Slaying Beasts at Valley Water

by | Feb 25, 2022

Photo: Sarah Young.

Photo: Sarah Young.

When Gary Kremen delivered his State of Valley Water Address on February 8th, he had Herculean beasts and ecological balance sheets on his mind. Kremen, chairman of the board of directors of Valley Water, described the “triple-headed hydra” threatening the district as the combination of a worsening drought, an evolving COVID-19 pandemic, and an increasingly dire picture of climate future.

Despite early winter storms, drought in California remains the status quo, which poses multiple problems for the Santa Clara Valley. The district imports 55% of its water and, with nearby Anderson reservoir out of commission for the next ten years, reliant on overburdened upstream reservoirs.  

“Conservation is a way of life” for Valley Water, said Kremen in his address. He hit the usual suggestions, like not watering lawns and taking shorter showers, and described his car “as a science experiment. Totally covered in dirt.”  

Climate change and drought “are inextricably linked,” says Kremen, speaking to the KneeDeep Times about two of the heads on the multi-headed hydra facing down Valley Water. Even so, “we see climate change as less snowpack…exacerbating the drought/flood situation. Drought has other complexities.” In other words, Kremen sees these two heads as related, but requiring different solutions to combat. He proposed a climate change committee on the Valley Water board, led by himself, to “[look] at our own sustainability, carbon footprint, and what we think of ecological footprint budgets.”

Gary Kremen says Valley Water faces a “triple-headed hydra”: the combination of a worsening drought, an evolving COVID-19 pandemic, and an increasingly dire picture of climate future.

Gary Kremen described the threats to the Santa Clara Valley Water District as a “triple-headed hydra.”

When Hercules slew the Lernaean Hydra, he discovered that when one head was cut off, two would grow in its place unless he cauterized the stump with fire. The analogy is apt, for poorly thought out solutions can often worsen the very problem they aimed to fix. When facing down Valley Water’s hydra, Kremen’s fire might be his idea of ecological balance sheets, or a kind of financial accounting of ecological services and assets the district delivers. 

These balance sheets would make it “easy to see if you have a problem or if you made progress,” he says. “If you view it in a financial context — maybe there would be more buyers if people saw we had done good work in sustainability.” Not the fiery solutions popular in the age of heroism, but perhaps more appropriate for a 21st century problem.

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About The Author

Michael Hunter Adamson

was born and partly raised in the Bay Area. He employs his love for nature and his interest in people to help tell the unfolding story of the living Earth. He has worked for The Nature Conservancy and the arts and education nonprofit NaNoWriMo, taught English in Madrid-based High School equivalent, and volunteers with The Marine Mammal Center. He is the editor of the Bay Area Monitor and also writes for Estuary and AcclimateWest.