Nearly twenty-years ago, the winter of 1991-92 was a very dry period in California. The pressures surrounding several dry years in a row, coupled with the lack of adequate water infrastructure in California, led Governor Wilson to establish the Drought Water Bank and Legislators and economists from other parts of the state were proposing to turn our water rights and supplies upside down by encouraging user-initiated water transfers. One thing was painfully clear during this time; there was a need for a strong regional presence on water issues in the Sacramento Valley.
As a result, a handful of water leaders in the Sacramento Valley decided it was time to form an organization that represented our interests in Sacramento and Washington D.C., so we began to meet in the evenings at the Yuba County Board of Supervisors Chambers. Word quickly spread throughout the Valley and a growing number of water districts pledged support for this infant association. With the help of John Roberts and the California Rice Industry Association, we modeled our group after this successful entity. Our name was simple – The Northern California Water Association. Our mission was clear – Protect the Water Rights of Northern California. Week after week we would meet and our group began to take shape. We hired a full time Executive Director, rented an office in Sacramento, settled on a dues structure, hired staff and we were on our way.
Although the name is simple, and the mission is clear the issues proved to be very complicated and very political. We quickly found out how many different ways and how many different entities can affect your water rights. The early board of directors spent countless hours at hearings and meetings educating themselves and sharing information with fellow members. We now had a network and we realized that what impacts one district today could affect another tomorrow. We began to speak in one voice. There was never a shortage of opinions, ideas and even arguments, but when we left the boardroom we were united. NCWA, as we became known, learned to be effective in the various water arenas by hiring hard working and passionate staff, being aggressive, and relying on experienced board members and using its resources wisely.
Over the past 20 years we have progressed into a problem solving entity that has never lost sight of its mission and has helped transform the Sacramento Valley into an exceptional place tied together by its water resources. The challenges of the past have forged us into a recognized statewide leader in water issues. If there is a meeting with a roomful of people talking about water issues, the Northern California Water Association has earned a seat at the table.