Aug 05, 2020

Valley water shortage

Fresno State students will soon have the opportunity to address and learn more about the water problems California is facing.

David Zoldoske, Ph.D., said that student participation is important. Students are the ones that will deal with this issue in the near and distant future.

“We need the best and brightest to come up with a solution, a policy,” Zoldoske said. “We need agricultural workers, engineers to deal with the issue. There is no silver bullet to deal with the enormity of the problem. It’s not like you are going to flip the switch and the problem will be gone.”

On Oct. 2, the university will host a town hall meeting about California’s water situation. The event, which is open to the public, will focus on the lack of water due to drought, water shortage, water conservation and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta issue.

Farmers vs. fish

Usage of the delta has become a point of controversy between farmers and environmental groups. It gained strength after Judge Oliver Wanger ordered the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife office to turn off two pumps in the delta.

The pumps are so powerful that they caused two rivers in the delta to change their direction. In turn, many fish were caught and killed, but the pumps gave farmers the water they needed to grow their crops.

The smelt, a two-to-three inch fish native to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, was named a threatened species in 1993. After that, they became closely monitored.

Al Donner of FWS said the effects of the smelt’s disappearance is unknown.

“We need to look at the bigger picture, more than looking at the pumps,” Donner said. “We need a comprehensive plan that would help the delta as a whole. However, our goal is to get the smelt off the list.”

Zoldoske agreed that the situation needs to be addressed immediately.

“It is an issue that more people need to be informed about and involved with’” Zoldoske said. “How far does the delta need to degrade until we do something about it?”

Several interest groups have been working to get a comprehensive plan on the table. Such a plan would allow farmers to have their water and make sure that the Delta smelt does not go extinct.

Growing population could lead to depletion of reservoirs

It is not just the Delta issue that complicates things for farmers in the Central Valley. The population spurt has caused water demand to increase to the point where underwater reservoirs have less supply. Water that used to be found at 50-feet underground in the 1950s is now at 150 feet deep.

“We are pumping water of about half the size of Millerton Lake each year and we are not replacing it,” said Zoldoske, who also looks at water recycling as a possible solution to the problem.

Fresno agricultural worker Piedad Ayala said in Spanish, “It’s either us or the fish. What good is the fish if we are not here? Humans should be first.”

“I had to let many of my crops die and just like me there are others,” Ayala said.

He argued that the effect goes beyond him, affecting the county, state and national economy.

“Land owners let their crops go to waste, they stop hiring workers,” Ayala said. “No jobs means no money to spend and we don’t need that in our current economic status.”

Public meeting Oct. 2

The upcoming town hall meeting will look at these and other possible solutions.

The meeting is Oct 2 at 6 p.m. in the Leon S. and pete P. Peters Education Center.

The meeting is open to the public, but space is limited. To RSVP, call 916-669-2762 or visit

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