Despite the fall in popularity of bottled water, there is still large consumer demand. Major corporations are looking for new sources, and in many cases, communities are fighting back. In Mt. Shasta, California, not only are residents concerned about the “large water draws” of bottled water plants, they are also worried about the health effects from cloud seeding that occurs in the area. Thus, citizens collected signatures and the city council has decided to place on the ballot an ordinance that would ban bottled water plants and cloud seeding giving the people local water control.
Mt. Shasta is a popular destination in all seasons. This majestic 14,179-foot volcano rises above the town of 3000 residents, one-third of which have signed the ordinance collected by the Mount Shasta Community Rights Project. Resident Angelina Cook explains the community’s concerns:
Two major multi-national corporations are already extracting undisclosed amounts of our water. Now PG&E wants to seed our clouds with chemicals to make more water to take. Water is a public resource, and it should be up to the public to decide how it’s used.
Cloud seeding has been used in northern California since the 1960s. The power company wants to increase precipitation in order to power the 11 hydroelectric power plants in the Central Valley Project. Although Shasta Lake is 99% full this year, other reservoirs in the region are still at only 60% capacity. Mt. Shasta News explains:
Weather modification, also known as cloud seeding, is a process that involves injecting silver iodide aerosol into already existing storm clouds with the hopes of creating more moisture. The goal of the PG&E program is to create 5 to 10% more moisture, which, argues PG&E, will help promote the hydroelectric power generation facilities that exist in the Upper McCloud and Pit river watersheds.
Not only does this form of weather modification cause concerns for the environment, as it is bio-accumulative in aquatic environments, but there are health concerns. Silver iodide, as well as the other chemicals involved in cloud seeding, are identified as a “hazardous substances” under the Clean Water Act. Furthermore, there is scientific evidence presented by the National Academy of Sciences that cloud seeding is not an “effective rain making tool”.
In addition to cloud seeding, Mt. Shasta residents are concerned with the impact bottled water plants have on local aquifers. “Corporate water extraction” violates local rights to water, and the ordinance would restrict the sale of water outside of the city limits. The area has experienced the bullying tactics of major bottled water companies, as nearby McCloud has fought Nestle for over six years.
Of course, the ordinance does not come without controversy. There is concern it supersedes state law, as well as violates the Single Subject Rule that limits voter initiatives to one subject. Proponents argue the issue is water, and at the heart of the debate is the community’s desire for self-government. Voters will decide in November if they will regain local control of water to protect the environment and their health.