Peninsula/SouthBay Working Group

California Interfaith Power & Light
Report of 3/31/09 Meeting

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Minutes of Working Group meeting – Mar. 31, 2009, at Unitarian Universalist Church, Palo Alto , CA.
Approximately 45 attendees.

Marianna Grossman, convener of the Working Group, led off. She briefly introduced CIPL and our Working Group. She encouraged new congregations to join CIPL by signing the covenant. She also mentioned the discounts for appliances and other energy items through CIPL.

Next WG meeting: Thr, May 14, 2009, 7-9 pm
Location: Congregation Etz Chayim, 4161 Alma St., Palo Alto 94306
Topic: Transportation

Tonight’s topic: Water
Water is so important, but we don’t notice it until it’s not available.

Ben Hammett talked briefly about UUCPA’s program. Four years ago, Rev. Amy Morgenstern and he started a task force that turned in the Green Sanctuary Committee. The other three members were also here, as were a number of other UUCPA congregants.

Rev. Amy Morgenstern, Parish Minister of UUCPA: The Green Sanctuary Program is widespread through the UU Ministry’s For Earth movement. UUCPA is working to get certified as a green business.
     Rev. Amy led us in a meditation on the water in our life: where it comes from, how it flowed through our life today, and where it goes. And how the water systems, both human-made and natural, literally and directly connect us in community with each other.



Featured speaker:  Rev. Lindi Ramsden

Rev. Ramsden is the Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry (UULM), CA, a statewide organization based in Sacramento, which strengthens the voice of Unitarian Universalist values in the public square.  She is a graduate of Stanford University and Starr King School for the Ministry, and a Senior Fellow of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the American Leadership Forum.  Prior to her current ministry, she served as Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Church of San Jose.  The UU Legislative Ministry is joining the UU Service Committee to publish a curriculum for congregational use on CA Water Justice which will be released in April.

We are one state, but we live in many different watersheds.  In an era of climate change, what has been "normal" with regard to water is changing.  How can people of faith from both water rich and water poor parts of our state bring values of equity, democracy, justice, and sustainability into the debates over water?  How can we be advocates of water justice?  This presentation covered some of California's water history, current challenges, and opportunities, as well as a special focus on the human right to water -- including legislation recently introduced in Sacramento.

There’s never been a major social change without the faith community being active and instrumental. To ground us in that, Rev. Ramsden led us in a song:
          “The ocean refuses no river, no river.
           Alelulia, Alelu, Alelulu x2”

UULM is working on a handful of issues; water justice is one of them. Initially, about four years ago, this topic got a very small number of votes. But the Board decided this was potentially an important topic, and so investigated it. At that time, there were lots of pressures for privatization of community water systems. In the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, no one thought to include access to water. Today, there is much discussion and controversy about right to access of water. Internationally, the US is one of only one of seven countries not to have acknowledged the right to water.

This past fall there was a push to put a water bond on the state ballot. This spurred thinking more comprehensively, about water rights and comprehensive, state-wide visions. This led Assemblymember Ira Ruskin to introducd the Human Right to Water Act of 2009 (AB1242) in the CA legislature.

Rev. Ramsden showed a moving and informative video from the UU Church of Fresno (which was the first LEED-certified church building in CA). Young people led a service at the end of their road trip investigating water access, from the source of the Sacramento River, through many small communities with many water problems. The inspiring video included interviews with people they visited along the way, documenting their problems with water rights and access.

Riparian water rights: You have the right to take as much water as you like, for “reasonable” purposes, from moving water through or at the edge of your land.
Appropriative water rights: Water you can just take.
CA is operating with no real data: We don’t really know how much water is being used. But it’s said there are five times as much water rights as real water. By CA law, the water itself belongs to the people, held as a public trust. It’s only the transportation/infrastructure that can be owned.

The Sacramento Delta is an example of the extreme complexity of the water issue. The land on the islands in the delta is made of peat, and is sinking ~1inch/year. As the land sinks, more salt sea water comes up the delta and pollutes the source for millions of people in the south. There’s been a proposal for a peripheral canal for many years. Although it threatens the existence of the delta and the people who live there, it’s not clear what the “right” answer is.

In CA, we’ve moved water all around the state for many years, much of it beginning during the early mining years. And CA uses 20% of its energy to move water around, mostly to Southern CA. It is continuing, including purchasing land by various groups to get the water rights.

We’re all complicit in using and misusing our water supplies. E.g., on the Peninsula, we get much of our waters from Hetch Hetchy, which completely bypasses the delta and thus contributes to the delta's water deficit.

In an average year, CA has 71 million acre-feet of “developed” water –- i.e., water available for use. In a drought year it’s more like half that amount.

Part of the problem is sheer population growth. We now have 38 million residents, but that is projected to grow to 60M in 2050. But urban conservation and local systems can provide much help. A typical family uses 1-2 AF per year, but there are huge differences across the state, depending on how the water is metered, priced, regulated, and supported. For example, the average Sacramento family uses 278 gals/day, while in Los Angeles and Orange counties, due to conservation efforts spurred by previous droughts, it’s only 138 gals/day.


Managing Water: Avoiding Conflict in California by Dorothy Green provides an excellent description of how water is managed in California and ends with elements of a sustainable water future.

Marianna: Local cities and water districts have great programs for water conservation and efficiency, including rebates for various activities and subsidies for purchases.

Peter Drekmeier, Mayor of Palo Alto attended: He represents Palo Alto on the Santa Clara County Water Commission. The water allocation from the Delta is being reduced this coming year. Last week SC Water District imposed a 15% reduction to its customers. P.A., which has historically been frugal with water, has a voluntary 10% reduction.  (Peter is also program director for Tuolumne River Trust.)

We had several minutes of small group discussions.  Some ideas from that:
 - Concern about Ruskin’s bill, if it promotes unconstrained water usage. – Need to look at the details.
 - Bottled water. Think Outside the Bottle program, by a church group. (Debbie Mytels)
 - Israel has had a long history of water conservation.
 - Across-the-board reductions are unfair for those who’ve already cut back. Should target the most profligate users, because of fairness and also because that’s where the biggest savings can come most easily.
 - Health concerns about water quality.
 - We expect/demand to keep our lawns green all through the summer. But in upscale Santa Barbara, they’ve changed the culture and no longer maintain that expectation.
- Putting in native plants, in place of lawns, results in beautiful color, and more butterflies, etc.
- Conservation in the bathroom: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.,.”

Marianna  led us in a closing sing-along to the Peter, Paul and Mary recording of the song River of Jordan.