Robert Kasner's Views
On Farmers' Water Rights

The Barstow-Daggett Airport is dwarfed by the size of center-pivot farmland.


January 16, 2015

      The online San Bernardino county weekly newspaper, the Sentinel, recently featured the Newberry Springs water fiasco as its headline story in its January 9, 2015 edition.

      The publication, that is highly read within the county's political circles, introducted the Newberry Springs water woes to many throughout the county.

      The lengthy article is a wrap of the Newberry Springs water history and the current overdraft by agriculture.

      After covering the concerns of the residential minimal producers, the Sentinel publisher and writer Mark Gutglueck, attempted to show balance in his article by including comments by one of Newberry Springs largest farmers, Robert Kasner.

      It is very difficult to read some of the comments that were attributed to him.

      Robert Kasner, is quoted by the Sentinel as saying, "I do know that there are people who live in the area who have taken up a cause, so to speak, to save the world.  Part of the problem is that if all the farming stopped it wouldn't relieve a thing.  The water would not come back to the level it was thirty or forty years ago.  It is impossible to go back in time.  The neighborhood group is not considering that wells built so many years ago are not as deep and they also tend to get clogged.  Because the water table has dropped considerably from where it was, even if we return to a safe yield, their wells will still be dry because they are not deep enough.  Those wells worked a long time ago because water was closer to the surface.  That is no longer the case."  Kasner, is further reported by the Sentinel as saying that the crusade against alfalfa farmers was misguided because, he insisted, farming assists in maintaining the ecology of the desert rather than harming it.

      These come across as such arrogrant statements.  Kasner's statement, "even if we return to a safe yield," acknowledges that heavy pumping is out-of-wack.  If the public's concern about the continued theft of water from under their land, that is costing them thousands of dollars for new wells and power for pumping deeper, is a misguided 'crusade,' then Kasner is not of our planet.

      Kasner is correct that stopping farming will not reverse the extensive damages that have already been caused by unsustainable farming; however, it would stop the continuation of deeper damages.  As far as farming maintaining the ecology of the desert, the statement is absurd.  The ecology of the desert was fine for thousands of years before the farmers.  How is it that the desert now requires the farmers to pump it dry, to maintain its ecology?

      Robert Kasner apparently won't take the responsibility and own-up that residential wells have gone dry because of pumping by him and other unsustainable water pumping farmers.

      "If we stop farming it would create a dust bowl," Kasner is quoted, "The state has looked at the situation north of us, in the [San Joaquin] Valley.  Where farming ended, there was tremendous erosion, the soil was neglected and unanchored and the top soil blew away as dust.  I am not trying to offend anyone but some people think in the most simple of terms and that if the farmers go away the problem will go away.  In fact, that would be the worst thing that could happen."

      There comes a time when one can be smuthered with only so much BS.  Fields have gone fallow over the years in Newberry Springs and no dust bowls have ever been created.  Nature heals herself.  What we have seen in the San Joaquin Valley are communities like Porterville, where farmers have pumped the aquifer dry and many people are now literally having to acquire buckets of trucked-in water to flush their toilets.

      According to earlier USGS studies by Dr. Joseph F. Polland, the San Joaquin Valley is the site of the most severe ground subsidence of anywhere in the United States due to the overdrafting of the aquifer.  Subsidence is the dropping of the ground level as the underground supporting water is removed and the earth is compressed.  The 1977 photograph on the right shows Dr. Polland adjacent a utility pole marked with the ground elevation in 1925, 1955, and 1977.  Nine meters between 1925 and 1977 (29.5-feet).

      Between 1925 and 1977 was 52 years.  Since 1977, 38 more years have passed, so mentally add height to the pole.  With such reckless and unsustainable pumping by farmers, more communities are near the fate of Porterville.

      The photograph below shows a road crew leveling off a dip in the road caused by subsidence.  The slow settling of the ground due to water extraction can cause concrete slab floors and walls in homes to crack.

      According to Kasner, "The state water resources board hired hydrologists and engineers to determine if the desert is being overpumped by a huge amount as has been claimed.  The state has indicated there is a happy medium between sustaining water for farming and a safe yield.  The state has determined farming is hugely important with respect to the desert."

      The key phrase is "sustaining water."  If Kasner and the other heavy pumpers would only pump the amount of water that annual rainfall feeds the aquifer, then the farmers would be within the above "happy medium."  Unfortunately, the heavy pumping that Kasner and other alfalfa farmers are doing is continuing to lower the water table in many areas by up to 2-feet per year!  That is greedily devastating the desert for future generations.   As for Kasner's statement that "the state has determined farming is hugely important with respect to the desert," all credibility is lost.

      Kasner said he and the other farmers in the area have played by the rules and now others want to change the terms of the game they have abided by for so long, according to the Sentinel.

      Well, when the inequitable rules were established, the overwhelming majority of the residents of the Mojave Valley, the minimal producers, were excluded from the process.  The farmers lobbied for, and acquired, unsustainable amounts of water allotments that in exercising would only lead to the unholy overdrafting of the aquifer and the theft of water from under their neighbor's properties.

      "In 1990, the Mojave Water Agency created a water adjudication process," Kasner said.  "They did a five year survey and determined water usage among the well owners throughout the Mojave Basin.  People were given a water allotment based on their prior use.  Those who got water rights continued to farm and the Mojave Water Agency ramped down on the allotment each well owner had been given to reach what is regarded as a safe yield, so that what is extract is replaced by mother nature.  In my case, I waited until after the adjudication to buy my land.  Once you have property rights and water rights and you have bought them fair and square, it is ridiculous that someone wants to take them away from you."

      As we all know, the heavy pumping farmers are not extracting what is being replaced by mother nature... but far more; and that some water allotments by the MWA were given out "loosey-goosey".  For example, one current resident with a pond applied for and was given over 100-acre feet.

      If through lobbying and political back-room deals one acquires preferential deals that violates the constitutional property rights of their neighbors, then one shouldn't be so pious when called to task.  When a dozen major farmers can spoil an entire water basin for thousands of others, then be prepared for an eventual day of reckoning.


We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
                                       — Albert Einstein


Related blogs:
U.S. farmers making hay with alfalfa exports to China -  L.A. Times  6/8/14
Readers React -  L.A. Times  6/14/14
Is Newberry Springs being slowly poisoned like Hinkley? -  7/14/14
Is Newberry Springs killing horses? -  8/3/14
Dirty secret of some Newberry Springs farmers. -  8/17/14
Evidence grows for possibility of tainted horse feed. -  8/20/14
Farmers continuing import of toxic sewer sludge. -  9/11/14
Planning Sustainable Water - Community Turning Against Farmers -  9/19/14
Angry Residents Call For Rampdowns And Pumping Tax -  9/26/14
Farmers are horrified at proposed draconic rampdowns -  10/4/14
Emergency action necessary to save water supply. -  10/11/14
Water activist meets with citizens on water law. -  10/16/14
Pivot farming is seriously depleting local water. -  11/11/14
Baja Areawide Sustainability Plan supports status-quo. -  12/9/14
Newberry Springs lakes are being choked. -  12/29/14
Special Report: Silver Valley's water plan. -  1/1/15
Newberry Springs residents flood water meeting. -  1/7/15

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