Open Letter: SWRCB – Beneficial Uses of Water

Dear State Water Resource Control Board,

Beneficial Uses form the cornerstone of water quality protection under regional Basin Plans. Uniquely, the State of California recognizes both property-based water rights and water rights not tied to land ownership. While over 100 federally-recognized Indian tribes are located in California – by far, more than any other state, the complexity of the California water protection challenge is clear and apparent. While current water needs regularly include agricultural production need and community water needs, Tribal water needs are marginalized; yet they must be included in definition of “Beneficial Use” in order to ensure that the Tribes participate in and contribute to the State Water Plan. Tribes, such as the Pomo of the Clear Lake Basin, use the water and its resources as a daily part of life. Tribal cultural use of natural resources is not “recreational use” but rather should be defined as “intrinsic use and intrinsic need.” The State of California must recognize that Indigenous People of California have a say in what Beneficial Use is.

We use the water because we live with the water. We continue to gather our traditional foods from the water; we say our daily prayers at the shorelines edge. We gather natural materials for use in our cultural expression and we care for our water year after year. Incorporating Tribal Beneficial Use definitions into the State Water Plan will not only aid in the protection of our traditional lifeways but also set a high standard for how we as Californians protect our resources. The Indigenous People of California respectfully ask for incorporation and inclusion in the definition of “Beneficial Uses”.

Traditionally, we believe water has an inseparable physical and spiritual relationship with all elements of nature and that traditional knowledge teaches that all facets are alive and interconnected. By adopting Tribal Beneficial Uses this will ensure those traditional uses are protected for generations to come.

Thank You,
Irenia Quitiquit, Eastern Pomo, Environmental Director for Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians and
Meyo Marrufo, Eastern Pomo, Environmental Director for Guidiville Rancheria

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