24 Jan 2011


A few weeks ago, I landed in Los Angeles, got in my car and drove up to Berkeley.

On the way, I "ran into" this accident. I was about 30 second behind the girl who was driving. She was "looking at the pretty hills," drifted into the neighboring lane, and her car was crushed between two tractor-trailers. She ended up spinning across four lanes. I stopped and ran back to her car; another guy was already there (a doctor!), and she was only suffering from a scratch on her arm.

As you can see in the photo, the car was trashed.

Bottom Line: Car safety regulation saved this girl's life. I am not sure how "the market" would have saved it, since she was driving her sister's car. It's not like she got to choose her price-safety combination that morning. (It's possible, OTOH, that the manufacturer (Toyota?) sold a safe car to her sister, but few people choose a car exclusively for its safety features.)

Later on the trip, I passed a number of "Congress Created Dust Bowl" signs. Near Mendota, I saw this photogenic example of Farmer Created Dust Bowl.

Sprinklers are cheaper to operate than drip irrigation, but they use a lot more water. I guess that these farmers have lots of cheap water to apply to their dusty lands, eh?

Bottom Line: Shortage results when demand exceeds supply. Farmers need to get their own house in order before they point fingers at Congress an overstressed supply system.


California Farm Water Coalition said...

If you did a little research you would know that sprinklers are a sensible irrigation choice during certain times of the year, like seed germination. Farmers often combine sprinklers early in the year with drip irrigation later to finish the crop's growth cycle. I bet you didn't know that and I bet you couldn't tell whether there also was an underground (very common nowadays) drip system in place in the field where you shot that picture. Dave Zetland, there is often more to a story than meets the eye. If you're interested in real irrigation research and technology please check out the work that has been going on for decades at Fresno State, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and in the UC Cooperative Extension System. You'll be amazed...and enlightened.

Mike Wade
California Farm Water Coalition

SariS said...

I agree with Mike. Sprinkler irrigation is not always evil and can be necessary for certain crops and times of year. Please don't demonize or sermonize on things you don't yet understand. Your blog can spread useful insights or just clog the system with more uninformed opinions.

CRG said...

Drip is not always the right tool for the job.
Sometimes sprinklers are the right tool.

Four Mound Farm said...

I don't know about the sprinklers, but that car was IDENTICAL to mine before the wreck. I will love my Camry more now...

benjaminpink said...

Hmmm. Maybe I need to do more research myself, but very often when I drive on the 101 in the Salinas Valley I see sprinklers running on crops 1) during the middle of the day when evaporation is high, and 2) when it is really windy outside (increasing evaporation). I see this all the time up and down the valley on various crops. I also see the same thing on the north coast of Santa Cruz when it is really windy. So tell me, is there more than meets the eye?

Mister Kurtz said...

Even in drip systems, sprinklers are often necessary from time to time in order to manage salts. They actually are very efficient, but as with all systems beyond furrow or doing the rain-dance, require considerable energy.
A grower with an uncertain water supply has lots of reasons not to invest in a long lived asset like a drip system. Sprinklers can be hauled away for reuse or sale. Discouraging long term investment is one of the many tradeoffs of the game-o-chicken some people want to play with contract renewals.

David Zetland said...

@Mike et al. -- thanks for the tutorial on sprinkers vs drip. As you know I am happy to defer to efficient irrigation practices, but I am unhappy to have water users USING water at the same time as they are blaming others ("Congress" is so wrong, but they are blamed) for not having enough water to use.

Sure, use the sprinklers, but take down the bloody signs.

CRG said...

So they shouldn't be using water at all??

(also, who knows whether the farmer whose field you photographed is actually one of the complainers/blamers, but that is beside the point)

Debbie S. said...

Congrats David, you have hate mail. I'm so proud :-)

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