In California’s Water Wars, Nuts Are Edging Out People

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Even if you’ve never heard of California’s San Joaquin Valley, you’ve likely benefited from its existence. Its nut groves, fruit and vegetable fields, and industrial-scale dairy operations contribute mightily to the US food supply. So it’s bad news for eaters that the valley has emerged in recent decades as a site of intensifying climate chaos; it’s reeling under the pressure of record heat, wildfire smoke, and its second historic drought in a decade.

It’s even worse news for people who make the valley their home. Right now, many are worried about access to one of life’s necessities: drinking water.

As of September 21, 700 residential wells have come up dry throughout the state this year, up 724 percent compared with the same period of 2020. The great bulk of them are in agriculture-dominated San Joaquin Valley counties like Tulare, Fresno, and Madera. The trend marks a grim rerun of the previous drought of 2012–2016, when residents of several towns including East Porterville, Okieville, and Tombstone saw their wells go dry.

Marliez Diaz works at the bleeding edge of the region’s water woes. Based in Visalia, California, in the heart of the valley, Diaz is the water sustainability manager at Self-Help Enterprises, a nonprofit community-development organization that provides emergency water services to residents whose wells fail. “Our services are much needed right now,” Diaz says. “We are swamped.”

When people run out of drinking water, the group trucks 2,500-gallon tanks to their homes, hooking them up to pipes so water flows through taps. Self-Help returns to refill tanks as needed. (The rule of thumb: Each resident consumes about 50 gallons per day.) As of September 20, the group was managing 585 of these tanks throughout the valley—up from 450 a month earlier and more than ever before, including during the height of last decade’s historic drought.

Of course, 2,500-gallon tanks plumbed into individual homes are a stop-gap measure. Many people who have lost water require new wells—an expensive and drawn-out process. Well-drilling companies are experiencing the triple hit of spiking demand for their services, the need to drill deeper to find a stable water source, and a labor shortage. As a result, “well drillers are backed up eight to nine months,” Diaz says. And the cost of new wells has spiked, putting a massive financial burden on low-income families. “It’s crazy. We used to be able to drill a [residential] well for $20,000—now we can’t drill anything for less than $40,000.”

The cost isn’t the only problem. The majority of the valley’s 4 million residents rely on wells dug into the same aquifers that have been overtapped for decades by agricultural interests—and that are being furiously exploited to irrigate crops as other water sources have dried up due to the drought.

Irrigating the valley’s farms takes 89 percent of the region’s water (compared to just 3 percent for residents). Embedded in what’s essentially a desert, San Joaquin’s vast agriculture industry relies on two sources for this liquid sustenance: snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountain range that forms the state’s eastern spine, and underground aquifers that have developed over millennia. Farm operations receive the great bulk of the melted snow, shunted through a complex of dams, canals, and aqueducts. But because of climate change, the annual Sierra Nevada snowpack has shown a declining trend for years—and will likely dwindle further over the next several decades, a growing body of research suggests.

So farmers have increasingly tapped underground aquifers, so voraciously that in swaths of the valley, the land is sinking at rates as high as a foot per year as water vanishes, a phenomenon known as subsidence. Community and residential wells, meanwhile, tend to be shallow compared with agricultural ones—meaning they go dry more rapidly than those that irrigate the almond and pistachio groves that surround towns. They largely serve people who have spent their lives making the region’s farms hum, says Nayamin Martinez, executive director of the Central California Environmental Justice Network: Latino farmworkers and their families, and in many cases retired farmworkers living on tiny incomes. “These people are falling through the cracks,” she says. “You can be without some other resources, but without water, what are you gonna do?”
https://www.motherjones.com/environment ... -aquifers/

We are seeing the same thing with the aquifers in west Texas where the farmers are raising crops that are not suited to dry land farming and even worse where the fracking for oil takes place. The average fracking job uses roughly 4 million gallons of water per well. Then they pump that contaminated used water back into the ground in injection wells where it can seep into the underground aquifers.

I ask the California members to chime in on this problem with the agriculture. Is it really a problem?
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: In California’s Water Wars, Nuts Are Edging Out People

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Yeah, agriculture is a problem, but we gotta eat. Historical water use is amplified by the heat which both dries the soil and increases transpiration loss of the crops. So, more water is needed when less and less is available. Welcome to climate change.

The long standing issue with California and water is the Mediterranean climate. We get all of our precipitation in the winter. Our largest reservoir is the Sierra Nevada snowpack, and climate change is also reducing that. Should be a fun decade...

Re: In California’s Water Wars, Nuts Are Edging Out People

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A lot of nut trees have been pulled out in CA and more will likely go. It's another water intensive crop like rice which some Central Valley farmers used to grow. Property developers look at the land in the Central Valley and salivate - more houses, more people. And politicians salivate at the thought of more tax money.
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Re: In California’s Water Wars, Nuts Are Edging Out People

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As a native Arizonan and desert dweller who has gone through water rate hikes galore and complying with city water conservation programs where we all went from grassy yards to xeriscapes - drought tolerant plants and water harvesting it annoys the heck out of me watching Californians waste so much water.
I fly over cities in California like LA and see grassy yards that they flood with water.
Those cities were built in a desert just like Tucson and Phoenix. And just now they are learning to conserve water. What pisses me off more is Cal gets more Colorado river water than we do. We oughta cut them off at Lake Powell.
Redneck Liberal This Is The Way

Re: In California’s Water Wars, Nuts Are Edging Out People

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Similar problem with Rio Grande except we have New Mex, Old Mex and Texas to fight over for what head waters in Colorado produce. At times there is almost no Rio Grande discharge into GOM. If it quits snowing in Colorado, we're in deep doo doo.
"Being Republican is more than a difference of opinion - it's a character flaw." "COVID can fix STUPID!"
The greatest, most aggrieved mistake EVER made in USA was electing DJT as POTUS.

Re: In California’s Water Wars, Nuts Are Edging Out People

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Growing up in the Bay Area we went through many drought years and condemned those in the LA area for using water like it was endless. It's still the land of swimming pools and green lawns. They are special, Democrats get a lot of votes from LA County which has over 25% of California's population.

Futurists like William Mulholland saw that water was critical to the city's development. The Metropolitan Water District was created and operates the Colorado River Aqueduct. MWD provides water to LA, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

By the time the Colorado River hits the Mexican border it's almost a trickle.
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Re: In California’s Water Wars, Nuts Are Edging Out People

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highdesert wrote: Sat Sep 25, 2021 11:40 am Growing up in the Bay Area we went through many drought years and condemned those in the LA area for using water like it was endless. It's still the land of swimming pools and green lawns. They are special, Democrats get a lot of votes from LA County which has over 25% of California's population.

Futurists like William Mulholland saw that water was critical to the city's development. The Metropolitan Water District was created and operates the Colorado River Aqueduct. MWD provides water to LA, Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

By the time the Colorado River hits the Mexican border it's almost a trickle.
A Pox on all of them. They will dry up and turn to dust. Randall Flagg will eat up all the carnage.
Redneck Liberal This Is The Way

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