Protest sign

The made-for-cable-news water protest events that generated these signs may have ended, but the signs and sentiment remains as the battle for water in California continues to be waged in Sacramento and the media.

When disagreements abound over water

Read between the lines of some stories and you will sometimes find the premises contained therein to be quite interesting. Some are even disturbing.

Deep within a story published online by the Stockton Record is a premise that water for San Joaquin Valley agriculture is somehow a tertiary use at best for water stored in California reservoirs.

While groups such as the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance seem to think the primary purpose dams have is to help certain species of fish, Delta farmers are upset about the increased level of salt in their irrigation water because of low river flows through the Delta. Talk about muddying up already murky waters.

If it weren’t for dams holding back waters along rivers like the American, Tuolumne, Trinity, Sacramento, Pit, McCloud and others, humans could not live much of the year in Central California because of flooding.

While flood control was foremost on the minds of proponents and builders of California’s dams, irrigation water for agriculture had to be on their minds as well. It most certainly was on the minds of those who put up the capital to build canals and ditches to convey water to millions of acres of California farmland.

After the completion of Shasta Dam, towns like Red Bluff and Chico were able to expand their footprint and grow in population as the dam stabilized water flows down the Sacramento River. It also provided a consistent source of cool water for migrating salmon along the Sacramento River as water to feed the river is taken from the bottom of Shasta Lake.

It’s ironic that sport fishing interests feel the need to criticize the use of water for agriculture when the water they enjoy is the direct result of dams built first to protect property from floods. Irrigation water for the farmland that followed was seen as an immediate benefit. If anything else, this news suggests a need for more water storage facilities in California to hold back even more water for dry periods such as this.

Even more disturbing are the complaints of farmers in one region against growers in an adjoining region over something all of California agriculture is short of: water. Like has been said here previously, farmers can stand together on common issues or they most certainly will lose their ability to farm. When that happens we all lose!

Like one California ag leader told me: on-stream dams have a whole host of benefits for humans, the environment and wildlife alike. Of the lakes created by dams, he pointed out that people can swim in them, fish can live in them, humans can boat on them, animals and humans can drink from them, farmers can irrigate crops because of them, and we can stabilize downstream flows, all to the benefit of humans and the environment.


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