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Can We Eat The Flowers?

“San Diego’s Flowering Economy” in the San Diego Union Tribune 5/26/2013 extolled the virtues of the agricultural business in San Diego County. If I have my numbers right, less than 1% of San Diego county’s population is using 70% of the water coming into San Diego County. To be fair, I multiplied by four the number of farms (6,687 farms-“more than any other county in the US”) and divided it by the population of SD county, 3.1 million. Is there something wrong with this picture?

And to top it all off, while the rest of us were trying to cut back on water usage during the drought years, “the acreage devoted to major crops increased 92% from 2000 to 2006”! The UT on June 30, 2004 asked, “Worst drought in 500 years?” written by Louis Monteagudo, Jr.  Let’s get real about our water sources in SD County. We sit at the end of a several hundred mile long pipe subject to natural disasters. Eighty-four percent of the major crops grown in SD County are for nursery and cut flower products and fruits and nuts. In this desert?  Where it’s only rained six inches so far this year?

No question the growing of nursery stock and flowers provides employment and brings money into the San Diego economy. But let’s ask this question. Given the tenuous nature of San Diego’s water supply sources, and the ever-diminishing flow from the Colorado River being sucked on by seven states with their populations growing exponentially, how much should San Diego’s farmers pay for the water?

The answer to that question is not difficult. They should pay a price that includes enough to amortize the bonds required to finance the design and implementation of recycling the wastewater currently being dumped in the Pacific Ocean. The City’s one million gallon per day recycling pilot plant is a resounding success. It wasn’t even needed, since the technology has been proven for many years, but setting that aside, taking the effluent from the Point Loma wastewater plant, upwards of 200 million gallons per day, treating it and piping it to the San Vicente Reservoir would go a long way in providing water independence for San Diego. That process is called Indirect Potable Reuse or Recycling (IPR). Another way to describe it is reservoir augmentation.

Will that raise the price of flowers? Probably. Could it force some of the nearly 7000 farms to seek to grow their products elsewhere? Yes, that would likely occur.  Would it bring San Diego closer to water independence? Absolutely. A tragic seismic event in Northern CA, is a very real possibility. If we lose the Sacrament-San Joaquin Delta water, it will be too late. The tipping point will have passed and the socio-economic disaster that follows will affect millions of people. In my book Water Shock coming out in the Fall of 2013 a catastrophic scenario is described using fictional characters and real factual and historical data.

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