FOOD GROWS WHERE WATER FLOWS … THE COLORADO RIVER VALLEY IS DYING
PAUL W. “loved the Colorado River” and his friends left his marker overlooking the river he lived for. ..
Famed humorist, actor, statesman and cowboy Will Rogers said this about the OWENS VALLEY that the LA aqueduct drained in 1930: “Ten years ago this was a wonderful valley with one-quarter of a million acres of fruit and alfalfa. But Los Angeles had to have more water for its Chamber of Commerce to drink more toasts to its growth, more water to dilute its orange juice and more water for its geraniums to delight the tourists, while the giant cottonwoods here died. So, now this is a valley of desolation.”
Alfredo Cervantes, a life-long agricultural supervisor or field-worker that came to the US in the 1960’s from Mexico with his father to farm land next to the Colorado River and he never left the River. Across the river in Arizona there are some folks who would hate Alfredo because he had three kids, all did well, one son’s a paramedic and another works admission at a hospital another works elsewhere in the medical field and all ask dad “why do you work so long and hard”. Cervantes admits he works day and night for his fields, always has. He gets up to turn on the water and nurses the water into the rows to beat the sun and the evaporation. ” When I farm I grow enough food for almost a 100 people”, he says modestly of his yearly efforts farming his fields adjacent to the Colorado Rivers nine miles south of Blythe, CA. He nurtures his alfalfa, his family, the sugarcane he grows on the family farm outside of Guadalajara in Jalisco and has struggled for a lifetime to give his kids a better life. Alfredo admits he never went to school!
But he learned to read, he liked World Books, folks gave him other reading, he pursued his interests–I mentioned my Cuba trip and he brightened when I pointed out they shared his Spanish blood … “Richest land anywhere, they say in Cuba you can grow anything there”! he announces with absoluteness. But his readings have also made him worry about what he sees around him. The field across the road became a RV Park adjacent to the river “for people on vacation” he says they sold their water rights to LA like about 30-40 per cent of the entire valley has already sold and the richest land in the world sits fallow. Meanwhile the water flowing next to this field is siphoned from the river pumped uphill day-in, day-out sending the farmer’s water share to LA since they bought the water rights there. just like LA did in Owens Valley says Alfredo who explained how LA had bought up all water rights in the richest Eden ever-known and after building an engineering miracle of a 200 mile aqueduct they returned to pump out the ground water and to turn the once green, lush paradise into an alkali wasteland of blowing dust void of topsoil. “You know, like they did in Oklahoma during the depressions” Alfredo continues … He also feels bad feels bad about his lack of education, but he believes he “elevated his children’s opportunities in life but feels bad because none of them want to do the work he had done all his life and inherited from his father, a life of living off the earth. A life in harmony with the land. After talking to Alfredo, I cheaked facts and found he was right about so much, the Mono Lake debacle, where the 20 mile-long lake, the centerpiece of Owen Valley had disappeared, destroying the resident’s way of life and property values, some say, the residents of the Owen Valley were made whole by final settlements, but how do you reimburse someone for destroying their quality of life.
Alfredo Cervantes is the canary in the coal mine ! He’s worried, he is looking around and it’s getting dark all around him and he is speaking out–doesn’t everyone see where this is heading … it has happened before. LA is doing it again ! They are still debating whether or not they can plant lawns in LA. Tucson gave up lawns for green gravel in the mid-1970’s. St. George Utah is fast growing, and happens to be the driest county in Utah. Presently, they are debating the building of a canal to Lake Powell 130 miles away, some are for it and other say they don’t need it. They point out St George has the highest per capita water consumption rate for desert cities in the US (335gal/person/day twice Tucson’s usage) and still enjoys the country’s lowest rates and grow green lawns made from Kentucky Bluegrass, a species known for its thirst.
Morrow Mayo, a Los Angeles reporter wrote: “Los Angeles gets its water by reason of one of the costliest, crooked, most unscrupulous deals ever perpetrated, plus one of the greatest pieces of engineering folly ever heard of. Owens Valley is there for anybody to see. The city of Los Angeles moved through this valley like a devastating plague. It was ruthless, stupid, cruel and crooked. It stole the waters of the Owens River. It drove the people of Owens Valley from their homes, a home that they had built from the desert. For no sound reason, for no sane reason, it destroyed a helpless agricultural section and a dozen towns. It was an obscene enterprise from the beginning to end.”
SOUTHWEST PONZIE SCHEME…the next economic bubble specific to every homeowner in the South West Region
I got to thinking that the Colorado River could be the biggest ponzie scam of all. There were lots of warnings, but not until I read how the $68Million relining of the All American Canal had been financed and paid for by San Diego County for the rights to the water that would have been lost from the canal had it not been relined. It was then, I thought of the campers shoulder to shoulder, backed into a parallel parking spot with maybe a picnic table, shared toilet and water for $20-$45 a night or $320 for the week. Drop a boat in the water, add $20-$50 (summer rates) a day to moor. Need power, septic, cable, shade, try $60 a night. Extra person in campsite or RV add $6, Dog deposit fee $20 refundable, if all goes well. Or the twenty-five boat dealers or rental facilities who will rent a pontoon boat from $275 up a day and delivery it anywhere on the river for $150. This is big business! From the resorts, hotels and folks squeezed into campsites shoulder to shoulder. People spend $45 or more to park their rig in sought after cove operations which are self-sufficient, having their own fuel pumps, restaurants, club house and enforced peace and quiet. They will collect A premium fine, if you or your dog misbehaves.
It is in this focus that the warnings that Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, could feasibly run dry, with catastrophic implications. FOR EXAMPLE; take a mobile home worth $30,000 everywhere else and place a hundred of them next to the river and sell them each for $99,000 each, everyone’s happy till the water runs out. Everything is leverage against everything else and if the water goes away so goes it all. The water is the glue that holds all of it together.