Dorothy Green's Drought Fixes Still Ring True

Dorothy Green, Heal the Bay’s founding president, always looked at the Big Picture. In the chess game that is California politics, she always thought two moves ahead. When it came to advocating for effective change, she had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of the matter. Long before our drought reached epidemic proportions, she warned about the havoc that would arise from the state’s dysfunctional water supply management.

Indeed, just days before her death in 2008, Dorothy Green’s last public act was an editorial in the Los Angeles Times outlining her recommendations to improve water management in California. These prescient words ring true today.

 Dorothy’s Law 

Water supply sources from the Colorado River and within the state are at record lows, given the current conditions of global warming. The ecological collapse of the San Francisco Bay Delta heightens the legal and regulatory restrictions of water allocations. Land use development continues disconnected from sustainable water supplies. Current bond proposals are geared to fund dams and canals, which is a supply option from the past. These are the very policies that combined with wasting water, got us to where we are today, which is a looming water crisis. By putting first things first, Dorothy’s priorities to manage water will bring us forward to the 21st century.

We call upon the State of California to sufficiently fund the State Water Resources Control Board so that it can do its duty effectively. We call upon the State Water Resources Control Board to:

  • Create a meaningful structure for water rights that will conduct a review of past water-rights decisions to bring them in line with existing supplies, and allocate water according to the public trust doctrine.
  • Call for an end to federal subsidies for water-intensive crops. Instead, let the free market control pricing for those types of crops.
  • Conduct an exhaustive and critical review of water transfers.
  • Set mandatory statewide conservation targets for all water uses.
  • Develop a sustainable water plan with enforcement mechanisms, to include financial penalties and operating restrictions, as well as an independent and public biennial assessment of the plan’s implementation.
  • Develop a steady revenue stream to improve water rights and enforcement system.
  • The sustainable water plan should:
  1. demand an allocation of water rights based on available supply
  2. implement a ban on discharging wastewater into our drinking water supplies unless it meets public health standards
  3. meter every water use throughout the state
  4. require use of recycled water throughout the state
  5. mandate low-impact development for all projects, including transportation
  6. fast track a groundwater cleanup program.

This synopsis was assembled for Dorothy’s memorial by several environmental leaders that she mentored:  Mark Gold, former president of Heal the Bay; Paula Daniels, former Heal the Bay board president and appointee to the California Water Commission; and Conner Everts, executive director of the Southern California Watershed Alliance