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H20 #2 Water conference attempts to bridge troubled waters

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The 2014 Water Conference, H20 #2, took place on Saturday May 10th at Fresno City College. Its organizer, Jean Hays of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, said she just "felt that it was time for another conference."

The first Conference had taken place four years earlier, a time when the Central Valley was beginning to experience less rainfall. The magnitude of this year's drought gave impetus for this year's theme "Troubled Water."

Free to the public, the conference drew a crowd of less than 200.

A variety of organizational sponsors and resources were present including: California Sierra Club, Restore the Delta, Department of Water Resources, Food and Water Watch, Fresno Metro Ministry, and KFCF Radio 88.1.

There was an Opening Ceremony with representatives from the Wintu tribe. Morning discussion panels were moderated by Jack Noldon, a retired local news anchor.

Focus questions were: Should the State invest in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)? What are environmental concerns in hydraulic fracturing? What infrastructure is needed for protecting groundwater?

During Panel #1 which began with a BDCP promotional video:

  • According to Dr. Jeffrey Michael in a keynote address, the BDCP will be a huge burden financially, economically, seismically for "a skimpy change in water supplies" for San Joaquin Valley farmers and residents.
  • Barbara Barrigan-Parilla of Restore the Delta remarked that the cost of the BDCP is up to $67 billion rather than $25 billion, but will still to lead to continued degradation of Delta water due to less water.
  • Lloyd Carter, an investigative journalist and water-activist, shared his observations on the extent of the salinity and toxicity problems on the West side of the Valley, low lands that naturally belong to fallow.
  • Ken Schmidt, a ground-water hydrologist, expressed his concerns on present groundwater overdraft and the need to better monitor the water balance. He supports the "Arizona Model" for overdraft facilities.

During Panel #2:

  • Chris Acree of Revive the San Joaquin recounts his experience in reviewing Temperance Dam proposals; the costs of thousands of dollars per acre foot water yield will not buy reliability for farmers.
  • Caleen Sisk, Wintu tribal leader argued that actions such as bottling Mt. Shasta water for commerce might support sixty jobs, but the jobs that we really need are up in the mountains restoring the watershed.
  • Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch argued that fracking not only consumes huge amounts of badly needed water, but poses as a threat for aquifers, land, and surface waters; so it is not clean energy.

Each panel was followed by questions, answers, and comments from the audience, such as on sustainable alternatives in energy development, in transportation, and the true costs of laissez-faire capitalism.

More meaningful discussions followed during the break out sessions after lunch with representatives from the Fresno Water Department, Farm Activists, and California Rural Legal Assistance.

For instance, participants learned first-hand how farmers such as Tom Franz are coping with zero water allocations by either investing in deeper wells, or letting the well run dry; plus how big oil money is flooding the capitol from writer Dan Bacher.

One take-away is for certain. Even if more snow and unseasonably cold winters are the reality in the Northeast, with the rest of the world dependent on fruits and vegetables from California, food prices will likely rise.

More information can be found here:
H2O #2 Troubled Water 2014 Water Conference Sat. May 10th at Fresno City College

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