Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Liquid Assets?

As I read this Op-Ed piece in the Modesto Bee on Monday, I got a bit frustrated. The editor clearly understood the plight of southern Central Valley farmers during the current & past droughts. But instead of asking for smarter crops or fallowing marginally productive lands, the paper was upset with lawmakers... and not for subsidizing bad farming techniques. The paper was dismayed that our lawmakers had not created new water storage systems over the past 30 years! Having extensively toured many of California's water projects (like the Delta-Mendota canal above), I am quite happy that there was no action during the past thirty years. The past projects have already done grave damage to the environment which is why I responded to the Op-Ed piece by writing a letter to the editor which follows below.

Perhaps a pertinent lesson in water resource management can be learned from the ongoing credit and mortgage meltdown.

During the recent central valley boom, the response to the population pressure was to build new “storage” for the valley residents in the form of sprawling, over-valued houses. Such houses were financed by short-sighted and unrealistic loans that would inevitably lead to the collapse of the local & national economies. The predictable aftermath of such unfeasible loans can be witnessed by the many dilapidated houses in neighborhoods and the unfortunate suffering of those who have lost their source of income.

Building new water storage facilities in response to increased demand is akin to taking a bad loan from the environment. Like so many mortgages, water diversions to saline-rich soils will never be repaid to the bank (ecosystem) from whence it came. The resultant collapse initiated by an overdrawn water loan will be devoid of any aesthetic, ecologic or financial wealth.

Unlike the mortgage tragedy, Californians have the power of prescience to prevent a looming environmental calamity. Residents of this great state should do their best to make their current water delivery & usage as smart, efficient and minimalistic as possible by choosing appropriate crops and auditing personal water consumption.

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