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What Governor Moonbeam Left Out Of The Water Restrictions
By Ernest Stewart
"Everything we think about regarding sustainability - from energy to agriculture to manufacturing to population - has a water footprint. Almost all of the water on Earth is salt water, and the remaining freshwater supplies are split between agricultural use and human use - as well as maintaining the existing natural environment." ~~~ Jamais Cascio
Brown's mandate directs cities and communities to cut down their water consumption by 25 percent, but doesn't make any requirements of the state's numerous oil companies, including those which practice the water-heavy fracking method of extraction, nor of large-scale farming operations.
Earthjustice attorney Trent Orr said, "Both of them use tremendous amounts of water. Brown is putting restrictions on everyone except oil and agriculture... it seems like the powerful industries have gotten a pass."
According to Orr, the looming repercussions of the drought will be felt for years down the line and may emerge in yet unknowable ways. In the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, for instance, species of fish once abundant in the area are now nearly extinct -- a development which poses an ominous question: "What kind of natural systems will we have in California?"
"The environment desperately needs water. We're very disturbed at the unequal sharing of the burden... There's no principled reason for it."
As to why these industries found themselves exempt from facing the consequences of California's historic drought, Orr said, "The agriculture industry is tremendously powerful in California, and oil and gas are tremendously powerful, period."
Adam Scow, California director of Food & Water Watch said, "It is disappointing that Governor Brown's executive order to reduce California water use does not address the state's most egregious corporate water abuses. In the midst of a severe drought, the Governor continues to allow corporate farms and oil interests to deplete and pollute our precious groundwater resources that are crucial for saving water.
"Governor Brown should stop... the ongoing contamination of groundwater aquifers by toxic wastewater from oil and gas operations. It is disturbing and irresponsible that the Brown administration continues to allow oil companies to contaminate and rob Californians of these fresh water sources."
Last Thursday, state officials told Reuters, "California's oil and gas industry uses more than 2 million gallons of fresh water a day to produce oil through fracking, acidizing, and steam injections, according to environmental estimates. In 2014, California oil producers used up nearly 70 million gallons of water on fracking alone."
Zack Malitz, an organizer with environmental group Credo, told Reuters, "While that number is lower than projected, fracking and toxic injection wells must not be given a continuing license to break the law and poison our water. Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest uses of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest."
The bulk of Brown's mandate focuses on urban water use, which as the LA Times points out, "makes up less than a quarter of the total water consumption in the state," by far the biggest users are agricultural.
Let's also not forget that much of the nation's conservation efforts have been aimed at curbing public use of water and irrigation; but what seems to go largely unnoticed is the power sector alone consumes more water than any other sector in the U.S. Hydroelectricity withdraws 117 billion gallons of freshwater per day. That's almost three times the amount of freshwater drawn for public supply.
How does this affect California? The average daily electricity consumption for a California household is 18.8 kWh, and California uses 4.64 gallons of water for each kWh of energy produced. That means the average California household uses 87.2 gallons of water a day for electricity consumption alone. Put in perspective, the average California house uses 700 bottles of water a day just for their power. Methinks it might be a good time to switch to solar panels and wind power electrical generation which uses no water at all! Speaking of all those bottles, Nestle's uses 400,000,000 gallons of water for free, to sell back to Californians in bottles; and, of course, they're not being asked to cut back!
If Jerry was serious, he'd suspend all fracking and other oil-gathering operations until the drought is over, and cut back by 25% for agricultural uses, as well. California's coastline stretches some 840 miles and while desalination of water is expensive, there's a never-ending supply of it within easy reach! The easy choices are long since gone; it's time to make some tough choices on whether California and the rest of the West lives or dies!
03-20-1950 ~ 04-05-2015
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07-26-1926 ~ 04-06-2015
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08-07-1926 ~ 04-07-2015
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07-31-1935 ~ 04-07-2015
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(c) 2015 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for 13 years was the managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter.