Water for farms, not urban sprawl


I find it ironic that Chad Roberts’ letter appears in the same issue of HCN that features an article about how the environmental movement’s single-minded campaign to close down ranching, mining, and timber cutting in the West helped create the economic vacuum into which Industrial Tourism has poured (HCN, 5/29/06: Clinging hopelessly to the past).

According to both Mr. Roberts and Paul Larmer, taking water out of agriculture in California and sending it to cities is a Good Thing. It is not. When water is transferred from agricultural to urban use, it means that there is that much less employment and economic activity in rural towns. Farmworkers don’t buy groceries, growers don’t buy seed or tractors, children are taken out of schools, and the only thing that grows is the burden on the county’s welfare and public health facilities.

Given that these towns are usually perched on the brink of collapse to begin with, it doesn’t take much fallowing to cause them to dry up and blow away. Meanwhile, the water that used to grow crops is now growing houses in Southern California. So we help destroy rural California and contribute to sprawl in already overburdened areas, but we sure showed those redneck farmers, didn’t we?

Stacey Sullivan
Berkeley, California

Aug 08, 2006 11:21 AM

Stacey Sullivan has a point but misunderstands the mythical rural values. Her view is restricted. Water will become the most precious resource in the American West and it's up to people and governments(top down & bottom up) to conserve, distribute, and decide the most beneficial use. Unfortunately civilizations often refuse to remember the lessons from the past and continue the wasteful practices that cause deforestation, desertification, pollution, erosion, and the mining of aquifers ; placing the burgeoning human population and biological diversity at grave risk. Climate change caused by human activities is already causing a dimunition in the replenishment of this vital resource. Water with it's chemical properties is a necessary link to all global life and our ignorance and stupidity is inexcusable and life threatening.