U-T San Diego’s “Ways to Conquer Drought” Protects the Big Guys

by on April 20, 2015 · 3 comments

in California, Environment, Media, Politics, San Diego

U-T SD Drought 4-19-15In a huge spread in it’s “SD In Depth” section of the Sunday paper on April 19th, the U-T San Diego announced its “Five Ways to Conquer Drought” in large headlines. This drought relief was accompanied by shorter op-ed pieces and a decent map of “Our Water Infrastructure”.

Yet, after a perusal of all 4 newspaper-sized pages devoted to the drought and water, there was not one word about “fracking” – not one word – in fact, neither “fracking” nor big oil were even mentioned in any of the articles. The U-T has ignored the threats posed by fracking and is trying to turn us away from this horrible destruction, a threat posed as Adam Scow, California Campaign Director of of Food and Water Watch has reported, in a recent Sacramento Bee op-ed piece :

“Fracking is a triple threat to California’s water. Not only does it exacerbate the climate crisis, it requires mixing vast amounts of water with harmful chemicals, and it puts our vital aquifers at risk of contamination for generations. ”

In other states where fracking has taken place, the oil industry has actually used 4 times more water than it has reported in fracking operations. Fracking critics contend that 1 million acre feet per year of water could be used to support expanded fracking during the drought. And, nobody knows for certain just how much water fracking operations use in this state currently, since reporting has been voluntary, or how much water expanded operations will use.

One thing is for sure – in a time of unprecedented drought, we can’t afford one drop of water to support expanded fracking operations in California. Yet, the U-T doesn’t even mention the dreaded word.

In the U-T’s scope, big agriculture, agri-business was pretty much left off the hook, while the newspaper pushed the narrative that the farmers have conserved enough and are taking the heat for government mismanagement.  In a nice ploy, the U-T has even come up with new figures for that now-familiar “80 to 20 percent” breakdown of California water use – agriculture to domestic; it’s now 50% for “environmental”, and now agricultural is 40% and “urban” is 10%. Sure sounds better.

The only reference to the construction industry was a very brief discussion about how in Nevada, “all new housing construction … was forced to use drought-tolerant landscaping.”

So it turns out, the U-T’s “5 Ways” – without any glance to the OB Rag’s “5 Measures” – really protect the big guys – again, you know, big oil, big agri-business, big construction industry, the big guys -.

What were the U-T’s ways? It’s not that we disagree with them, it’s that they are insufficient, incomplete and even mis-leading. Here they are:

Their big number 1 – numero uno: “Conservation” – with a focus on domestic use.

Strategy #2: Purple-piping it – again, cannot disagree here.

#3: Potable reuse – okay.

#4: Desalination – an obvious choice.

It’s their number 5 that is telling.  #5: Political persuasion. This one starts out by quoting a former Nevada water-manager who said:

“shaping public opinion and values is critical in achieving widespread compliance with conservation goals.”

And isn’t this exactly what the U-T is trying to do – shape public opinion – by ignoring fracking and big agri-business – and focusing on residential and commercial users? Number 5 urges policy makers to have frank talks with the public to get them to conserve even more and even encourages water vigilantism directed at small business and residential users.

The drought is serious and what we need to do about it should not be shrouded in partisan politics and protectionism.  How about it, U-T? Can we take the partisan politics out of how to deal with the drought?


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bearded OBcean April 20, 2015 at 2:19 pm

You glide past it, but you don’t mention why you think it’s incorrect, the new breakdown in water usage. Why is the 50% to environmental projects incorrect? Why is 80% for the ag breakdown correct?


Frank Gormlie April 20, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Bearded – You’re right, I did glide past it. And it’s not just the U-T that is now using these new figures and categories. The governor’s office is also doing it as is the Public Policy Institute of California. The basic argument is that actually half of all California water is termed “environmental”, the half of our water that is not used by and for humans. The high number of 50% is trotted out – without any basis to back that up, but “environmental” water is made up of 4 categories: water that naturally flows into the state’s rivers and streams and is not connected to any water system; water needed to maintain fish and wildlife habitat within streams; water that supports wetlands in wildlife preserves; and water needed to maintain overall quality in order to be pure enough for urban and agricultural use.

By coming up with this high number, it of course makes the agricultural portion a smaller percentage – only “40” of “total” Calif H2O. Less an onerous number. Brown and the U-T continue to provide cover for big agribusiness.

And that’s whats wrong with these new figures. Of course everyone still agrees that of the water used for and by humans, 80% is used by agriculture, 20% by domestic use.


Sean m April 21, 2015 at 3:56 pm

The Environmental Use classification conflates fresh reservoir water pumped into the ocean with runoff. A politically shrewd maneuver intended to curb outrage. Freshwater reserves would be billions of gallons higher the state had not been pumping a million acre feet a year into the ocean for 5 years for fish, for naught. It’s ironic that SD is building a desal plant for a billion dollars that will purify 60k acre feet per year.


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