One group objecting to the spreading vineyards is Friends of the Gualala River, who argue vineyards are environmentally disastrous and their water use unsustainable. They point to a long-established vineyard in Annapolis that tried dry farming. When yields proved unprofitable, the operation returned to irrigation. The Friends group writes, “When it comes to grape and wine, water = profit.”
Work is underway to consider a more integrated approach. The U.S. Geological Society’s California Water Science Center collected data from the Sonoma Valley and found a “fairly small” 9 percent decrease in water storage, along with localized water-level declines. The Sonoma County Water Agency is currently seeking public input “on proposed strategies for addressing long-term water supply problems presented by regulatory requirements, endangered species and changing weather conditions.”
Agriculture needs water. The wine industry needs water. Fish need water. The supply is, however, finite. The fish were there first, but in the competition for profits, they are first to lose out. Sonoma County is a small dot in the global water picture, but decisions made there can be models for responsible water management or for continual drawing down of an essential public resource.
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Photo from Deb Harkness via Flickr Creative Commons
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