By David Guy
As we take our annual pause for the Thanksgiving weekend, we take a moment to celebrate and recognize the importance of our health and wellness. The past several years have shown that we cannot take population health and wellness for granted, with this conspicuous moment in time calling on us as a society to focus our energies on population health and wellness and the importance of enhancing our communities so people can live healthier and more fulfilling lives.
In the Sacramento Valley, we feel very blessed with our family, friends and colleagues who grace our lives and this special region. We also live, work and play in an amazing landscape that is sourcing our sustainable future, and we take seriously the responsible management of the essential resource that millions of birds, hundreds of thousands of fish, thousands of farms and millions of people all rely on – water.
We have increasingly found that population health is inextricably tied to climate resiliency and ecological health: our rivers, soils, air, trees, watersheds and floodplains; and the way they function together. Our precious water resources are central to our economic, social, and ecological well-being. The Sacramento Valley joins together a world-renowned mosaic of natural abundance: productive farmlands, wildlife refuges and managed wetlands, cities and rural communities, and meandering rivers that support and feed fisheries and natural habitats. As we think about population health and wellness, we think about the following that influence and can improve our overall health:
Safe Water for All Communities. Water is central to the economic and social vitality in our cities and rural communities. All Californians have a right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water under a “human right to water.” For communities that do not have such a water supply, particularly disadvantaged communities, the leaders in the Sacramento Valley are actively seeking solutions to ensure safe, reliable and affordable water. Our comprehensive approach includes the Drinking Water Solutions Network to expand and ensure access to safe drinking water and we have water quality coalitions and public water agencies working hard to ensure the protection of water quality.
Nourishment. Health is dependent upon a safe and nutritious food supply. In the Sacramento Valley, families have built farms and communities based on the Sacramento Valley’s unique blessing of water, healthy soil and sun. Today, nearly two million acres of family farms—world renowned ricelands, nuts, fruit, tomatoes, fresh produce and irrigated pasture—propel the Valley’s economic engine and offer open-space and a pastoral setting cherished by people in an urbanizing society. The Valley’s farmland is also unique in the way it provides habitat and food for salmon and birds along the Pacific Flyway. The Sacramento Valley has a deep connection between the urban and rural areas as reflected in Sacramento’s designation as America’s Farm to Fork Capital. Nourishment and sustenance from the fields, habitats for fish and wildlife, recreation and a special quality of life—the Sacramento Valley is home to all of this.
Outdoor Recreation. We all know the value that outdoor recreation provides to both our physical and mental health and well-being, as this has been brought into sharper focus. Water plays a vital role in nearly all forms of outdoor recreation, including the physical and aesthetic virtues of hiking and fishing along rivers, creeks and lakes in our valley, forests and wilderness; bird-watching or duck hunting on the national, state and private refuges and wetlands; skiing and snowboarding; or boating on the various lakes in the region.
We know from personal experience that the Sacramento Valley is an exceptional place to live, work and raise a family. To improve population health and wellness and productively address today’s population health challenges requires collaboration and working closely with people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines committed to this ideal.
We truly value our personal relationships and our leaders are working hard to envision the role that people, water suppliers and local governments can serve to help people live healthier and more fulfilling lives. As we think through our ideas and actions to contribute to population health, we truly value the perspectives, contributions, and experiences of our colleagues and all Californians–our leadership has both a passion and interest to learn and make the Sacramento Valley and our communities a better place. We will continue to listen to, engage with, and learn from our fellow Californians. If you have other ideas or thoughts on how we can work together to improve population health and wellness, please share them with us at email@example.com and visit us at www.norcalwater.org.