Spring is upon us and we all feel the effects of a long soggy winter. All that liquid sunshine might bring relief to those of us who worry about drought conditions but recall that less than six months ago more than 2/3 of Oregon counties were declared as drought emergencies. Sure, the rain and snowpack helps but let me put a fine point on it – this is what Oregon drought conditions looked like a couple of months ago after all that rain.
Yet there are still over 400,000 Oregonians living in drought areas according to the United States Drought Monitor (data represented in image below). While 2016 snowpack levels are higher than average in some parts of the state they are still lower than average in others. You may be optimistic for good summer water conditions and might even believe that drought emergencies are a thing of the past. You might even think that Oregon has enough water now, right? No. It doesn’t.
Recall what Oregon Governor Kate Brown said just last year. “Water is the foundation for our economies, communities, ecosystems, and quality of life,” Brown said. “State government’s efforts to address climate change must include the reduced consumption and other conservation measures as water shortages become the new normal.”
We know that water is the new gold and this is what has motivated groups like the Local Water Alliance and groups in the Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge Coalition to keep up the work of not only keeping Nestlé out of Oregon, but of permanently protecting Hood River County water from any commercial water bottling.
All this work has gotten us some great attention. In fact The Story of Stuff is making a film to help us tell the story of what Nestle wants to do with water that belongs to Oregonians. The film will be available to the pubic starting on World Water Day, March 22nd 2016. It will show you that Nestlé’s business practices are greed-based and environmentally negligent, and it will also show you what communities can do to stop multinational corporations from abusing common public resources, like water. Perhaps the thing that is most exciting is that this film is optimistic. Oregonians are not alone in the fight to save our water, we stand by fellow defenders of water in communities throughout the country as far away as Maine and as close as our California neighbors.
Winter also provided many opportunities to make things happen locally too. The enthusiasm from Hood River County residents has been overwhelming and we look forward to a successful ballot measure passing in May of this year. The May ballot measure to Protect Hood River County’s Water will not only Stop Nestlé’s bottling proposal in its tracks it will also prohibit any commercial water bottling in Hood River County. Between then and now, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done as the Local Water Alliance continues to lead that effort. With the passage of that measure, Hood River will have made history and set a model to be used by other communities to help protect their resources too. But what’s next for Oregon, you ask?
Groups involved in the Keep Nestlé out of the Gorge Coalition are communicating with both Governor Brown’s staff and the head of her Water Resources Department to ensure that the state develop sensible policies on how public water resources should be managed moving forward. After the governor’s request to the Water Resources Department to develop a policy to better handle private companies or individuals requests to access state held water rights; we will work hard to make sure the public’s interest trumps private corporate greed in the development of that policy.
In the mean time what you can do to continue to support these efforts ranges from contacting the Water Resources Department and Governor Kate Brown’s office encouraging them to make state water resources off limits to corporate water bottling. If you want to get further involved in the ballot measure campaign you can make a donation to the Local Water Alliance. The Local Water Alliance and citizens of Hood River County are taking on one of the wealthiest most powerful multinational corporations in the world; they will need financial support to win. If you are interested in doing more than just writing a check you can also sign up to host a house party. The campaign will help you set it up and will send someone to speak at your event.
That’s all for now! Til next time—