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Stop the Mad Water Grab

Background information

Mad River

Mad River map The Mad River watershed drains about 500 square miles. The basin is 100 miles in length, averages six miles wide, and is bounded by parallel ridges of the Coast Range. It rises in Trinity County, California and flows northwest to the Pacific Ocean just north of Arcata, in Humboldt County.

The Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District controls Matthews Dam, 85 upstream from the mouth of the Mad River. Ruth Lake was created by the dam, and serves as a reservoir for the District.

Ranney collector The District extracts water from the Mad River at Essex, about 10 miles from the mouth, using two separate systems. Water for municipal use flows through Ranney collectors beneath the riverbed through pumps (photo at left) to the District’s treatment plant, located at Korblex. Water for industrial use is diverted directly from the river’s surface flow and pumped without treatment to the Samoa peninsula.

The untreated water was used by two pulp mills on the Samoa peninsula. After one of the mills shut down in 1998, the District considered the water it had used as “excess” water available for sale. This is the water that Aqueous wants to ship to southern California.

Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District

According to their website, “HBMWD has up to twenty million gallons daily (20 MGD) of water available for sale to business or industry seeking to locate in Eureka, Arcata or the greater Humboldt Bay area… This is a reliable supply, backed up by dependable rain, Ruth Lake – a 48,000 acre foot reservoir – and a well maintained delivery system of pumps, pipelines, and treatment equipment.

Ruth Lake
Ruth Lake

Environmental Concerns

Mad River “Exporting water from the Mad River as proposed would bring a whole host of environmental problems, posing a danger to the Mad River and its estuary, Humboldt Bay, and points all along the coast that would be passed while the water is in transit. Many of these environmental problems are foreseeable, but given the untested nature of this proposal, there are undoubtedly many more that cannot be contemplated at this time.”

See the Environmental Protection Information Center website for details:

  • Environmental Concerns
  • Mad Facts Behind the Mad Water Grab

Aqueous, Inc

Aqueous is run by Ric Davidge, a former official of the US Department of the Interior under Secretary James Watt. Under its previous name of Alaska Water Exports, the company was a partner in WorldWater SA. Davidge wrote a paper on the viability of bulk water transoceanic marketing in the north Pacific in 1993.

waterbag & tugboat Alaska Water Exports proposed to export bulk fresh water from the Albion and Gualala Rivers in Mendocino County, but withdrew the proposal in December 2002 in the face of determined opposition from local residents and the political establishment.

The public attended dozens of meetings and sent hundreds of protests to the State Water Board; thousands of citizens signed a petition opposing the water grab. The Mendocino and Sonoma County Boards of Supervisors, California Coastal Commission and California legislature all expressed clear opposition to Davidge’s proposal.

For more information about the campaign to stop the Albion & Gualala water grab, see the Gualala River website.

Opposing Corporate Water Privatization

United Nations logo “The human right to drinking water is fundamental to life and health. Sufficient and safe drinking water is a precondition for the realization of human rights.”
– United Nations ‘General Comment’ on the Right to Water

For information on opposing corporate water privatization, see: