HIGH COUNTRY NEWS  January 25, 2016

Water for cows

 

The Nov. 23 stories “The city as sponge,” about Los Angeles possibly designing its way to water independence, the related story “The Revival of Mono Lake,” and the cover story, “Water Hustle,” brought back the July 16, 2015, TED Radio Hour: “Finite: Ideas about the Resources We Use and How to Make the Most of What’s Left.” About 14.5 minutes in, John Foley, an ecologist who runs the California Academy of Sciences, offers this observation (which I paraphrase): “Just think about the last 50 years. Population has more than doubled, our use of water for food production has more than tripled, and our use of fossil fuels has more than quadrupled.”
Focus in on water for agriculture, Foley continues: “Seventy to 90 percent of all water used around the planet is to irrigate crops. California’s water problem is a food problem. The biggest consumer of water in California is alfalfa. Alfalfa alone is using more water than all the other water uses combined, and most of it is being shipped overseas for use as feed for dairy cows. So we are exporting California water to the Middle East and China to make milk.”
So, yes, while the possibility of making LA water independent is tremendous, the darts we are throwing are still missing the bull’s-eye — California alfalfa exports — which Gov. Jerry Brown, for all his 2016 green energy and water policies, has said is “off the table.”
Cynthia Mitchell
Reno, Nevada