Leaders, experts gather at De Anza High to discuss equitable water distribution

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State leaders, experts gather at De Anza High to discuss equitable water distribution
All photos by Mike Kinney

By Mike Kinney

If we build more homes, won’t we also need more water? In the drought-prone state of California, the challenges of providing sufficient and equitable water distribution are daunting as providing adequate affordable housing.

The good news is the problem isn’t being ignored. At De Anza High School on Saturday, a diverse group of elected officials, policymakers, representatives of government agencies, community-based organizations, researchers and water industry experts gathered to discuss equitable water distribution at the “Untapped Legislative Water Workshop.”

The workshop included four panels of experts moderated by Cheryl Sudduth, VP of the West County Wastewater District and graduate of WELL Untapped, and co-hosted by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-15).

Speakers also included County Supervisor John Gioia and East Bay Municipal Utility District Director Lesa McIntosh.

The discussions were wide-ranging, from focusing on water efficiency in future developments to adding water pipeline infrastructure to communities in need and encouraging water systems in smaller communities to join forces with larger, neighboring water systems (otherwise known as consolidation). Avoiding the expensive practice of trucking water into towns in need was also discussed, along with water usage in agriculture and the impacts of drought-caused increases to food costs.

“Fundamentally, we are going to have to rethink how we are going to use water here in California,” said Wicks. “Eighty percent of our state’s water goes to agriculture. And we see them during a drought flooding almond tree orchids. We, again, are going to have to rethink how water will be used in new housing. We will have to rethink how we are going to live and operate with less water.”

Among the attendees were Gokce Sencan, research associate with the Public Policy Institute of California; Laura Feinstein, sustainability and resilience policy director for San Francisco Planning and Urban Research; Peter S. Fiske, director of the Water-Energy Resilience; and Doria Robinson, executive director of Urban Tilth.

Other agencies represented were the State Water Control Board, Sierra Club, Public Policy Institute of Berkeley, Berkeley Lab and the WCCUSD. The event was organized in a partnership with the California State Assembly, EBMUD, the West County Wastewater District, ENGIE, WELL and the WCCUSD.

“I appreciate how our State Assemblymember Wicks was able to bring together diverse voices here today to help solve our state’s water crisis,” Gioia said. “We need to find solutions to both the water crisis and affordable housing.”

McIntosh said Saturday’s event enabled the sharing of critical information and starts “the process of meeting the new challenges with regards to water that lay before us.”