Let's talk about water.
On May 18, the IWV Groundwater Authority approved Article 5 of its bylaws. This is a success, and we congratulate the IWVGA board and staff for getting us this far without a single fist fight. At least, without any reported fistfights.
Yes, the approval of Article 5 is a success, but rather than stopping to celebrate because the work is done, the work is only now beginning.
It's a bit like creating a brand new sport. Approving Article 5 and the rest of the bylaws is like writing down the rules of the game. Now that the rules are written, it's time to play the game. And in the case of the IWVGA, the goal of the game is to figure out how a community in the desert can have sustainable water.
Our concern is that writing down those rules took three IWVGA meetings, one public workshop, and a number of IWV Water District and City Council meetings that went on long enough to wear out the battery of a reporter's laptop. It was a process that went on for months, but doesn't feel like it had to be that long. What is slowing down the process?
Is it the IWVGA structure? Some, including local media, have accused the IWVGA for currently having a structure of consultants made up of lawyers, rather than water experts and scientists. People making this accusation are not only putting the cart before the horse, they seem to not understand what the horse is.
Once the IWVGA starts talking about science, then scientists will be a great asset. However, before they can do that, they needed to establish bylaws. And no matter how anyone feels about lawyers, no one can deny they're nice to have around if you're creating bylaws.
The DI has also heard many people say that the problem is the IWVGA board ignoring or silencing voices that are not in agreement with the board agenda. Is this true? Join us for a moment on a trip back in time through IWVGA history.
At the February IWVGA meeting when they first discussed the bylaws, did the board immediately put the bylaws into practice after discussion amongst themselves? No, they gave it a month so everyone would have time to get their word in.
At the March IWVGA meeting, did the IWVGA approve the bylaws? No, they approved all the bylaws except Article 5, specifically because that was the section people voiced the most concerns about.
At the April IWVGA meeting, did the IWVGA approve the bylaws? No. In fact, they canceled the meeting to instead hold a public workshop in the evening hours in order to allow even more public participation.
Did the IWVGA abuse their power to cut important agencies out of the Policy Advisory Committee, as many claimed they conspired to do? No, the IWVGA appointed Mojave Pistachios and Meadowbrook to the PAC at the April 26 workshop.
Yes, the IWVGA has clearly listened. One may feel that the IWVGA board is not listening unless they include every change one suggests, but that's not how discussion works, especially when there's another one who opposes many of the suggested changes. It is the IWVGA board's responsibility to find the best solution for the public, which means making concessions and moving forward.
What's also important to remember for those who regularly attend the IWVGA meetings is that it is not "the public" in attendance, it is part of the public. Even the April 26 workshop, held in the evening to attempt to maximize public participation, still barely saw any new faces outside of the usual suspects.
When the IWVGA board makes decisions, they need to not only consider what the few members of the public who attend every IWVGA meeting say, but also what's going to be best for the 30,000 or more residents who rely on IWV groundwater.
After months of what felt like gridlock, the April 26 workshop and the approval of the Article 5 bylaws on May 18 were breaths of fresh air. With only 32 more months until the deadline for our Groundwater Sustainability Plan, IWV residents need to keep the positive momentum going by resisting the prideful urge to win an argument, and instead come together to secure the future of this community.
Keep in mind that the IWVGA is a brand new agency. It's unreasonable to try to get it into perfect form before it begins the technical work because no one knows what the perfect form is. Practices can be updated and bylaws can be amended, but you cannot add more time.
It's natural to be apprehensive about an agency that's going to regulate a precious resource like water, but it's necessary in a desert community and it's not productive to scream foul before the game has even begun. To go back to the sports analogy, let's play a few rounds and see how we need to adjust the rules after that. Then, if they do play dirty, the DI will be right there blowing the whistle along with everyone else.
Members of the public who regularly attend the meetings should keep voicing their opinions. However, also remember that the goal isn't to be right, but to get the agency going and to sustain water.
IWVGA board members should remember that your responsibility is not just to the people you see before you at every meeting, but to every family using the limited water of this valley. Some decisions may not be easy to make, but you have to make them and people will support them if they work.
Members of the public who don't regularly attend the meetings should make sure to stay up to date on the IWVGA and consider attending the meetings when possible. This is the agency that's going to make sure this community has a future, and it would benefit from a variety of public input.
And for the DI? Well, the DI needs more laptop batteries.