Opinion » Shredder

How dry I am

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So this morning I was walking my illegal chinchilla, Carlos, around Laguna Lake, and as I gazed out at the placid, emerald-green surface, I thought to myself, “What’s that smell?” Then I said to myself, “Shredder, that’s the algae-blooming alkaline smell of eutrophication. This lake is deader than your modeling career.”

Compared to most county lakes, at least Laguna has some water, but it’s disgusting. Carlos tried to drink from it and I yanked his leash like a yo-yo because he’s got a sensitive stomach and an aversion to E. coli and fecal coliform. 

The sad truth is we’ve got water woes countywide.

Down south, the Nipomo Community Services District Board of Directors issued a “Stage IV” water emergency. Stage Four! Then they imposed exactly zero new water restrictions. When they met to discuss what actions should be taken on July 13, the board decided to follow “a majority of voices by deciding not to enforce further conservation measures,” NCSD General Manager Mario Iglesias wrote on the district’s website.

I can only guess how that meeting went.

“Hey, we’re totally screwed. It’s a Stage IV screwing, too!”

“I know, but most people don’t want to cut back their usage anymore so let’s not do anything because, you know, we already imposed all those Stage III sanctions and that’s probably reduced our usage enough.”

“Yeah, we should just go with whatever the majority wants, even though they’re not water experts. It’s not like we’re actual leaders who should be expected to protect the public from themselves.”

For his part, Iglesias got a bit philosophical: “Do we look for the ‘greater good for the greatest number’ (Mr. Bentham, 18th century) or ‘the rule of law’ thinking (John Rawls, 20th century) that protects an individual’s rights against the greatest number? Discussing this paradoxical dilemma over a glass of wine with friends can be a pleasure. Discussing who gets water to wash that glass, in a boardroom heated with contention, is a completely different matter. In both cases, the answers are illusive and subjective to a point of view.”

In other words, get drunk with your friends and just accept our decision to do nothing. My question is this: What does Nipomo plan to do after it runs out of stages? There’s only one left, because by this time next year, unless the skies open up and rain pours down like Noah’s flood, it’ll be a Stage V emergency! Stage Freaking Five, people! There’s no stage six!

Meanwhile, in other far flung water-weary parts of the county, the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) filed a lawsuit against SLO County for issuing deep well-drilling permits without requiring California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reviews. Naturally, Justin Vineyards and Winery and its venal owners Steward and Lynda Resnick are among those receiving permits carte blanche along with Lapis Land Company LLC and Vina Robles

According to C-WIN Executive Director Carolee Krieger, “CEQA is explicit that … projects that will have a significant negative impact on natural resources, must be subject to full environmental review.”

Instead, the county apparently just rubberstamped these permits for three large corporate enterprises because they apparently don’t require a CEQA review, but … I have no freaking clue why that’s the case!

“And this is just the beginning,” Krieger warned. “Once the wells are pumping full-bore for the new vineyards, we’re likely to see significant impacts on the already precarious Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.”

Hey lady, none of these wells are being drilled in the Paso basin, per se, but I get where you’re trying to go, and I like it!

Did you know it takes 29 gallons of water to produce a 4.2-ounce glass of wine? Drink up, Paso!

The Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) and SLO County are also—pardon the pun—in hot water after LandWatch argued they also didn’t follow CEQA requirements when the county issued an emergency coastal development permit for the CCSD to build a new desalination Emergency Water Supply project. According to LandWatch, the CCSD circumvented CEQA requirements and violated the Coastal Act under false pretenses.

A superior court judge disagreed. Damn! Oh well, that saga will probably continue to simmer.

All these water woes will pale in comparison to the shit storm that’s coming to the agriculture industry, which is using water at an unsustainable rate. The San Joaquin Valley is already suffering, and smart farmers are pivoting to dry farming or less water intensive crops. Corrupt, selfish farmers like the Resnicks, however, simply used their influence and power to gain control of 58 percent of the Kern Water Bank to keep their water-sucking pistachio and pomegranate orchards going while the more responsible farmers around them get to suck dust.

And this isn’t just a California problem. Like the San Joaquin Valley, Middle America is also in water crisis. In the flat expanse of the Midwest from South Dakota to Texas, the Ogallala Aquifer is being pumped dry in large part to irrigate corn crops, most of which is fed to cattle in the high plains feed lots. A single quarter-pound hamburger takes 460 gallons of water to raise and process. If the pumping continues at its current rate, when—not if—the water runs out, experts say it will take thousands of years to replenish the aquifer. Enjoy that burger!

Look, if we continue down our current path, forget about wars over oil. Water will be the new black gold. Experts say demand will increase by 40 percent by 2030. Two years ago the U.S. National Intelligence Strategy report said that water scarcity will lead to worldwide instability. 

If we’re not more proactive about water conservation, soon Carlos may have no choice but to drink from Laguna Lake. Oh, Carlos!  

The Shredder suddenly feels thirsty. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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