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Know the West

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