Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Conservation alone CAN be a big help to fix the water crisis in California

Dams for more surface water storage are probably not the best answer.

Our current wasteful and inefficient use of water in California is both bad news and good news. Waste and inefficiency is certainly bad news. The good news is that the simple and obvious water policies we should be doing to reduce our waste of water will do so much to solve the current water crisis in California.

Construction of more big dams for water storage is probably not the answer.

Schwarzenegger's director of the California Department of Water Resources has prescribed more big dams as the fix for The Delta and California's water supply crisis in our current drought year (sacbee 17oct2007). The governor's blue-ribbon commission studying how to fix the Delta has not yet presented its findings or the data that back them up. Nobody has presented any cost/benefit analysis for construction of the big dams that the governor wants us to build (Environmental Defense 10oct2007). If there are no data supporting construction of these dams, then maybe its just a macho urge to make something large and built from concrete. All of the best dam sites in California are already constructed, so any new dams would certainly store less water at higher costs than the dams of the past. Almost all of our rivers already have dams, so any new dams would only be able to capture the occasional flood flows that are too great to be captured by the old dams.

Cities can do more to conserve water.

Where I live water usage is not metered, so I could waste as much as I want without paying any extra costs. I've heard of water conserving toilets, but I haven't actually seen one in any of the homes or businesses that I have visited in recent years. Instead of wasting water to use the garbage disposals in our kitchen sinks we should all be composting our food wastes. We have acres of nice green grass and other water-wasting landscaping plants just for show, but we could get by with a lot less.

Agriculture uses most of our water, so they must do the most water conservation.

Agriculture uses 80% of our water in California. Alfalfa is a low-value crop with high water requirements; maybe this crop should be moved from California to another location where it can grow more from rainwater rather than from our precious irrigation water. (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Whenever I take a ride in the country I see irrigation water wasted in dirt-lined irrigation ditches, rather than the concrete-lined ditches we should be using. Irrigation water is applied to the plants using the same wasteful furrow and flood methods used in ancient Egypt. Swampland production of rice should be done in the swamplands of Louisiana, maybe not in artificial swamplands created in California with our precious irrigation water.

Lets enforce the 960 acre limit (Natural Resources Defense Council). The federal irrigation projects provide cheap, subsidized irrigation water to agriculture at incredibly low costs. The original legislation setting up this program was designed to help small family farmers, so there was a 960 acre limitation for farms eligible for the program. Corrupt officials have never enforced this part of the law, so the public ends up providing "water welfare" subsidies to the robber barons of our giant mega-million dollar farm corporations. Only when the taxpayer-subsidized "water welfare" programs are brought under control will big corporation agriculture have the economic incentives they need to stop wasting water and start doing agriculture in a more sustainable, water-economical way. Lets have a water policy that serves the people, not just a few big agricultural corporations.

The toxic poison lands in the western San Joaquin valley should no longer be irrigated (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility 20aug2007) Since the toxic waste disaster at Kesterton Reservoir in 1987 scientists have not found a solution to the problem of selenium poisoning in the water drained from the irrigated agricultural fields in this area. The current water crisis provides a great opportunity to take all of these poison lands out of agricultural production. Stop irrigating these toxic lands and make that water available to other users in California. This is the water policy that makes the most sense for our future.

More about:
California has enough water - Los Angeles Times 23oct2007.
Water Policy Sacramento CA and California River Conservation - BRT Insights.
Selenium Directory - toxic waste in irrigation drainage from the western San Joaquin Valley of California (29 sites).

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