Monday, February 03, 2014

CA Drought News. Oil and Water mix it up in Kern County

The recent ruling by California's State Water Board severely restricted water deliveries in 2014.  In many  cases, they will be eliminated.  Part of the background for this is the drought declaration from Governor Brown asking all Californian's to restrict water usage by 20%.   It made me wonder just far that goes in restricting agricultural and industrial usage or whether it only applies to "citizens" like you and I.

I remembered reading about the use of water in oil extraction in a past issue of High Country News.  I quickly found the article declaring that Oil and Water Don't Mix with California Agriculture.  It begins with a narration of the troubles of a farmer on the eduge of Kern County's oilfields.
Starrh Farms has 6,000 acres of pistachios, cotton, almonds and alfalfa. Starrh proudly points out almond trees planted 155 to the acre with the aid of lasers and GPS. At the edge of his land, he pulls up beside 20-foot-high earthen berms, the ramparts of large "percolation" ponds that belong to a neighbor, Aera Energy.
From the mid-1970s to the early 2000s, Aera dumped more than 2.4 billion barrels (or just over 100 billion gallons) of wastewater -- known in the industry as "produced water" -- from its North Belridge oilfield into those unlined ponds, Starrh says. The impact became apparent beginning in 1999, when Starrh dug several wells to augment the irrigation water he gets from the California Aqueduct. He mixed the groundwater with aqueduct water, applied it to a cotton field beside the berms -- and the plants wilted. Eventually, the well water killed almond trees, Starrh says; he points out a few that look like gray skeletons.
If you wonder what Aera Energy was doing to that water it is just like fracking. The water inserted into the ground and petrolems is extracted along with most of the water.   In the case reported by High Country News, the water was left in unlined settling ponds.  In other cases, it is reinserted into old wells to disposal.  But that allows it to mix freely with the groundwater with disastrous results for Agriculture.

One good thing about recent CA legislation is that we can get a bit of a glimpse at what Aera Energy is using.   They now have to file a formal document with a water management plan.  On Dec. 11, 2013Aera Eenrgy filed an  "Interim Well Stimulation Treatment Notice" for a well in Kern County's South Belridge Fierld.   The attached water management plan stated that the water could be sourced from the California Aqueduct via Aera's interest in the Belridge Water Managent District.  So, if Oil interests are fouling the water for these big ag farmers, who is selling them the water?   The Board of Directors for the Belridge Water Management District includes Larry Starrh, brother and business partner of the Fred Starrh featured in the HCN news.  Also on the Board is William D. Phillmore, an executive with Paramount Farms, another Big Ag comrporation owned by Demorcatic Political players, Setward and Linda Resnick.  I am sure that you are familiar with the Paramount Farms brads: Fiji Water, Halos (used to be branded as Cuties) Mandarine Oranges, Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice and the entire Wonderful family of nut products,. pistachios and almonds.

It is pretty clear that we will be asked to save water while the politically connected Kern County Oil companies will continue business as usual.   Hell, the Starrh family will probably sell their water rights to Aera Energy and collect more money that they would growing crops in the desert. Have to see how much the Starrh operations collect in Cotton Subsidies.  Love the quote from Fred Starrh on that link as he discusses farm subsides with John Stossel.
 If they can't make a profit, I don't think they deserve a gift from taxpayers just so they can keep farming.

"Well I totally disagree with you John, and the legislature is with us
at this point, so we're winning, and you're losing," Fred Starrh said.
California Greens need to increase their level of knowledge on water issues.  With a few exceptions, we clearly do not have the expertise required to begin putting together  sensible policies.  Hopefully, a little outrage about how the arrogant affluent control our lives and isolate themselves from the consequences of their own actions through the exercise of political power.  After all, as Starrh says, the legislature is with them, not us.

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