Saturday, May 02, 2009

Food Grows where Water Flows

I have never driven down the Central Valley without seeing sign after sign that reminded me that “Food Grow Where Water Flows”. They are posted along both I-5 and Rte. 99, covering old tanks and stacks of cotton bales.

There is a truth in that statement that we all understand. California's major food producing areas are all valleys: Imperial Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Salinas Valley. They all rely on irrigation. It is mostly through irrigation that California has become the number 1 agricultural state in the country, producing $36.6 Billion in revenue in 2007.

That is a big argument for maintaining the status quo. In fact, we a growing population to feed, there is pressure to extend agriculture in to ever more lands, some of which are totally unsuitable. The environmental consequences of that are routinely ignored. -- more --

The only problem is that nothing can maintain the status quo. Things are always changing, becoming something different. That is the lesson of ecology, a lesson that Greens have learned even if others have not. We all live in a complex system of things that are created and things that die. Our hope is that we are not the ones who will die.

Currently the major change is climate. The most recent forecasts indicate that we may not be able to avoid a temperature increase of 6° C. by 2100. Such a change would entirely disrupt all of our natural systems and California's agricultural industry is rather ground zero in this

That is why I call attention to those signs. Food Grows Where Water Flows. They are no longer a simple description of California's agribusiness. They are a political slogan. Perhaps they always were. You will hear the same story repeated again and again. California's Agriculture needs water. The environmentalists think a fish is more important than people. Let's set aside the environmental laws so we can build more, develop more, pump more, grow more.

It is never that simple. There is not going to be much more water. The water that we will get will not be stored in the mountain snow pack to melt for summer use. Building more damns and more canals to store and carry less water does not make sense, but that is what almost every politician in the San Joaquin Valley wants to do.

The campaign to flush the San Joaquin Valley with Delta Water is well organized and picking up more force every week. It has now taken on the overtones of ethnic conflict. The California Latino Water Coalition are doing all that the land owners ask, showing up at organized protests as though Cesar Chavez were still leading them. This has the makings of a major split between the interests of farm workers and urban dwellers, though both are Hispanic.

California's State Legislature has failed time and again to make the substantive changes in how we deal with water. Each time the problem is recognized, they end up negotiating some compromise like Cal-Fed that solves nothing. Cal-Fed was billed as a compromise and promoted as such by Senator Feinstein. In reality, it was a capitulation to agribusiness interests.

In a similar manner, the Delta Vision process initiated by Governor Schwarzenegger was directed to define a comprehensive solution for our water needs with a concentrated focus on the Delta. Once delivered, every interest group is picking and choosing from a menu of solutions, choosing only those that they were looking for at the beginning and ignoring the rest. Schwarzenegger wanted the peripheral canal. San Joaquin Valley Agribusiness wants more guaranteed water. The Metropolitan Water District wants to keep supporting unlimited growth. We can't have it all. There is not now enough water to do that, even in a good year and we have had three dry years in a row.

Unless the people of California decide to tell their legislature to get serious about our future, we won't have a very good one. If our legislature is not ready to apply real science and ecological systems planning to the management of our watershed, then it is time to elect someone who will.

Two Green Party candidates for the State Assembly, Lisa Green (53rd AD) and Jack Lindblad (39th AD), have started their campaigns with strong positions about the changes needed in our water management systems. The California Green Party is the only option if we want to secure a future before our economy dies of thirst. Join Lisa and Jack and let's bring ecological accountability to Sacramento.


Anonymous said...

I invite readers of this article to visit my website at to read about water and ag issues in the San Joaquin Valley. I am a former reporter for UPI and the Fresno Bee and have been writing about Valley Ag/Water issues for 40 years. I have been a Green Party member for many years.
Lloyd Carter

Wes said...

Thank you for joining it. I linked your Chronicles on my blogroll / front page.

Also, thank you for reminding me about the Badlands Journal. His comments on the Cardoza / Costa letter were pretty accurate.

frflyer said...

I believe that Southern California needs serious development of desalinization for it's large population. Something that has occurred to me as a possible solution is CSP (solar thermal) plants. They could be either combined power and desalinization, or dedicated desalinization plants. Pipe seawater to inland solar plants and pipe fresh water to the cities. I realize there is some rough terrain between the cities and the areas where CSP would be best sited, but if we can now pump water over the Grapevine (Tejas Pass) to LA, why not from the coast inland to desert areas and back to the cities?
A feasability study would be a start. Anybody know if the NREL has ever considered this?

This is what is being advocated for Europe, North Africa and the Mid East in the Desertec proposal.
Power,Hot water, Desalinization: all from solar thermal plants.

Alternatively,(though not nearly as developed as CSP technology) there is a company (Carnegie Corp) developing wave buoy powered desalinization systems.

Too bad more people don't understand the extent to which symbiosis plays it's part in nature. The forest needs the salmon as much as the salmon relies on the forest to nourish, filter and shade rivers and streams. The nitrogen from salmon, that is spread by animals that eat them, is vital to a healthy forest and it's inhabitants.
A better understanding of this by the public would help swing opinion in favor of environment, in regard to the water issue and other issues.
If this is true in the forest, imagine the ramifications of eliminating a species like salmon from the local ocean ecosystem.

Michael Kelly said...

I don't live in the area, so i didn't know that it was a slogan by the farmer's in the region.
I saw a link for to like "Food grows where water flows", I like to know who I am liking if i do like someone, and I went to their facebook page which looks real neat and friendly.

I thought it was too the clean coal coalition sky and birds (haha)

So thank you for post, it is one more shred of evidence for "not liking" their webpage.
I realize we depend on large amounts of water, but there must be a smarter way to farm then "how we've always done it".