Tlaloc's List: California and the Public Trust
"You Can't Make This Stuff Up"
• In 2014, the third year of a severe drought, 48,000 new acres of almond trees were planted, which will require water every year for 25 years (1).
• Each almond nut will consume 1.1 gallons of California water (2).
• A Fresno City Councilman averaged 3,421 gallons of water per day, or 1,248,665 gallons in 2014, 9.5 times the average in California (3).
• As of August 2014, there were at least $208 million worth of water re-sale deals by private interests (4).
• A New York investment firm owns 37,000 acres of almonds in California.
• An estimated 1 million Californians do not have dependable, healthy water for use at home (5).
• A Riverside City councilman averaged 2,996 gallons per day, or 1,093,540 gallons, in 2014 (8.3 times the average) (6).
• An estimated 1 billion gallons of water is shipped to Asia in the form of alfalfa, enough water to serve 1 million Californians for a year (7).
• A Canadian investment group owns 24,000 acres of almonds, pistachios, and walnuts - and is the state’s second largest nut grower (8).
• Over-pumping (mining) of groundwater is occurring throughout the state. Some of this water is over 10,000 years old and will take that amount of time to replace (9).
• It’s estimated the state can save enough water to serve 18 million people, about half of the state population, through price structuring that penalizes excessive water use and using readily available conservation tools (10).
• The over-pumping of groundwater has collapsed lands as much as 30 and 50 feet (11). The “subsidence” (sinking of the land) will continue for years afterward (12).
• Where we collapse groundwater reservoirs we lose our cheapest and most effective water storage facilities (13).
• Almond crops consume 9% of the water in the state (3.5 million acre feet), which could provide enough water for the urban areas of L.A., San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area (about 75% of the state’s population) (14).
• Glen County has seen a 64-foot decline in groundwater levels over the last decade (15).
• The state constructed the vast water storage system, Kern Water Bank, using $71 million of public money. With no public review, the bank was sold to a local agency that resold the bank the next day to private agricultural and development interests (16).
• Paramount Farms owns 70,000 acres of almonds and pistachios. They have a controlling interest in the publicly financed Kern Water Bank (17).
• The state’s list of water bodies that do not meet federal water quality standards is 230 pages long and includes thousands of miles of streams and rivers, plus over a million acres of lakes (18).
• Every stream in California has been over-appropriated. UC Merced found that the state has allocated 5 times more water than is available in an average year (19).
• By one account, over the years farmers have paid just 15% of the capital costs of the federal system that delivers much of their irrigation water (20).
• In 1985 the average farm operation in Westlands was receiving an annual subsidy of about $500,000.
• Agriculture accounts for 80% of water consumption in California but only 2% of the state’s economic activity (21).
• In the heart of the “most productive agriculture land in the world” a 2007 study estimated 120,500 low-income adults in the Central Valley had skipped meals and had gone to bed hungry in the previous year (22).
• The actual cost of delivering water through public infrastructure to Westlands was estimated to be ten times what the growers were paying for it (23).
• The Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that annual subsidies to Westlands Irrigation District included crop subsidies ($6 million), water subsidies ($24 million) and power subsidies ($71 million), totaling over $100 million (24).
• The federal Central Valley Project agribusinesses paid about 1 cent per kilowatt-hour, 10 to 15 times lower than PG&E’s typical power rates (25).
• An exclusive and wealthy area in north Fresno (zip code 93711) receives more federal farm subsidy money than any other zip code in America.
• A recent study of safe drinking water in the immigrant worker communities of Firebaugh and San Joaquin found that more than a third of people can’t afford to put enough food on their table, at the same time they are having to buy their drinking water (26).
• A county administrator told a reporter that in the mid 1980s he got more tax revenue from a busy 7-11 convenience store in Fresno than he did from a mega-farm in Westlands (27).
• In Alpaugh, a Tulare Basin farm-worker town surrounded by high water-use pistachio orchards, the water table dropped 140 feet in two years. The town now relies on an old well that exceeds federal safety standards for arsenic (28).
• There are at least 616 oil/gas fracking sites currently in the Central Valley. There is no information or understanding of the potential permanent impacts to groundwater supply (29).
• Tulare County approved more than 1,200 new groundwater wells in 2014, not one application was evaluated for potential impacts to existing wells or other water resources (stream flow, wetlands, etc.) (30).
• The U.N. top water expert, on visiting Seville, CA, found the conditions there worse than many third-world countries and issued a rebuke for the unsafe drinking water conditions (31).
1. California Dept of Food and Agriculture, 2014 California Almond Nursery Sales Report, Aug 1, 2014
2 .A. Park and J. Lurie, Mother Jones News, 2/24/14
3.Report to State Water Board: Water Uses in 2014
4. Bloomberg News
5.State Water Plan, 2013 Update
6.Report to State Water Board: Water Uses in 2014
7.Slate Magazine, 5/14/14
8.Mother jones, Dec 2014
9.UC Irvine and USGS Groundwater Analyses
10.C-WIN reference to 2009 State Water Plan
12.Dr. K. Mish, Univ of Oklahoma, 2008
13.Law of Nature, Forever.
14.SF Chronicle Open Forum, 7/30/14. Carolee Kreiger, C-WIN
15.Appeal Democrat, 7/6/14
18.SWRCB 303(d) List 2006 (most recent on the state website)
19.UC Merced, 2014.
21.The Economist, Feb 22, 2014
22.2007 report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
23.Natural Resources Defense Council and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, “Turning Off the Tap on Federal Water Subsidies.” E. Phillip LeVeen and Laura B. King. 1985
24.Environmental Working Group Website
26.UC Davis Extension and UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, UC Davis, December 2014.
27.Personal Communication, Lloyd Carter, December 8, 2014.
28.Santa Cruz Sentinel, 12/8/14
29.EcoWatch 8/1/14 citing UC Davis Report.
30.Brett Walton, Circle of Blue, Aug 26, 2014