View Mobile Site

A water plan for all of California from Garamendi

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED April 1, 2013 2:58 a.m.

Name the fifth largest river on the Western Hemisphere’s West Coast.

Here’s a hint: It’s located where water power brokers are pushing a $14 billion twin tunnel plan that has the potential to destroy the Delta and keep a large swath of the richest agricultural region in the world fallow.

The “river” is all of the water that flows out of wastewater treatment plants in Southern California and is dumped into the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a point made by Congressman John Garamendi is his nine-page white paper on how best to solve California’s perennial water wars. It’s safe to say the Fairfield Democrat isn’t a big fan of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan that he dubbed the Bay Delta Destruction Plan.

Garamendi believes the biggest flaw is the fact the BDCP doesn’t add a single drop to the state’s water supply. He characterized it as an “expensive plumbing system.”
Garamendi’s water proposal looks at the state as a whole and not simply of the needs of urban Southern California water interests and mega-corporate farming operations on the west side of the Southern San Joaquin Valley. It also makes water conservation and recycling everywhere in California the cornerstone of water development.
The Garamendi plan has six major points: Conservation; recycling; creation of new storage systems; fixing the Delta with a right-sized conveyance, levee improvements, and habitat restoration; employs a science driven process; and protects existing water rights.

Changing not landscaping and farms crops but implementing known technologies is one way to reduce overwatering through the use of moisture sensors to reduce water use. Such systems can often pay for themselves within a year through reduced water costs.

River Islands at Lathrop being developed by Cambay Group is requiring moisture sensors in all front yard landscaping as well as those in common areas within the planned community of 11,000 homes. It’s not a government edict prompting them to do so. Instead, it is the bottom line. Less water use saves money. It also means you can accommodate more needs and people.

Perhaps the most astute observation is one that Garamendi makes regarding how most state politicians overlook the biggest untapped source of water in the state besides desalinization - recycling domestic water.

Garamendi writes, “Why would any sane government take water from the Sacramento River, pump it 500 miles south, lift it 5,000 feet in the air, clean it, use it once, clean it to a higher standard than the day it arrives in Southern California then dump it in the ocean. That is what California does with over 3.5 million acre feet of water each year.”

That’s more than 10 percent of the capacity of the proposed Auburn Dam. It is also 1.1 million acre feet more of water than what is contained behind the state’s fourth largest reservoir - New Melones on the Stanislaus River.

Just how clean is recycled water from wastewater treatment plants? The outlet into the San Joaquin River from the Manteca treatment plant is a prized spot for fishermen. That’s because the clean water draws fish.

In an ironic twist, water litigators predicted a decade ago that cities like Manteca might be challenged in court when they go to reuse their treated wastewater for landscaping and other purposes. That’s because the treated water they release back into the San Joaquin River often ends up being pumped south. By reusing water here, there would be less water flowing to Los Angeles.

A lot of why recycling wastewater hasn’t been done is political kowtowing to fear and ignorance. San Joaquin County bars the use of treated recycled wastewater on edible crops. Yet grocery stores in the county are stocked with produce from the Salinas Valley that we eat raw and are grown using spray irrigation methods employing treated and recycled wastewater.

This is nothing new. The first agricultural reuse demonstration study was conducted from 1976 to 1987 in Castroville. No problems - health or otherwise - have been detected for the past 37 years. It is simply the stigma - and what at one time was perceived as the high cost - that prevented the use of treated wastewater for irrigation and domestic uses from spreading elsewhere in California.

Additional storage to capture excess run-off where it makes sense - south of the Tracy pumps and by recharging groundwater - is another element of Garamendi’s plan. It reduces water loss to the ocean without harming the Delta by capturing excess run-off.

And the best part is the above ground storage would have minimum impacts on the environment as it would be along the eastern foothills of the Coastal Range overlooking the California Aqueduct.

The Garamendi white paper underscores how myopic the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is when it comes to overall California water needs. The plan’s environmental documents aren’t considering other feasible alternatives such as the ones Garamendi outlines. The state’s plan as presented is essentially a $22 billion proposal - once all elements are factored into the cost - that does nothing more than reshuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic.

It even employs the Titanic’s class war. Those with the money - Southern California and corporate farming interests - by virtue of paying the biggest cost get the lifeboats and life preservers. The rest of California is left to fend for itself.

Most Popular Articles

There are no articles at this time.
Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...