There is a growing grassroots movement in Napa County. Anyone reading letters to the editor will know that those participating in this movement are labeled by their detractors as anti-growth/anti-tourism.
The pictures painted by the writers of these letters inform us that tourism and more wineries are necessary to sustain economic viability. They argue that without this growth, the economic base of the Napa Valley will collapse. This is a false reality, and like all false realities, this one distorts the truth. So what is the truth?
The first truth is that we all need a safe, dependable water supply. On Sept. 15, the Napa City Council began considering policies and procedures surrounding the issue of “trucking water.” Many Napa city and county residents probably do not know that the City of Napa sells water to county users outside the city limits.
A PowerPoint presentation that evening identified four categories of water sales: construction, residential, commercial and irrigation. There is a need to supply water during construction to keep dust down, and the presentation noted that most of the water supplied for this reason is used within the city. There are also county residents who are without water for various legitimate reasons and the city supplies the basic domestic water needs of those residents.
There is one commercial account the city serves: The Carneros Inn. This development was approved by the county, which was assured that there would be an adequate water supply to support the development. This information was incorrect. Currently, the city of Napa sells trucked water to Carneros Inn because without this water, this county-approved development could not survive.
Residents of the area fought the inn development years ago because of concern for their water supply. Now these residents must also depend on the city to provide their water because their supply is no longer adequate. Is this the type of development we are expected to support to maintain economic viability? Is it the average citizen’s economic viability that is at risk if we fail to support such development? Or is it the economic viability of a few that is being served instead?
Another use of trucked water is irrigation. This is used to support some vineyards, and it's true that the number of vineyards supported this way by the city of Napa is small. It's also true that trucked water accounts for a small percentage of the city’s total water supply.
But the quantity of trucked water is not the issue. The real issue is development in areas that do not have the necessary resources to support such development. If the city of Napa must provide water, then that's a development that's been allowed by the county that is unable to be self-supporting.
Is vineyard development in areas with insufficient water something that is to be expected in order to maintain economic viability? And if so, whose economic viability is being sustained by these developments? Who gains, and at whose expense is this gain achieved?
If the grassroots movement must address the false reality of an anti-growth/anti-tourism image, then let the truth be told about what issues represent reality. Should we be expected to sacrifice our water supply on the Altar of Economic Viability so a relatively few vineyard and winery owners can make profits most of us can only imagine?
Should we support construction of a six- or eight-lane highway through The Valley allowing tourists easy access to their destinations all on the Altar of Economic Viability? Should we support more hotel rooms with low paying jobs for people that must now commute in and out of the Napa Valley each day because they cannot afford to live here, thus adding to the already crowed roads?
Should we support unsustainable development, the sole purpose of which is to provide large incomes to a relatively small group of people? Should we support vineyard development in the watersheds because the developer says there is plenty of water to support it?
No, it is false to say the grassroots movement is anti-growth/anti-tourism. The reality is much different. Sustainable, intelligent growth is their real goal. It is sustainable growth that will maintain the health and safety of all of us in Napa County, not just the financial health of a few, some of whom do not even call the Napa Valley their home.