In an op-ed in today’s Sacramento Bee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, has a lot of ideas for fixing California’s water problems:
- bigger dams
- tweaks (unspecified) to the Endangered Species Act
- a Peripheral Tunnel (do we still call it “Peripheral”?) to ease conveyance of water from north to south of the water Californians will be storing behind their new, larger dams
- a giant statewide water bond to pay for stuff, but not too big! or the voters might not approve it
Notably absent from her list: using less water.
It is state law already to reduce urban water use by 20 percent by 2020. Farms already use less water — like, none, in extremis — when it’s not available. Groundwater’s so heavily tapped in California that farm-water efficiency is ultimately self-defeating (as overwatering just recharges aquifers and feeds streams).
What’d you have in mind?
Oh, and to hear critics from the water-users’ lobby (and there are certainly enviromental-minded critics too), the recently passed Delta Plan is also a water-reduction plan:
“Contrary to one of the Act’s coequal goals of achieving a more reliable water supply for California, the Program EIR assumes that implementation of the Delta Plan will result in substantial reductions in the delivery and use of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta).”
Bruce – Thanks, what I have in mind is the need for Californians to have a conversation about the viability of agriculture on the scale currently practiced in arid areas where the state’s increasing water problems suggest it may not be sustainable at the scale at which it is currently practiced. This includes not only the question of surface water, which Feinstein discusses in her piece, but also California’s increasingly unsustainable dependance on rapidly declining aquifers.
The climate’s perfect (for now, anyway). They’ll keep farming as long as there’s any possible way to buy enough water to make it pencil.
Bruce – But Feinstein’s not talking here about making water available to farmers who will pay its full cost. She’s talking about subsidies through a variety of mechanisms. I’ve still got questions about farmers pulling up and using a “public trust” resource in (the groundwater) solely by paying their pumping costs. But Feinstein’s talking about actions well beyond that, in which state and federal taxpayers will be subsidizing irrigated agriculture.