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Sports Guy in Water War

"People who use words like “wasted” and phrases like “flushed to the ocean” only show their fourth-grade understanding of ecology."

Feb 16, 2017

We generally go to the sports page to escape from the day to day politics on the front page, but with people like Colin Kaepernick and others protesting various things, the sports page isn't the refuge it used to be.  

The other day we were reading the Fresno Bee sports page where one of their sports writers, in a column that had nothing to do with water, wrote this:  "People who use words like “wasted” and phrases like “flushed to the ocean” when they see water being released through Friant Dam into the San Joaquin River only show their fourth-grade understanding of ecology."

Since we are people who use phrases like "wasted" and "flushed to the ocean" we'd like to beg to differ.  When we see reservoirs overflowing, flooded rivers, and people surfing down the streets because there's so much water and we see it "flushed to the ocean" and "wasted" it's hard not to notice.  If we had a place to put it, like more storage, we wouldn't have to use deions like "wasted" and "flushed to the ocean", would we?  This water isn't doing anyone any good, not farmers, not cities, not rivers, not the delta, and not fish.  

Farmers never knew they would have to be experts on the ecology, or biology, or endangered species, and especially politics.  But, when the very government that built the California water system, the system that provided water to the Central Valley for farming, began to take the water back, they had no choice.  Realize, water determines the value of the land, and taking water was equivalent to taking their land.  People had made lifetime decisions when purchasing the land, believing their water contracts would be honored by the powers that be.  

Farmers have watched California's leaders continue to drag their feet when it comes to upgrading the water system, passing water bond after water bond without investing in additional storage.  Because of their unwillingness to increase the storage capacity over the past decades we have come to call our situation a man-made drought.

We would like to get results when water is used to save the fish, but we see stories like "30,000 acre feet of water were flushed down the Stanislaus River in May in an effort to grow the salmon population.  The water was worth $21,000,000.  It saved 9 fish.  Do the math. Over $2 million per fish."  Or a $70-$150-million effort on the Tuolumne River to save 500-1000 fish.  That could be up to $300,00 per fish.  We would like to see some accountability.  Farmers are criticized for using too much water to grow an almond, but it's nothing like the water it takes to grow a fish.  

We have only one request when it comes to releasing water down the rivers to help the ecology or the fish.  This idea was suggested by FPV Board Member Kole Upton at the Congressional hearing held in Fresno in March of 2014.  Kole suggests that part of the revision of the Endangered Species Act incorporate "a proposed law requiring environmental water releases be held to the same standards for efficiency and accountability as required of urban and agricultural uses. Water is a public resource and should not be wasted by any user. So, if an environmental water release is not accomplishing the task for which it is being released, then it should be made available to the other water users so it may be beneficially used for society." 

If we could get some accountability for environmental water use, we wouldn't have to use terms like "wasted" or "flushed to the ocean" to describe what's happening.

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