"Does anybody check the numbers?"
2014-07-25 from "River Currents" column by Ron Sorok:
few weeks back, I got a call from a local TV news station asking me to
comment on a state Farm Bureau news release. It was a curious press
release. In a nutshell, it blasted the state for even considering
groundwater management legislation. Instead, we were told that we just
needed to build more dams.
Well, it certainly is understandable that
the Farm Bureau has some intense feelings about this. After all, most of
the groundwater mining in California is done by agriculture.
Groundwater management, ideally, tries to make groundwater use
sustainable---and in the long run using more groundwater than is being
recharged is not sustainable.
But even more important was the
implication of the press release that if we only could build more dams
we would not have to worry about keeping groundwater use sustainable.
the USGS reports that 150 cubic kilometers of water have been evacuated
from California’s groundwater basins over the past 160 years. In
California’s San Joaquin Valley alone, the long-term groundwater
overdraft is 2-million acre-feet per year and accelerating in
California’s unregulated environment. The USGS thinks it might be twice
We’ve also got some agency numbers about the yield
(“new” water developed) from all the new or expanded dams that Congress
might authorize and might be funded in the upcoming multibillion dollar
water bond: it amounts to only 10% of the USGS San Joaquin Valley
groundwater-overdraft estimate and 1% of the existing water use in the
A 10% groundwater solution for just one region in California.
And who in their right mind thinks that this overdrafting farming region
will get a significant share of the water from these proposed deadbeat
dams costing almost 9 billion dollars. Your guess is right, not much
under the beneficiary-pays principle.
And to put the costs into
perspective, the Federal Central Valley Project delivers about eight
million acre-feet of water in a typical year. Farmers, a few cities, and
a few power users are still paying for this project. What do they still
owe? About two-billion dollars. And they complain about their water and
power bills now.
So somebody over at the Farm Bureau can’t do math very well.
course some of our state and national leaders can’t do math well
either. The math challenged just might think that we can avoid
responsible use of the state’s groundwater---its best drought
reserve---by building more expensive, low-yield dams on California
rivers. But we shouldn’t let them do it. The numbers don’t lie.
And rivers matter too.