Liberty Chronicles

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink - Part 2 of 5

Delves into California Water Issues. Water is now a Crypto currency. Corporate farmers are not Family farmers. State climate change policy is the man made crisis.

By Ed McKervey
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Originally published in the Porterville Recorder's 5/17/2023 issue. Part 2 of 5.

More than 25% of the water used in the south valley is imported and purchased from the north starting with a full 15% that came from the Central Valley Project in 1933.  Oh and by the way this was paid for by the Federal Government to solve drought crisis which means the first big water project to move water from northern California to Southern California was paid for by all of the citizens of the U.S. Ironically the increase in water for the south aligned with the flood crisis in the north at the same time. When put to a vote the measure passed by a thin margin. The vote illustrated the power of the flood in Northern California and its inverse relationship to the drought in Southern California.   Yes that’s right the increased water from the 1933 agreement was favored in the south due to drought and favored in the north due to flood at the same time.  The deal was that Shasta Dam would protect the north from flooding and part of the deal was to move 15% of the water to the south where the demand for farming is more than 2 times the demand in the north.  

The transfer of resources from north to south added water to the parched arid climate in the south valley and also supplied folks with water to drink.  For many years there was abundance and more water in the south than the climate provides for farms and families beyond what was needed or demanded. However the pumping continued unabated and the farms continued to grow.  In the 7 year drought flood cycle we see in our valley we needed to be storing for drought years not pumping in drought years. The golden goose was evicted from the wetlands and the remaining life giving water is being pumped to certain death. 

All we have to do is look to Genesis and the story of Joseph to see what happens to the people when a portion of the crop is not set aside for lean years. If you zoom out and look at the big picture the amount of water we have available in the south can easily and regularly provide for 2 million acres of farmland and all of the people. After the 1933 central valley project was completed the promise of abundance could have reduced the demand for pumping from the aquifer. That sentiment was short lived and human nature makes plain what happened next.  The more things change the more things stay the same.  The one thing we have learned from history is that we do not learn from history. 

The problem was that the agreement from the 1933 Central Valley Project would have limited large farms to 160 acres was rejected in the courts and the amount of farming began to increase ever since and has now reached 8 million acres farmed.   That’s four times the demand in 100 years and clearly unsustainable.   Factor in the expansion of farming are permanent crops (tree’s) that demand for water is more than three times the acreage and must be watered even in dry years. So the pumping just increased with the landowners controlling more and more.  The pumping never slowed down and the big pumps were going deeper and deeper stealing water that finds its lowest point from the family farms upstream.  Water is always moving and if you are draining it from the bottom the top goes lower and that’s why wells upstream are lower the water is moving.  This water bank has a leak and it is leaking through a pump. The only way to fill up the bathtub is to plug the leak. 

We are farming places that should never be farmed and at best would be good grazing lands in wet years only but are now demanding water continuously in places that have no water. Ironically this is where the land was so cheap and why giant farms arose in these areas to become conglomerates requiring water deliveries and pumping the aquifer. We are not being good stewards of the land. This is not the noble small farmer that had to live in concert with the climate and the land on small plots.  This is not the noble farmer that would never plant in bad soil where there was no natural water supply.   This is something else entirely.  This is a modern problem created by man and when 160 acres was not enough they loosened it up to 960 acres. The when 960 acres was not enough the farms became virtually unlimited in size.  The crops matter less and less than the farming of the water.

The Family Farm and the Corporate Industrialized Farm are not the same in any way shape or form.  The east valley crops of Citrus & Grapes require labor by hand and always will. The big industrialized nut farmers use machines and these crops have mechanized harvesting adding to their profitability. The Family Farms are being gobbled up into ever bigger industrial farms and forced to join farming conglomerates to survive. At the same time the government pressure for “affordable houses” which is an oxymoron is greater than ever. The financial incentives to convert farmland into houses are enormous just look at LA that was all farmland 100 years ago. This is a tried and true method and big profits ensue in farming houses.  

None of these things are remotely the same as the idyllic Noble Family Farm idea in your mind.  The conditions created by this drought & flood eschatology are destroying the family farms and converting farmland to houses in a vicious cycle that pits folks against each other to fight over crumbs. The rhetoric hides the root of the problem which is simply that we have more acres in production than we have water to serve those acres.  Its 1933 all over again, the more things change the more things stay the same.

We are on a highway to hell with the current unsustainable trajectory where the insatiable demand for water is never enough and it long past time to find an exit ramp. The only way to reverse this course is less farmland which we know won’t happen anytime soon. Smart meters won’t solve this problem because they don’t create water they just measure it.  Smart meters will just put more of the burden on people. 

Smart meters won’t stop the corporate farms from abusing the water supply and the big guys will continue to consume the little guys until there are no more little guys. The smart meters actually make farming houses more lucrative in a perverse way. Then like the government the corporate farmer will donate some money to fund a school or a hospital giving back a few shillings of the billions they made and call it good. Let’s join the program and recognize these folks by naming dams, schools, arts and hospitals to celebrate their benevolence.

Even though it feeds the beast let’s consider some real solutions that have the potential to help everyone.  The bigger idea that I expressed to the California uniparty on conference calls with politicians 15 years ago was laughed at.  But big problems require big solutions so here is a big idea that can work if people get behind it and step out of the matrix for a moment. We need the pull water from the ocean and or the bay and desalinize it. 

Think of de-salinization on an industrial scale.  If we create a plant up north that fills the canals that funnel south leveraging existing hydraulic Infrastructure we can have our cake and eat it too.  The Root Cause of the water problem in the south valley is that there is not enough water to support the farms that is the very definition of the man-made socioeconomic drought.  We can fight and point fingers over who is more to blame for using too much water like children or we can pull together and create some solutions that help everyone. Yes we should return to the 160 acre limit to prevent the abuse of the aquifer that has led to unconstrained growth that cannot continue.

Good leadership would seek REAL sustainable solutions like brand new Molten Salt Reactors that can produce safe and clean power required to desalinize water. Might be a good idea to create new reliable renewable power sources before shutting down older less renewable existing Nuclear Power plants.  How stupid are we to shut down existing power plants without a viable alternative?  We see the same problem with electricity as we see with water.  We use more than we have and we think charging more for it is a solution. Stupid is as stupid does.  

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Ed McKervey

Liberty Chronicles presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of the editors, Blessings of Liberty, or its Board of Directors.

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