Retire Poisoned Lands
Since the 1960s and 1970s, the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project have supplied irrigation water to approximately 1.3 million acres of drainage-problem lands on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare Lake Basin.
According to the Pacific Institute, retiring these lands would save up to 3.9 million acre-feet of water annually. C-WIN agrees.
The Bureau of Reclamation's Land Retirement Demonstration Project in the Tranquillity area of the San Joaquin Valley showed significant progress in reducing the elevation of high groundwater. The Bureau of Reclamation's 2001 Annual Report stated that groundwater elevations declined an average of 4 feet between August 1999 and October 2001. The report stated further:
C-WIN recommends that:
Taking much of these poisoned lands out of production would reduce demand for Delta water diversions and significantly improve water quality in the San Joaquin River, the Delta and the San Francisco Bay through reduction of selenium contamination and bioaccumulation. A planned program of land retirement and other drainage volume reduction actions should also provide for mitigation of impacts to the farm labor community. Even if irrigation deliveries continue, these lands will ultimately go out of production, become sterile alkali land and cause air quality hazards from toxic dust. Unfortunately, if that comes to pass, it will be too late to avoid and mitigate the harm done to the Valley's environment and agricultural labor market.