Sierra Wave Media

Eastern Sierra News for July 20, 2024





groundwater_pump_349-2.jpgWhere are fiscal conservatives when we need them?

With recent attention in both on-line and print media to dry wells and lack of water and livestock forage, it would be easy for me to write “I told you so.” After all, I have written numerous articles and letters for at least a decade pointing out that DWP’s long term average pumping (about 90,000 acre- feet/yr) exceeds the 70,000 af/yr ceiling estimated by the USGS for maintaining groundwater shallow enough to sustain vegetation (and shallow wells). These letters have had little apparent effect on Inyo County leaders, who have yet to mount a serious challenge to DWP’s excessive pumping.

Because stating the facts has proven ineffective, I’ll try an analogy. Water tables have some similarities to bank accounts. The balance in a bank account at any time depends on how much money is being deposited and how much is being withdrawn. Based on the USGS model, we know, valley-wide, we have an enormous deficit in our water account dating back to the mid 1980’s, because withdrawals (groundwater pumping, ~90,000 af/yr) are far higher than deposits (recharge, ~ 70,000 af/yr).

Now, we are seeing consequences of the long term water deficit — drying wells and ranchers being forced to reduce their herds. However, instead of seeking to rein in excessive spending (groundwater pumping) Inyo leaders blame lack of deposits (reduced recharge due to drought). Recent comments by Inyo County Water Department Director Bob Harrington are a case in point, and his predecessors used a similar strategy.

The deficit in our water account means that spending exceeds income. The spending (pumping) can be controlled, yet our leaders mention only the reduction in income (drought), which cannot.

I’ll bet a majority of Inyo County voters consider themselves “fiscal conservatives.” Would fiscal conservatives knowingly vote for candidates whose plan to reduce deficits amounts to ignoring excessive spending (pumping) and simply calling for increased income (praying for snow)?

Daniel Pritchett Bishop, CA

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