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Archi-ponics: Access to Water

California’s water problems go back almost a century. California’s water problems go back almost a century.

The American southwest is home to millions of people. It is also one of the most productive agricultural regions in the word. The west coast provides a temperate climate that is a destination spot for tourist thanks to some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. And the 300 days of sun means growers have longer season to produce crops. What many people do not know is that the southwest is desert, including areas like Los Angeles and San Diego. With the continued population growth in this region, and the reliance on both agriculture and tourism, the limited access to water is inhibiting the economy, and with little political back bone from local, state, and federal governments, these problems do not seem to be going anywhere.

Post WWII, it was clear to some that there might be a possibility for another World War. If this was the case, the Navy decided that San Diego was the ideal place to launch Naval assets from. The problem at the time was that all the local water supplies had been fully accounted for, and would not support the build up of Navy and Marine personnel. So the Navy connected San Diego to the Colorado River, pumping the water from the Imperial Valley into the Los Angeles basin, then down to San Diego.

It was also imperative, if a World War indeed took place, that the Navy and Marine Corps could easily support their fleets with equipment and supplies coming in from factories and farms all over America. So the federal government then invested into the highway system to make transportation in times of need easier. This allowed both Los Angeles and San Diego to continue to grow and reap the benefits of the new water source and highways, which helped make Southern Californians addicted to their cars.

Needless to say, it is time for SoCal to improve its infrastructure, changing where we pump the water from the Delta in order to make water more available and at a lower cost.

But, the Colorado River alone could not supply the growing demand of Southern California, so in the 1950s and ‘60s the California State Water Project (SWP) was established, bringing water from the Sacramento Delta, which is the drainage point of the fresh water from the snow melt of the Sierra Nevadas, into the San Francisco Bay, down through the San Joaquin Valley, which is the fruit basket of the world, and all the way to Southern California. It was a massive project that gave growers, businesses, and locals better and cheaper access to water.

The water was pumped out of the Delta at such a high rate that the water moved backwards away from the San Francisco Bay south towards the pumps. With that water came a little fish called the Delta Smelt, which a few years ago, was declared an endangered species. Due to this fact, a judge ordered the pumping of the water to be stopped anytime the fish got close to the pumps because the pumps would kill the fish when they got sucked through the pumps. This decision severely limited the access to water for everyone in Southern California and greatly raised the cost of accessing water.

Needless to say, it is time for SoCal to improve its infrastructure, changing where we pump the water from the Delta in order to not put the Delta Smelt at risk, but also to make water more available and at a lower cost. This will assist in spurring the sluggish California economy, the eighth largest economy in the world. Check back with us next week to find out what the proposed solutions are and if they are doable.

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Colin & Karen Archipley are hydroponic farmers with an intimate knowledge of California’s need for water.
Last modified on Monday, 16 July 2012 15:21

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