November 11, 2014
Highly inefficient and wasteful pivot flooding is the
watering choice of alfalfa farmers in the Mojave Valley. Center pivots making repeated waterings
per crop, times 8 crops or more per year, is raiding the valley of its life sustaining water.
Facing westward, this photograph was taken November 7, 2014 from Newberry Road at the restart
of fallow fields owned by the Kasners.
According to data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, over the last 30 years, the average rainfall for the Mojave Valley as
based by the weather station in Daggett, California, is 4.06 inches. That is 90% less
than the national average, and 84% less than the average in California. Yes, the
Mojave Valley is definitely a desert.
With California's current drought, the average rainfall is currently
well below the 4.06 inch average; but when using the local average, sustainability of our critical
aquifers would require no more than the 4 inches of rainfall being pumped from our fragile
aquifers per year.
This will be the expected sustainability target under the new California
state law on groundwater. By June 1, 2017, in roughly 2 1/2 years, regulatory agencies
must be in place by statute and regulating groundwater pumping. The Baja-subarea
adjudication will remain under the Riverside Superior Court; but it too will be impacted
by the state's sustainability goal.
Despite the Superior Court ordered adjudication rampdowns,
some alfalfa farmers are circumventing the restrictions by purchasing and leasing additional
water rights, and increasing production by restarting fallow fields and maximizing the number
of crop plantings per year. As a result, the dropping of the local water tables is
increasing, not decreasing. As stated at October's Newberry CSD's monthly board meeting,
farmers are currently sticking in new straws (wells) into the aquifers to suck-up increasing
amounts of water despite the adjudication.
According to reports from local well drillers, rather than the
destruction of the aquifers decreasing by the rampdowns, the aquifers' water depletion is
accellerating. The water table in many areas are dropping over two feet per year.
Rather than protecting the aquifers, greedy farmers are terribly damaging the local
communities by raiding the community's water supply to the maximum before they are expectedly
ordered to comply under stricter enforcement.
In regions of such little rainfall as the High Desert, it is
unconscionable to be growing crops that require many dozens of crop groundwater floodings
throughout the year.