiser event.

The documentary film, “Soul of the Delta,” is “focused on the human interest story of the people most directly affected if the Delta tunnel is built. Multi-generation family’s farm land, businesses, homes and more, lay in the path of tunnel intakes.

Scientists believe the project would drive already imperiled Delta smelt, long fin smelt, long fin smelt, winter-run and spring-run Chinook salmon and other species over the edge of extinction, besides altering parts of the Delta itself and cutting off access to some of the most pristine and beautiful areas there.

The project would divert massive quantities of water from the Sacramento River rather than letting the water flow naturally into the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary, depriving the estuary of the water that it needs to function as an ecosystem, according to project opponents.

For more information regarding the schedule and to obtain tickets:

Background: and

Bob Saunders is an environmentalist and Executive Director of the Sacramento River Watershed Project

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About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Chris Griffith

    News flash for all the greenies out there…

    You know that water is traded on the commodities futures market 😳

    If we start having shortages in the state of California do you know what that futures market’s going to do???

    Who’s ever in charge of this dog and pony show had better start building some dams in the state of California or we’re going to have some really hard times coming up in the near future.

    The trouble is the people in charge are going to make a ton of money off water scarcity. So no private businesses is ever going to be able to raise the capital to solve this problem this means the government is going to have to do it all and there being bought tooth and nail by private businesses who don’t want their investments to decrease in value if this continues to play out the only thing we’re going to have is tens of millions of water refugees exiting California

    This is just one person’s opinion 😃



    1. Keith Olsen

      Who’s ever in charge of this dog and pony show had better start building some dams in the state of California or we’re going to have some really hard times coming up in the near future.

      Makes one wonder where all that bond money went that was designated for water storage?

        1. Ron Oertel

          Would you say that it’s “ill-Sited”?

          In any case, it appears to be a long way from being fully-funded.

          I’ve pretty much stopped voting for bond measures for things like “protection/improvement of water sources”, with some very minimal environmental protections thrown-in as a fake incentive.

          One way-or-another, I view these proposals as (ultimately) subsidizing more development.

          Let the people/entities who want the increased water supply capability pay for it. All of it.

        2. Keith Olsen

          Here’s another perspective:

          Four years ago in the midst of a scary, five-year drought — one of the state’s driest periods in recorded history — voters eagerly approved a $7.5-billion water bond proposal, Proposition 1. The vote was a lopsided 67% to 33%.
          A key selling point was $2.7 billion set aside for additional water storage. Most voters probably envisioned new dams, although projects to replenish groundwater basins also were eligible for the money.
          The remaining $4.8 billion was earmarked for myriad things: regional projects, recycling, desalination, watershed restoration, environmental protection, groundwater cleanup, wastewater treatment, flood control. Roughly 86% of that money has been appropriated by the Legislature, although only 14% has been spent.

          In writing the ballot measure, legislators handed the $2.7-billion storage pot to the California Water Commission to safeguard it from legislative politics. How much of the money has the commission allocated? Zilch. In fact, no projects have even been approved.

          1. Don Shor

            That was from 2018. Here is the status of the major projects. Grant awards for funding are indicated. No, these things don’t move quickly. There’s a lot of private property involved.
            Five of them are close to beginning construction which is approximately when funding would occur.
            There is a separate proposal to raise Shasta Dam but that one has met significant opposition and faces a lot of hurdles, most notably the fact that one of the rivers that would be flooded has Wild and Scenic designation. I’ll be surprised if that one ever really goes forward.
            Sites is a fantastic project. It would provide backup water in dry years, help provide more consistent water supplies for San Joaquin Valley farmers, and would create a whole new site for waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway.

        3. Ron Oertel

          There’s a lot of private property involved.

          That would logically be one group of “incentivized supporter$”. Pretty sure that I read about some examples of that, years ago.

          and would create a whole new site for waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway.

          If you don’t screw-around with natural patterns to the degree that’s already occurred, you don’t have to “make-up” for it elsewhere.

    2. Ron Oertel

      Of course, it gets a lot tougher when the state goes out of its way to push the population above 40 million (and beyond).

      And when there’s less water to store in the first place (due to climate change?), all the dams in the world may not be enough.

      Reminds me of freeways – congested even before they’re built. 🙂 And already-behind on both construction and maintenance funding, even when they’re nothing more than a “plan”.

      Without even discussing the environmental impacts of all this.

      You know that water is traded on the commodities futures market 

      I’d like to know more about this. (Hey, it looks like my wish was granted below, as I wrote this!)

    3. Richard_McCann

      I write here about the potential problems with the NASDAQ Veles Water Index market:

      However, the true impacts of this futures market is overblown in two ways. First, this market does NOT deliver or take physical water. It’s much more like the Iowa Electronic Market Presidential Election market: There’s a stronger possibility that the Veles market will involve only speculators outside of California’s water industry. Second, the market has seen very little activity to date. Last week they  had transacted only about 1,000 acre-feet out of a statewide market that involves up to 6 million acre-feed delivered through the two large projects (CVP & SWP). And third, there’s no real way for private industry to directly enter the vast majority of California’s water market because 80% of municipal water and 99% of agricultural water is delivered through public agencies that would be very difficult to dissolve and sell.

      As for Prop 1 water storage project funding, here’s the list of projects. (We worked on the application for the Kern Fan project listed there.)


  2. Chris Griffith

    Ya know a small nuclear plant can desalinate 3 tons of sea water per minute. The only side effect is all the free carbon free electricity you want. The fearless leaders of California would prefer an unnecessary engineered shortage rather than simply fixing the problem. It’s easier to extract rights and money out of people if you claim there is a crisis.


    I’m curious does anyone know how many decades it has been since California even built a water reservoir? Does anyone even have a rough estimation and how long it takes California to get off the dime and build a water reservor.

    So when is the citizens of California going to get out to pitchforks.

    Just one person’s  opinion.


    1. Don Shor

      Desalination is a very expensive method of producing fresh water and creates a large amount of brine waste that has to be disposed of. There are multiple desalination plants that have been proposed in various places. The only way the one in San Diego County pencilled out was the City of San Diego guaranteeing to buy a large percentage of the output at a rather high price for a very long period of time. There are invariably arguments about how far out into the ocean the waste stream has to go in order to avoid pickling wildlife.

      Does anyone even have a rough estimation and how long it takes California to get off the dime and build a water reservor.

      I posted a link in response to Keith Olsen showing the status of several large water projects in the state.

      1. Bill Marshall

        There are invariably arguments about how far out into the ocean the (brine) waste stream has to go in order to avoid pickling wildlife.

        True story, and a perfect example of “unintended consequences”, and/or “collateral damage”… only promising answer to the brine problem is one used in the Bay Area for years… natural (solar) evaporation beds, where the salt is harvested for table/industrial uses… been used long before nuclear power was ‘harnessed’… yet, solar is technically in a nuclear power ‘chain’… that’s how the sun generates light and heat…

  3. Bill Marshall

    Twain (Clemens) said it best… “In California, whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting…”  or something close to that… ~ 150 years has not changed that…

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