Phony Drought Forums
Every time we see a drought forum we know it will be the same old story with the same old answers.
May 06, 2015
It's going to be difficult to find answers to the California drought if the right questions aren't being asked.
The State agriculture board held their drought forum at the Fresno Fairgrounds where we heard that Every time we see a drought forum we know it will be the same old story with the same old answers. “ag is suffering, the environment is suffering, and we have urban areas that literally have run out of water...it has also significantly increased the danger of wildfires...This is an evolving disaster,
That's the kind of things you'll hear at these drought forums. They feel your pain. They will also tell you all the things they're going to do for you like "signing a $1.1 billion drought relief and flood protection package. Millions are being made available for rental assistance, food donations and 1,500-gallon water tanks for homeowners with dry wells." and it is getting worse and expanding as the days go on."
And don't forget the penalties for wasting water where "the worst offenders could receive a fine of up to $10,000 per violation."
That's a typical drought forum. But, we've put together some questions we've asked in prior newsletters that we'd like to see taken up at a drought forum that could give us some real answers:
Question #1: Is there anything that can be done right now with current infrastructure we already have in place? Are there policy changes that could be made that would get more water to humans and farmers? The answer, of course, is yes. More on that coming.
Question #2: Which ecological disaster is bigger? The Delta Smelt problems or the ecological disaster of the collapsing aquifers of the Central Valley? And, can we also discuss what Federal Judge Oliver Wanger called 'sloppy science' when it comes to the NRDC's theories on the smelt?
Question #3: Why is the danger of endangered species in the Delta more important than the danger to species in the Valley caused by turning off the pumps (Birds Die So Smelt Can Live!)?
Question #4: Why are Sacramento and other delta cities allowed to dump a billion gallons of partially treated sewage into the delta a day, killing plant life and the endangered smelt? (Sacramento has been ordered to clean their sewage treatment plant, but they have until 2023 to do so.)
Question #5: Why are San Francisco and East Bay cities allowed to divert water around and south of the Delta without going through the Delta if water is so important to the Delta's health?
Question #6: If the Delta Smelt is so precious and in such danger, why do we have a catch limit of 2 on the stripped bass which dines on them?
Question #7: Why do environmentalists continue to say ag uses 80% of the water when they know it's 40%. They also know the environment uses 50%, but never acknowledge it.
Question #8: Why are we going to take 2 years to study how we'll spend the storage money in the recently passed water bond, and while we try to build new reservoirs in California, why does the bond contain money to tear down Klamath Dams?
Question #9: How are we supposed to replenish our groundwater if we don't have surface water?
Question #10: Why can't we change forest policy to make sure overgrowth doesn't soak up the rain before it gets to streams and rivers?
Question #11: Should we be taking a serious look at desalination along the coast? If coastal cities relied more on desal they wouldn't need so much water from the delta.
Now, getting back to item #1 on what we can do right now with policy changes. We outlined two proposals that we would like to see get done in a previous newsletter. First, re-do the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlememt. It would save hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water, which unfortunately are already gone down the river. Past water is gone, but future water could be saved. It's a bad deal and needs a re-do. Everyone agrees, but nothing gets done. Second, a slight change to the Endangered Species Act where water used for the environment would have the same rules of accountability as required of urban and agricultural uses.
These ideas never seem to make the itinerary of the drought forums. They are real ideas that could get real things done. Guess they don't really want to talk about it.
State agriculture board listens to public concerns about the drought
• About 50 people attended Tuesday’s meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture to speak about how the drought is affecting them.
• Speakers defended the almond industry and lamented a in the water table, among other Valley-related drought issues.
• After the meeting, members of a state drought task force planned to visit the east Porterville area, where 800 homes are without water.
There was very little good news at Tuesday’s meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture.
And perhaps for good reason. The board gathered at the Fresno Fairgrounds to hear from the public about how the state’s historic drought is affecting them.
About 50 people attended the meeting that also included California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross and state officials who d the board on government’s drought relief and conservation plans.
“Nearly everyone is being affected,” said Mark S. Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “Ag is suffering, the environment is suffering, and we have urban areas that literally have run out of water.”
Ghilarducci, who is part of a state drought task force, said that after the meeting he and other members of the task force were planning to visit the east Porterville area, where 800 homes are without water. In all, there are about 1,800 wells that have gone dry in the state. Other counties in the region with dry wells include Mariposa, Kern and Tuolumne.
Not only has the drought dried up farmer’s fields and homeowner’s wells, it has also significantly increased the danger of wildfires.
“This is an evolving disaster,” he said. “And it is getting worse and expanding as the days go on.”
To deal with the drought, Ghilarducci said, Gov. Jerry Brown has responded by signing a $1.1 billion drought relief and flood protection package. Millions are being made available for rental assistance, food donations and 1,500-gallon water tanks for homeowners with dry wells.
Ghilarducci said that as part of the governor’s executive order, the state has increased the penalties for wasting water. The worst offenders could receive a fine of up to $10,000 per violation.
Almond farmers have recently been skewered by critics for its water use. Growers are being blamed for using an unfair share to grow their crop.
Mike Mason, a Kern County almond grower, called the criticism “hyperbolic attacks.” Mason said almond farmers have received little to no surface water and have had to rely on pumping less desirable ground water. He also said that despite the perception that farmers are using too much water, he said a majority, 70%, are using water efficient drip irrigation.
Overall, the almond industry — centered in the San Joaquin Valley — is using 33% less water than it did 25 years ago.
Mason said he wants the public to know that almond farmers aren’t the bad guys.
“We produce a healthy product for a health conscious society,” Mason said.
Rural Fresno County resident Ted Miller issued a warning to members of the board that many already understood: the more groundwater that is pumped, the lower the water table will .
Miller, who lives in Caruthers, said that the water level in his area has ped an average of two feet a year over the past 70 years.
In the last 15 months, the water table has plummeted 10 feet. Miller had to install a new well recently that went down 400 feet. He figures he is OK for the time being. But he realizes many others won’t be.
“We are seeing an acceleration in the of groundwater,” Miller said. “And it has become very serious.”
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