Groups opposing water-funding proposition exhibit art on Sproul Plaza

Rachael Garner/Staff

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An art exhibition Tuesday on Sproul Plaza depicted criticisms of Proposition 1, a measure to authorize $7.5 billion to fund water-related programs.

Two groups — Restore the Delta and No on Prop. 1 — organized the presentation to explain their ecological and economic reasons for opposing the proposition. They collaborated with a volunteer activist art group called the Beehive Design Collective to create the images on display, which were part of a 17-day tour through the state.

“We’re against Prop. 1 because a lot of money is being asked to pay for projects that subsidize public water for private interests,” said spokesperson Javier Padilla-Reyes of No on Prop. 1. “It doesn’t do enough to address the drought or the continuing issue of the oversubscription of water we don’t have.”

Padilla-Reyes said the legislation would benefit a select handful of individuals with big farms in south Central Valley. The overarching problem, he added, is that California has given out more water rights than it has water to give. The alternatives he suggests are analyzing where and how to better distribute the water and increasing self-reliance in communities to prevent what he called “restructuring California to help one population.”

About 20 students and community members sat on the grass as Padilla-Reyes and other speakers involved used the art to demonstrate their views, focusing on the “privatization of water” but also including other ecological issues. Many in the crowd were passers-by who were attracted by the intricate graphics that hung from the trees near Sproul Hall.

“It is always sobering to hear the reality that the layman doesn’t consider,” said Maria Gerstley, a UC Berkeley senior. “It was really special — it was true education because it was an interactive dialogue. The art was … powerful and expressive.”

Three ASUC officials from Event Services and the LEAD Center approached the groups as the presentation came to a close, saying they did not follow protocol or receive approval to speak at a space typically reserved for student organizations.

Lauded by both Republicans and Democrats, the proposition is likely to pass, Padilla-Reyes noted. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, voiced her support for the proposition in a statement Aug. 11, saying it addresses California’s water infrastructure demands, such as water storage, delta restoration, levee improvements, groundwater remediation and water reuse.

Students for Engaged and Active Learning coordinated with the political groups to bring them to campus. According to Paula Jaramillo, a campus junior involved with the organization, the event was intended to take place at Gill Tract, a university-owned piece of land in Albany, but Executive Associate Dean of the College of Natural Resources Steve Lindow did not grant access to the farm.

Contact Frances Fitzgerald at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @f_fitzgerald325.