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Why Palo Alto needs to slow development

Original post made by Resident 0.1, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 17, 2011

The article below explains why California's water problems aren't being solved by our elected officials. We have outgrown our water supply.


January 12, 2011
Two-thirds of the water used in the state is drafted from the Delta by two sets of enormous pumps that form the heart of the largest water-supply system in the United States. That system -- composed of the federally operated Central Valley Project canals and the State Water Project canals -- sustains 4.5 million acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley along with 23 million people in homes and businesses in Los Angeles, San Diego and elsewhere.

The stark questions now looming have far-reaching implications: Can the Delta survive as a functioning ecosystem, or will it become nothing more than a super-sized water hole dedicated solely to slaking California's legendary thirst? And what happens when the Endangered Species Act becomes so restrictive to powerhouse economies that we're forced to choose between throttling back those economies or abandoning the law?

The struggle over the Delta is often cast as environmentalists versus industrial-scale "water users," which is to say, Central Valley farm barons. But every one of the 37 million Californians, including the most strident critics of the state's farmers, is ultimately a water user. And even if you don't live in California, if you've ever eaten Blue Diamond almonds or Muir Glen organic tomatoes, Dole asparagus or Bunny Luv baby carrots, Corn Nuts or Earthbound lettuce, or knocked back a bottle of POM Wonderful or Bolthouse Farms juice -- or Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's -- you are a California water user. Which, at a rough tally, makes about 309 million of us.


Underneath all of this, though, lies another grim reality. Nothing can be done in California that will keep its farms and big cities thriving at today's levels and also keep the fish and the Delta alive. There's simply not enough water to go around anymore: Either the Delta slowly turns into nothing more than a water hole -- as is already happening -- or California's sunbeam-and-salad, fruit-crate-label ideal dries up and blows away -- which is already happening, too. ...it is no longer possible to have it all in California -- or anywhere else in the West, soon enough.


Web Link

Comments (12)

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Posted by Eric
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Why should Palo Alto slow development when Redwood City is allowing Cargill to develop the salt ponds in Redwood City?

You are penalizing the wrong City.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Auburn Dam and Round Mountain Dam would triple our available water as well as tripling our available hydro power. And the Endangered Species Act, currently the supreme law of the land, should be subject to the same trade-offs as any other law.


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Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm

To fill any dam or reservoir we need a continuous supply of snow in the Sierras. If our population remains about the same and the snow falls, we can sorta make it. If either users grow and we have droughts, we are in real trouble.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2011 at 8:20 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

90% of our water today flows to the sea. Reduce that to 50% and we are set for the next century.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 18, 2011 at 9:10 am

"90% of our water today flows to the sea. Reduce that to 50% and we are set for the next century."

An easy mantra. But whatever happened to "The rain follows the plow?"


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2011 at 10:41 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"The rain follows the plow" was relevant only in the prairie states, where farmers were reliant on direct rainfall. In California, we irrigate.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 18, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Um, don't look too closely if you cherish your illusions, but they irrigate the prairie states farms too, from whatever rivers ain't bought up by the cities and by pumping from ever-deeper wells. Costs more all the time - supply and demand and all that.

Mantras just don't work in the real world.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2011 at 4:45 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"The rain follows the plow" was relevant only where direct rainfall was necessary for agriculture. It is not relevant in California.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2011 at 11:29 am

This is good. You are developing a healthy skepticism for mantras, and please use it to re-examine your own. They're nice and facile, but they're not real-world solutions.

BTW, in the 1800's the rain was indeed supposed to follow the plow to California, irrigating the settlers' crops with ample year-round moisture from the sky.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2011 at 11:23 pm

"90% of our water today flows to the sea."

Forget about the mantras - now old Walt's just pulling "facts" from his rear end!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2011 at 10:13 am

It's even simpler. Anybody who believes we can afford to capture 44% of the fresh water they claim "flows to the sea" will find "the rain follows the plow" a much cheaper (and credible) alternative.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Breech Shasta and Folsom and see how we prosper.


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