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Stop Harvard's Water Grab

Tax deductible

Water is life in Cuyama. Our small, rural community in northeastern Santa Barbara County is completely dependent on groundwater for our survival. We have no other source of water for our drinking water, for our homes, for our schools, for our farms. The Cuyama Valley is one of 21 critically overdrafted basins in California. For too long more water has been pumped out of the ground than nature puts back.

The State of California says we must bring our basin into sustainability by 2040. This means we cannot pump out more than gets replenished by rainfall. We will need to reduce the pumping in our Valley by 60%. Yet a new neighbor in Cuyama–Harvard University’s investment arm– has converted non-irrigated rangeland into 850 acres of water-intensive vineyard. This investment by Harvard University’s endowment fund is depleting our groundwater and is threatening our way of life. Now they want to pump even more and we need your help to stop them.

Cuyama has always been an agricultural community. But we believe in small-scale sustainable farming. Most of us are generational farmers and ranchers acting as stewards of the land. We have made changes to cope with drought, including switching to less water-intensive crops and making cutbacks to water pumping.

Now, we must defend our critically overdrafted groundwater basin from the latest corporate newcomer that threatens it. We urge you to join us.

Help us stop Harvard Management Corporation’s water grab in Cuyama. We are raising $25,000 to fight (again) their appeal to build massive water-wasting reservoirs at their vineyard. Please consider making a donation of $50, $100, or $250 towards our goal. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar!

The hearing before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is on October 10th. Your donation will help us with our legal fees to fight this Goliath from stealing our groundwater. Each dollar you donate will be matched---please help us quickly reach our goal.

Some background on Harvard’s presence in the Cuyama Valley:

In 2012 Harvard University’s investment arm (a $50 billion endowment) purchased the historic Russell Ranch; 10,000 acres of non-irrigated rangeland located at the west end of the Cuyama Valley. In 2015 they began drilling 15 new deep wells and planting over 850 acres of water intensive grapes. A year later, under the name of their wholly owned subsidiary, Brodiaea, Inc., they filed a Santa Barbara County permit application to build three 5-acre reservoirs (covering the equivalent of more than 11 football fields). These mega reservoirs would only be filled with groundwater and could hold a total 43,875,000 gallons of water! Unlike most agricultural reservoirs in Santa Barbara County, these are so large that they require a discretionary Development Plan permit. They would be filled with enough groundwater to meet the needs of over 2,000 four-person households for one year. And they could be refilled continually with precious groundwater.

The Cuyama community has stood up to Harvard and their request to build these reservoirs. Cuyamans have rallied together and three separate times Santa Barbara County has listened to Cuyamans concerns and denied these permits. Three times we have been successful at blocking the construction of these reservoirs. Yet, Harvard persists in their narrative that the reservoirs are needed for frost protection, despite the fact that they already successfully use wind turbines for this. Now Harvard has paid their consultants and lawyers to appeal this decision one final time.

Our goal is to raise $25,000. Your donation funds Cuyama's legal defense and helps to protect our critically overdrafted groundwater basin. We are halfway there with pledges from donors willing to match your donation. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar. A $100 donation from you immediately becomes $200 for our fund.

The nonprofit organization, Committees for Land, Air, Water and Species (CLAWS) is sponsoring Cuyamans Against Water Grabs. CLAWS is a bold advocate for social and environmental justice on the Central Coast and is partnering with us in our campaign to protect water resources for all of Cuyama Valley. Your donation to CLAWS is completely tax deductible (EIN 38-3942220).

Thank you in advance for your generosity and support. Together we can do this.

Or you can send a check made out to (CLAWS) Committees for Land, Air, Water and Species to:
PO Box 215
New Cuyama, CA 93254
*Please write “Cuyama” in the memo.

With gratitude and continued hope for the future of our Cuyama Valley,
Cuyamans Against Water Grabs

  • For more information on this issue please read this article from the Santa Barbara Independent published in April 2023.

  • If you'd like to learn more about the groundwater crisis in America, please read this article from The New York Times.


  • Martha E Rosemeyer
    • $100 
    • 6 mos
  • Randall Tognazzini
    • $100 
    • 6 mos
  • Constance Garcia-Barrio
    • $10 
    • 7 mos
  • Minahil Khan
    • $25 
    • 7 mos
  • Dano Pagenkopf
    • $300 
    • 7 mos

Fundraising team (3)

Cuyama Community Members
New Cuyama, CA
Committees for Land Air Water and Species
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.
Roberta Jaffe
Team member
Stop Harvard Land Grabs
Team member

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