Will Morebeck’s water decisions will affect LincolnBy: Carol Feineman, Editor
This year is especially hard for water agency boards.
Wide-reaching decisions must be made during California’s worst (and fourth-year) drought since the early 1970s.
These decisions determine how much water we get to drink and cook with, how many showers we can take and for how many minutes, how many times we can water our plants and whether we have green grass.
“Water is the essence of life. You need a steady supply of water,” said Will Morebeck, who was appointed in July to the vacant Division IV seat on the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) Board of Directors. The Division IV seat, one of five elected board positions, covers Lincoln and parts of Sheridan.
The longtime rural Lincoln resident wanted to be a NID board member in 2010, when he ran against incumbent Jim Bachman. Although unsuccessful then, Morebeck ran a close race.
When Bachman retired last May for health reasons, Morebeck was one of four candidates applying to fill Bachman’s remaining 16 months in office. Morebeck was unanimously selected by the board as Bachman’s replacement.
Now Morebeck spends “a good 10 hours” weekly learning about the intricacies of NID projects and reading environmental impact reports.
Serving on the water agency board, to Morebeck, is a big responsibility.
“You have to be prepared at the meetings and do your research as much as possible beforehand. You have to learn how to read through environmental documents and how to decipher the important elements,” Morebeck said. “It takes a lot of thought. You have to know the questions to ask. Residents don’t know what I don’t know so I have to become knowledgeable to ask questions for them. NID managers spend hours with me explaining everything to me.”
Excluding travel time to Grass Valley for meetings, Morebeck spends 10-plus hours weekly on NID’s board meetings, water hydroelectric committee, maintenance-resources management committee, and state and regional meetings and seminars.
“I just love the work,” Morebeck said. “It’s so engaging and interesting.”
With his seat up in December, Morebeck plans on running again.
Morebeck, a semi-retired organic mandarin and vegetable farmer, understands how vital water is to everyday life. He traveled throughout the state for 20 years as a field representative for the Rice Growers Association of California and for a wheat association “and saw the farmers’ need for a readily-available supply of water.”
His message to readers is “Don’t take water for granted because we need to conserve at this point. There is not an endless supply; water is in short supply.”
A former PlacerGROWN president, Morebeck is the small farms representative on the Placer County Agricultural Commission since 1998.
“One of my goals is to keep agriculture water available to all the farmers in the area, to make sure there’s a reliable source. There are several thousand customers who use raw water,” Morebeck said. “A significant number are small-renaissance boutique farmers (wineries, mandarin farmers, cattle farmers, walnut and fruit trees, organic small vegetable farmers and backyard farmers). The district has 27,500 customers, which includes raw water and treated water users.”
California Gov. Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency on Jan. 17, 2014 and directed state officials to make water immediately available. California water agencies boards must ensure that their constituents always have ample water.
Now is a critical time to be on water agency boards, according to Association of California Water Agencies executive director Timothy Quinn.
“We’re in a multiyear drought that has put water in the spotlight like never before. Local water agencies and the locally-elected directors that govern them are being called upon to navigate through statewide mandatory conservation requirements, aging infrastructure and other challenges,” Quinn said. “Many local agencies have shown tremendous foresight in investing in local water supply projects and strategies to buffer the effects of multiyear drought. Those investments have made a huge difference during this historic drought. A key priority for many agency boards is to continue an open dialog with their customers so they can understand the value of those investments and what it takes to deliver safe, reliable water 24 hours a day.”
NID is doing so by planning new storage, improving existing reservoir storage, and collaborating with the city of Lincoln to build a water treatment plant near Big Ben Road (the proposed Regional Water Supply Project), according to Morebeck.
“At the same time, it’s a two prong responsibility. NID has the responsibility to look ahead and residents have a responsibility to conserve,” Morebeck said. “Conserve by turning off sprinklers, taking shorter showers, contacting the city to get low flowing toilets and faucets. Conservation on farms is just as important. Farmers have to educate themselves.”
While many residents applaud this month’s rains, we remain in a drought.
“The big picture, as of Dec. 31, 2015, the storage was 93 percent of average. The capacity was at 55 percent,” Morebeck said. “One of the main issues that NID is concerned about is the higher-elevation snowpack. That’s the big unknown. Last year, the snow pack was 5 percent of average.”
Morebeck wants to find water solutions. He welcomes residents’ comments and questions at William@psyber.com or the Nevada Irrigation Office at (530) 273-6185.
Carol Feineman can be reached at email@example.com or 774-7972.