Reading 45*s staggeringly ignorant tweet about ‘bad environmental laws’ being the cause of California’s devastating fires made my nose bleed.
California water and Western Water Law were things I specialized in when I was an employed journalist, and I’ve done more stories than I can count on established law, the drought and its effects, farming in CA, and the contaminated aquifers.
The drought is real in California, and all over the west. The need for water exceeds the supply not for lack of reservoirs, but due to lack of rainfall, corporate agriculture’s wasteful irrigation practices and irresponsible crop choice, and Los Angeles’ drinking water aquifer being contaminated with heavy metals, Volatile Organic Compounds, and nuclear waste.
Here is why Trump is so very, very wrong – and not just because he seems to think if there was just more water we could put the fires out:
When the water in the Colorado River was divvied up in the last century it was based on an astronomical water flow projection that had never happened in the history of ever. Everyone knew it at the time, and ignored the impossibility of the figures, kicking the can of how to deal with the eventual water crisis down a few generations.
Metaphorically: Grandma bakes a pie, and 10 people have been told they can all have a quarter of the pie. They all KNOW there isn’t enough for everybody to get a quarter of a pie – but instead of taking less, and all equitably getting a tenth of a pie, everyone keeps demanding their quarter of a pie.
Right now – because of a compact made in the last century, fields in Colorado are dry to water almond orchards in the deserts of California, so that Corporate Ag can corner 80% of the world’s almond supply.
Remember: agriculture and business use 90% of the water in California – not its citizens.
Now – as to this ‘made up drought’? You can build all the reservoirs you want, but there’s nothing to put in them. They already can’t fill Lake Shasta, Lake Mead or Lake Powell, and building more places to hold non-existent water won’t do a damned thing.
Buying a half dozen dressers doesn’t mean you will magically get the clothes with which to fill them.
Even before the extreme drought that California has faced for the last decade-plus, water boards were unable to fill their reservoirs. There is neither the rain, nor the snow melt in the snowfields of the Sierra Nevada to fill them, and the glaciers of Rocky Mountains have melted. Glaciers that once gave water in July and August have melted forever.
The Sacramento Delta is salinating because there is not enough fresh water to push the delta water to the Pacific Ocean, where it belongs. At the same time Lake Tahoe is rapidly lowering and becoming cloudy. Damning up the few remaining rivers kills the entire ecosystem downstream – look at what a disaster the Colorado River is where it enters the Pacific Ocean as a mere trickle.
The farmers who have those moronic billboards along I-5 have been bitching since the last century that they can’t flood-irrigate their crops – IN THE DESERT!! They have refused to modernize and use underground drip systems because they’ve ALWAYS been allowed to waste water – why not now?
They grow almonds, alfalfa and hay – IN THE DESERT!! Together these crops use 30% of all agricultural water in the state. Alfalfa uses more water than any other thing grown in California, yet makes up only 4% of the state’s crop.
Trust me on this: we don’t need to waste 20% of California’s total water supply to grow cow feed in the sand. I drove past 800 miles of richly producing alfalfa fields in Montana last month, we don’t need to grow cattle fodder IN THE DESERT!!
The farmers who pretend a finite resource is being withheld from them as some kind of libby-lib-lib plot, are willfully ignorant and propagating the lie that there is some secret water stash somewhere being that’s being withheld from them because they voted for Reagan, or some other such crap (those stupid billboards were up when I was a teen in the late 1970s). They would rather believe a conspiracy, than the rainfall totals, environmental damage from the drought – or their own damned eyes.
As for Southern California’s drinking water problems? That’s a whole different issue.
To quote Woody from Toy Story: Somebody’s poisoned the waterhole!
In 1980 the aquifer in the east San Fernando Valley was declared too dangerous for human consumption, and the wells providing more than 50% of the drinking water for the Valley were shut down permanently. Cities were forced to provide alternate sources of drinking water. The California Aqueduct and the Colorado River were forced to pick up the slack.
The San Fernando Valley aquifer is contaminated with industrial chemicals from WW2 airplane and weapons production, post-War auto manufacturing, the electronics industry, the aerospace and defense industries, oil wells, and military bases.
The area where I grew up (near the Burbank Airport) is Superfund Area 1 – a 7-square-mile toxic plume of cancerous pollution. The most polluted well in the SFV is behind my old (still operating) high school, adjacent to a dump that I grew up smelling. In my High School’s zip code alone there were 32 poorly regulated, unlined dumps that allowed unbelievable pollutants to be dumped directly into the soil, which leached into the aquifer. Some of those dumps have been redeveloped into parks.
This is one of 4 of Superfund Sites in the SFV polluting the groundwater. All 4 have been a National Priority Listing since 1986, but dick-all has been done about it. The action plan consists of partially treating the contaminated ground water (never to human consumption level), and allow it to percolate back through to the polluted part of the aquifer. There is no plan to clean up the original contaminants. That’s like trying to fix a leak by putting a bucket under the drip.
The only plan at this point is to monitor the pollution contaminating the drinking water of Los Angeles County, and shut down wells as they become unfit for human consumption.
So, what’s in the water I (and millions of others) grew up drinking, showering, swimming in, and eating food from our garden? What’s silently spreading to all of the wells in the San Fernando Valley?
Hexavalent chromium (Remember Erin Brokavitch’s suit?)
Perchloroethylene or Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)
1,2, 3-Trichloropropane (TCP)
Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE)
And…. Drum roll please:
Low Grade Nuclear Waste.
If you REALLY want to blow your mind look up the Santa Susana Field Laboratory and read about the largest nuclear accident on US soil that nobody knows about – that happened in foothills above the San Fernando Valley.
The nuclear waste got into in the water during mitigation efforts after the accident. The government scraped the soil from the facility, and trucked it to the unlined, poorly regulated dumps of the east San Fernando Valley – right next to the cookie cutter housing developments of the blue collar workers who kept all of those factories humming, and next to the schools of their children.
The nuclear waste, along with all the chemicals, and Volatile Organic Compounds leached into the soil we lived atop, and eventually contaminated the groundwater.
I grew up drinking that toxic brew, and I am sick – as are many people I grew up with. My old classmates, friends and neighbors have clusters of breast cancer, testicular cancer, MS, ALS, COPD, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, fibromyalgia, lupus and host of other autoimmune diseases. 40 employees at Poly High School died of Hodgkin’s disease by the year 2000 – most of them in the athletic department, whose fields and offices were built atop reclaimed land from the dump behind our school. The same dump that leached methane into the girls gym, and in 1979 it caused a small explosion, taking the building out of commission. Not only is my old high school still in operation, they built a Jr. High School across the street.
Los Angeles’ poisoned aquifers are California’s dirty secret, and within a decade they will be recognized as the health disaster they are.
In the meantime? State and County Water Municipalities will continue to whistle past the graveyard, and pretend that there’s a non-peeing part to the pool, as the plume of poison continues to contaminate the drinking water for one of the largest cities – and economies – in the world.
After reading Trump’s idiocy about diverting water to the Pacific Ocean, and loosening up the laws on poisoning our water FURTHER, I longed for the wisdom of President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, and his simple demand for electrolytes.