The recent announcement that water used for farms and humans will instead be flushed out to sea suggests California can no longer afford the status quo under the leadership of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
Dos Palos, Calif. farmer Erik Wilson covers the idea eloquently when he says: “Never before in human history has a society actively sought to end their own food supply.”
The need for agricultural water should be so self-evident that social media memes are unnecessary. To frame Wilson’s thought as a question: why is it necessary to defend food production and its need for fresh water when we all require food and water to sustain human life?
I recently discovered that I’m not alone in the thought that California should abolish the SWRCB. Rather than simply fold existing staff and board members in the organization into a new bureaucracy, or give them “soft-landings” by placing them in other organizations, they too must go. The current path this agency is on is unsustainable and one we should not entertain because its destruction of agriculture and decisions to waste water is abhorrent.
Those who daily pay attention to the SWRCB and its edicts tell me the agency wants to take 30-50 percent of the unimpaired flows from several San Joaquin Valley rivers and upwards of 75 percent of the unimpaired flows from the Sacramento River to dilute toxic water conditions in the Bay Delta – conditions resulting from poor urban planning. Of course, they don’t sell it that way – their stated purpose is to “protect fish.”
Where is the fairness in demanding that farmers and upstream water users give up their right to fresh water to address problems created by urban users downstream? What happens when this plan fails? How much more water will be necessary? How many more people must suffer because of lost water, lost jobs and lost food production?
Meanwhile, canal systems built to convey surface water to agricultural and urban users are in such disrepair because of over-pumped aquifers they can no longer deliver at design capacity. Why is groundwater over-pumped, you ask? Because of environmental laws enacted with and resulting from the Central Valley Project Improvement Act that prohibit conjunctive use. New laws to prevent groundwater overdraft are incapable of addressing the failed public policy responsible for our water woes.
We’re continually told that water issues in California and the West are convoluted and complex. No, they’re simple – they’ve merely been made to sound difficult. We’re mismanaging what we have. “Conjunctive use” is no longer policy, it’s prohibited.
How ironic is it for the United States to send delegations and commission charitable organizations to third-world countries to help develop clean, sustainable water resources to drink and grow crops when we allow public policy to effectively create the same conditions here by taking water from farmers.