… a legacy of the California gold rush two centuries ago
Water is dear. Meaning it is precious, and getting it when we need it in California is complicated, and in our case, difficult.
Along with some of our neighbors, our properties have water rights allocated through California’s complex system of water rights and laws.
Our rights are actually among the oldest, most senior, in California, dating from the mid-1800s.
But that’s only if we can get it to our properties. The water is delivered through a two-century old flume and aqueduct system, over three miles long, that snakes along the side of a mountain and along part of an old lumbering railroad bed.
We and some of our neighbors belong to a small, non-profit water corporation that was formed in the 1960s to maintain this aqueduct system. We pay dues and annually labor to keep the flume and pipes in a condition that allows the flume to convey a set number of “miner’s inches” of water from April through November.
Without our labor, there would be no water here in the creek or for irrigation during the hot, dry Summer and Fall.
Our water corporation is very small, and an even smaller number of individuals support it financially and with labor.
One of the unfortunate realities of a common, shared system like this is a problem known as “the tragedy of the commons“. The “commons” are used by a group of people. Some people work hard to sustain it. Other people will steal from it, use it, or just minimize their effort to maintain it. This kind of thing happens to all of us in communities, states, nation and world. We all draw life from something we all share, but the sweat, labor and money dedicated to the effort is not shared by all.
It takes communities of dedicated, cooperating, hard-working people to create just and fair rules governing the way we use our resources and to deliver those resources in reliable, sustainable ways.
A small number of the people in our water group provide the lion’s share of hard labor and financial support necessary to keep our water flowing, year-round. I will not name them here, they know who they are and we are so thankful for them.
In a way, our legacy here is still part of the old America, from a time when people had to work long, hard hours, to accomplish things together, a time before consumer-based individualism and “me, me, me” washed over us and separated us from our earth and each other.