By JON CHOWN (REGISTER-PAJARONIAN)
A delegation of 24 citizens from the Zhejiang province of China toured Watsonville’s water treatment plant, the water recycling facility and the Pajaro River levee Monday in order to learn how to better manage water in their country. Lisa Dobbins, executive director of Action Pajaro Valley, led the tour with the help of APV board members and city officials. The Chinese delegation spent a little more than two hours learning about the valley’s problem with saltwater intrusion, how the valley uses recycled water to irrigate crops and the bureaucratic nightmare that stands in the way of strengthening the levee.
The members of the delegation were all government officials from Zhejiang’s water resources department. They came to the United States to learn about current water management practices with regard to irrigation, flood protection, watershed management and conservation practices. “It was a pleasure to welcome people here from across the planet and learn how we share common issues,” Dobbins said. Zhejiang province lies on the central coast of eastern China. Much of the province, traditionally known as the “Land of Fish and Rice,” is prone to flooding. The province’s top crop is rice, followed by wheat. It is one of the richest provinces in China.
One of the issues it doesn’t share is the Pajaro Valley’s inability to get better flood protection. The delegation had a difficult time understanding the problems Watsonville faces in having a better levee constructed. “It is the duty of the government in China to build levees and dams,” said Sun Hanxing, an assistant planner in the Department of Water Resources of Zhejiang province. “In China, if the government decided a levee should be built, it would be finished within a year.”
The Chinese officials were treated to samples of Martinelli’s apple juice and fresh berries from Driscoll’s and said both were delicious. A Driscoll’s brochure written in Chinese was also provided. While being led on the tour of the facility, the delegation took photos of everything imaginable, including drainpipes, water fountains, masonry work, the levee, the river and the Watsonville Water Resources Building.
“The city is very proud of the facility we have here in Watsonville,” said Bob Geyer, Watsonville Public Works assistant director. “The Water Resources Center is an award-winning facility and ranks among the top 10 of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world.”
Hanxing said the delegation arrived in San Francisco nine days ago and will be in the country for two more weeks. After visiting various places in the Bay Area and the Sacramento Valley, the tour stopped in Watsonville before heading down to Los Angeles. From there the visitors will fly to New York and visit sites on the East Coast.
Jiang Ying, who led the delegation, said she was impressed with the Pajaro Valley’s beauty and the great reception the group received. “What was most impressive was your emphasis on underground water protection and conservation practices,” she said through an interpreter. “We have problems with (saltwater intrusion) as well, so the experience we have had here will be very helpful to us.”
Note: Members of the Zhejiang Province Delegation requested to meet members of Action Pajaro Valley to learn about the issues we are facing, and about bringing people together regionally to find common solutions.