25 Aug 2009

Westlands Owns NASA

Fleck posted this image from NASA, showing the brown spots (fallowed land) in the Central Valley.

I was interested to see that Westlands Water District was outlined in the original. Who asked NASA to outline Westlands?* Seems that politics is interfering with science. [Click here for the original, which zooms to VERY large.]

Oh -- and we can also see how the drought is affecting some places and not others.

Westlands has lots of brown spots because it has poor (junior) water rights. Other areas are better off. Yes, there's a drought, but most of the damage is accruing to those with poor water rights -- as is appropriate. (It's the same difference as that between people who have lost their houses because they took on too much debt and others who still have their because they have "reasonable" debt. It's both fair and predictable -- but perhaps not nice -- that one would lose while the other does not.)

Bottom Line: Westlands has lots of political friends, but we should not let politics interfere with their just desserts deserts.
NASA may have put Westlands in because it's in the news, but I wonder if they are reading the science or politics section?
The Westlands, reports National Public Radio, is the United State’s biggest irrigated region. Water pumped into the region from the Delta via the San Luis Reservoir supports farms where much of the nation’s fruit, nuts, and produce are grown. It was the last water district to join the federal irrigation agreement, and therefore it is the first to face restrictions during water shortages. Meanwhile, the Fresno District, immediately east of Westlands, had far fewer bare or failing fields.


  1. Dig the current Newsweek article on San Joaquin water and Westlands, "Dying on The Vine." It is pretty objective, and avoids Faux News demagoguery. However, it doesn't bring up the Zetland Principle of water markets.


  2. I believe that image measures the year to year change in vegetation, not the absolute level. Still pretty arresting. Yes, some were foolish to plant permanent crops in areas with a bad water supply. Yet the soils are superb, and there was a lot of encouragement from all levels of government that they do this.
    I am also puzzled over the appearance of Tulare Lake in this image (in the SE quadrant, roughly). It is not part of Westlands, and (I think) has a fairly decent water supply this year; I don't think there is a lot of fallowing there, but I can't say that for sure. Perhaps there is a change in crop rotation that accounts for the change in vegetative index.

  3. @FC -- I advise no mercy with that writer. Sad indeed :)

  4. 'In Dry Areas There Should Be No More Agriculture'


  5. WWD is like a poster-child for bad water projects. Any place you have to drain just so you can irrigate, is probably not a good place to irrigate - especially when ET>>ppt.


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