Our Future in the Sacramento Valley: Serving Water for Multiple Benefits

Wednesday, Feb 17th, 2021

By Don Bransford

There has been recent commentary and discussion around a commodity futures market for water in California. In the Sacramento Valley, we are not involved in this process; nor are we participating in these contracts. Although we are not entirely clear on this market or what is being traded, it is clear that this new market does not involve real/wet water–which is our focus in the Sacramento Valley. We will continue to focus on serving water for cities and rural communities, farms, fish, birds, other wildlife and recreation.

As the President of Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) and a Board Member for the Northern California Water Association (NCWA), as well as a farmer, an avid conservationist, and a resident of Colusa, I have an important responsibility to our customers and the region. We have a shared vision in the region for a vibrant way of life.  And, we follow a guiding principle where the public water districts’ purpose is to provide landowners a reliable, affordable supply of irrigation, municipal and industrial, and environmental water of suitable quality for reasonable and beneficial use, and for as long as water is needed for these purposes. In this spirit, we deliver water for family farms as well as three National Wildlife Refuges, and we re-manage our water supplies for the benefit of salmon. This year has also reminded us about the importance of population health and how central water is to our daily lives.

To carry out our responsibilities, we have excellent water resources managers who work every day serving water for this mosaic of multiple benefits.  Our collective futures in this region are dependent upon the creative management of water for all these purposes and the hard work necessary to deliver water. We do not need Wall Street to help us carry out these important responsibilities.

To be clear, this new futures market is different than actual water transfers between willing buyers and sellers, which serve an important role in water management in California and the Sacramento Valley. Having a flexible mechanism like water transfers to help balance supply and demand is important for California, particularly during dry years. When water is available, our first priorities are to help our local neighbors and the environment, so we transfer water to water districts along the Tehama Colusa Canal, within the Colusa Drain, and for environmental purposes. In years where there is demand in other parts of California, we have also implemented transfers to other cities and water districts that need water.

As we look forward, our future in the Sacramento Valley is not tied to a “futures market,” but instead to thoughtful and caring leadership and managing our water from ridgetop to river mouth for multiple benefits. This is the real future for this great region!

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