By Barry Nelson
From NRDC – Wednesday, June 20, 2012
You hear it all over – the dam building era is over. MSNBC said it. The National Research Council also said it — in a far drier fashion. In a report on climate change impacts on the Colorado River, the NRC concluded that the potential for new surface storage in the Colorado River Basin is “limited.” But this pronouncement, if correct, begs a question – what comes next? After the dam building era, then what?
Coalition response…The author is correct in saying “We need to design water solutions that will work in the coming century.” But those designs will be faulty and inadequate if they are developed according to the new NRDC report, which repeats suggestions by the Pacific Institute for saving 700,000 acre-feet of water by California farmers. The suggestions in the Institute’s 2010 report overstated the water use efficiency potential on California farms by at least a factor of two and maybe much, much more.
Claiming that farmers can conserve such huge amounts of water by switching to less water intensive crops and adopting sprinkler/drip irrigation systems to replace gravity/flood irrigation simply ignores reality. The decision to plant which crop is governed by the marketplace and will constantly change for some farmers. Telling a farmer which crop he or she is allowed to plant is a sure-fire way to run them out of business. That increases unemployment, reduces food choices at the grocery store and increases prices for consumers who are already strapped by a weak economy.
There are numerous factors—soil, weather, cost, energy, etc.—a farmer must consider in determining which irrigation practice to implement. California farmers have already invested more than $2 billion in upgraded irrigation systems since 2003 and more improvements occur every year. Consumers benefit from the innovation and efficiency on California farms. Forcing changes that don’t make sense is a recipe for disaster.
By Glen Martin
From Huffington Post – Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Jon Stewart ran a typically risible segment last week about a distinctly unfunny story: the discovery of a two-headed trout in an Idaho watershed, the result of selenium contamination from phosphate mining operations by the J.R. Simplot Co. The bit reprises, in a far funnier way, an earlier New York Times piece on the issue by Leslie Kaufman.
Coalition response…The author needs to take some time and visit the westside of the San Joaquin Valley to see for himself the current efforts by farmers to grow a healthy supply of fruits and vegetables while preventing selenium from reaching the San Joaquin River. A visit would reveal the fallacies that he includes in the article and the fact that today’s situation is vastly different from what happened at Kesterson a generation ago.
Farmers in the 100,000-acre Grassland Drainage Area have worked with environmental organizations and State/federal agencies since 1995 to reduce the drainage from their lands. More than 57,500 acre-feet of drainage water was discharged in 1995 before the establishment of the Grassland Bypass Project (GBP). That number dropped to 14,500 acre-feet, a 75% reduction, by 2010. In addition, the amount of selenium, salt and boron (all naturally occurring minerals) reaching the river was reduced by 87%, 72% and 64% respectively.
Based on the success of the project, the Regional Water Quality Control Board approved the continuance of the GBP efforts to December 2019. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency termed the GBP “a success story (visit http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/success319/ca_san.cfm to read the EPA report).
Anyone interested in seeing the success achieved in managing Westside water supplies in a way that continues to produce safe, healthful and affordable food products while protecting environmental resources can contact us for a tour. The facts speak for themselves.