New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Frack You!

June 25, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Diane Lefer, Ecology, Economy, Politics

From Culver City to the Inglewood Oil Fields

by Diane Lefer

Since I don’t ordinarily attend Chamber of Commerce meetings or Tea Party gatherings, I’m not used to hearing hundreds of people object to new regulations for industry, but when the California Department of Conservation sent representatives from the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to Culver City on June 12 for a workshop seeking input on how to regulate fracking, the community response was close to unanimous: Don’t regulate!

What the standing-room-only and overflow crowd of several hundred people wanted instead was a total ban.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, makes it possible to exploit oil and gas resources that were formerly too difficult or expensive to reach — factors which, until recently, left California’s oil fields in a state of decline. Today, horizontal drilling techniques make it possible to access distant sources. Then, the high-pressure injection of water mixed with chemicals forces the oil or gas up to where it can be pumped or skimmed off the surface, but the process is controversial enough that it has been entirely banned by the State of Vermont and the whole country of France. (more…)

Sustainable Water Use?

June 01, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Martin Zehr, Politics

Water Budgets Meet Financial Budgets in California ‘Water Wars’

by Martin Zehr, aka Mato Ska

There is an increasing body of evidence that any resolution to the peripheral canal and Delta infrastructure is meeting a financial wall around which there is no room to maneuver. What is happening in California is no different in many ways from what is happening elsewhere. Water wars are driven by allocations, financial and hydrological. Coastal urban allocations in California are disproportional in their priority because of the use of geo-political entities. As the Central Valley becomes more urbanized there is an increase in their political representation. But as long as diversions are the solution of choice in California, regional planning will never be utilized to integrate urban users with agricultural and rural users in the decision-making process.

There is a real base of support here in California among ag and rural users for regional planning. At this stage, this is primarily to get the State Legislature out of the process. Politically, there remains the Arnold attitude towards water that “We can have it all.” This is simply because of the political control of the State Legislatures by urban users. (more…)

California Streaming

July 28, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Martin Zehr, Politics

Moving from Water Wars to Collaborative Management

by Martin Zehr, aka Mato Ska

Groundwater in California is the focus of the latest water war between water users in the North and users in the South. Some 38% of water used in the state comes from groundwater mining. The battlefield of this war is the Central Valley of California and the Central Valley Aquifer.

Norris Hundley estimated California’s groundwater reserves in his book, The Great Thirst, amounting to 850 million acre-feet, with the caveat that less than half that amount was usable. Running from the Sacramento Valley to the San Joaquin Valley this aquifer circulates roughly 2 million acre feet of water/per year. Withdrawals account for roughly 11.5 million acre ft./yr., according to the Groundwater Atlas of the United States. In December 2009, satellite-imaging projected the loss of 30 cubic kilometers of water since 2003, which is creating an unprecedented political struggle in the state of California. (more…)

Water Politics

July 07, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Martin Zehr, Politics

Balancing Growth with Renewable Supplies

by Martin Zehr, aka Mato Ska

Any study of water management in the state of California that fails to analyze water politics leaves a significant gap in grasping the decisions that have been made in the past and those that will be made in the future.

In addressing California water politics we find profound disparities in power and influence. There are many advocacy groups that represent users and stakeholders throughout the state who are engaged in issues of water quality, water allocations and water diversions. There are lines drawn between coastal municipalities and inland users. There are lines drawn between North and South. There are environmentalists and agribusinesses that project their ritual oppositions in the media. Liberals in San Francisco raise the banner of the Delta smelt, while conservatives on talk shows mock the prioritization of a minnow-like fish ahead of the farm owners and farm workers of the Central Valley. (more…)