Overpumping groundwater creating a crisis in California

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A simple instrument with a weight and a pulley confirmed what hydrologist Michelle Sneed had suspected after seeing more and more dirt vanish from the base of her equipment each time she returned to her research site last summer. The tawny San Joaquin Valley earth was sinking a half-inch each month.

The reason was no mystery. “There are wells up and down this road,” Sneed said, nodding toward a two-lane byway that cut across the flat agricultural landscape.

Parts of the San Joaquin Valley are deflating like a tire with a slow leak as growers pull more and more water from the ground. The land subsidence is cracking irrigation canals, buckling roads and permanently depleting storage space in the vast aquifer that underlies California’s heartland.

The overpumping has escalated during the past drought-plagued decade, driving groundwater levels to historic lows in some places. But in a large swath of the valley, growers have been sucking more water from its sands and clays than nature or man puts back for going on a century.

They are eroding their buffer against future droughts and hastening the day, experts warn, when they will be forced to let more than a million acres of cropland turn to dust because they have exhausted their supplies of readily available groundwater…

The Central Valley aquifer extends for about 400 miles under the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. The subterranean water, some of which seeped into the ground 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, is California’s biggest reservoir. Yet it has been largely unregulated and unmonitored. Most of the more than 100,000 wells that pierce the valley floor are unmetered and landowners have taken what they wanted.

Scientists estimate that since the first wells were drilled by settlers more than a century ago, pumping has depleted Central Valley groundwater reserves by 125 million acre-feet. That is about 4 1/2 times the capacity of Lake Mead, the biggest surface reservoir in the country. About 20 million acre-feet of that loss occurred in the last decade.

Until last year, California didn’t have a statewide groundwater law, making it an outlier in the West. The legislation, intended to end unsustainable groundwater use, won’t do that any time soon. Agricultural interests opposed the regulations, which call for the creation of local groundwater agencies that have more than two decades to fully comply.

In the meantime, it’s easier for growers to keep pumping than rein in their use. “Telling people they have to stop irrigating is a huge economic thing,” said Charles Burt, chairman of the Irrigation Training and Research Center at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “Guys are going to get their guns out…

Read the article for measured, sensible solutions – which, of course, don’t mean a damned thing in American politics. And it will be politics that resolves whatever is implemented in California. Short-term politics, short-term economics, short-term profits – which have always been the bane of Agriculture, whether it’s in the American West growing alfalfa or palm-nuts in Indonesia.

You don’t have to be a cynic to expect that verifiable science means nothing to producers who worry most of all about commodity prices and hedge funds.

When will the United States deal with history of racist murders?


First lynching the FBI ever “solved”

The US justice department will be accused in front of the United Nations on Thursday of failing to account for hundreds of African Americans who disappeared or were murdered by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights era.

The UN’s human rights council in Geneva will be told at a special meeting of its working group that the wave of racial violence that swept through the deep south in the 1940s, 50s and 60s has never been accounted for, despite a congressional law passed seven years ago that instructed the FBI to look again at the issue. The message will be delivered to the UN by a team of lawyers and civil rights experts from Syracuse University who have investigated scores of cold cases of race murders that have never been brought to justice.

They will tell the UN – as part of the world body’s review of the human rights record of the US that reaches a climax in May – that they have compiled a list of more than 300 suspicious killings that the FBI have not even recognized, let alone cleared up. By that calculation there have been hundreds, possibly thousands, of individual murderers who have killed in the name of white supremacy and enjoyed total impunity…

The UN spotlight falls at a time of rising concern about the unresolved nature of America’s sordid history of race killings. It follows the recent publication of a study by the Equal Justice Initiative that identified almost 4,000 lynchings in the country between 1877 and 1950 – vastly more than previously reported.

The issue has also been heightened by growing public concern about contemporary police shootings of unarmed black people such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York. The Syracuse experts will invite the UN to draw a parallel between the recent spate of police shootings and killings in the civil rigohts era, many of which occurred with the active co-operation or silence of local law enforcement agencies.

One more overdue class of justice ignored, dismissed, falsified by our political establishment. With few exceptions, even self-described liberals rely on lousy information and excuses from the Department of Justice, the FBI. Phony reports which neither recognize real numbers and real reasons. Racism is something that “other people” are guilty of as far as American law enforcement is concerned. More self-deception.

Not until the era of Mississippi Burning could the FBI even claim to have solved a lynching. And they didn’t do the grunt work in that case either. Civil Rights activists, groups constituted to fight for legal protection for civil rights workers, knew from the beginning where to look for the murderers of Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney. The FBI dragged their feet, as ever. They were pushed by public pressure into finally doing something useful.

The FBI track record through the whole disgraceful history of racist murders in the United States was absolutely perfect up till then. No lynchings were ever solved by the FBI. None. Zero.

Serbia arrests seven men over 1995 Srebrenica massacre — finally

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Serbia is to mount its first trial over one of Europe’s worst atrocities: the massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men by Serbian forces in Srebrenica in the summer of 1995.

Following a war crimes investigation, police arrested seven suspects in Serbia on Wednesday in the first such domestic operation in almost 20 years after the massacre, which was declared under international law to have been an act of genocide – the sole such act during the wars in the former Yugoslavia…

The seven men arrested at various locations in Serbia on Wednesday are suspected of having taken part in the mass murder of around 1,000 men at a warehouse in Kravica outside Srebrenica, a small hilltown in eastern Bosnia where Bosnian Muslims were held in a UN “safe haven” and besieged by Mladic’s forces for three years until the denouement in July 1995 resulted in the worst single atrocity of the war and the biggest massacre in Europe since the Nazis.

RTFA. It would be too kind to simply say this is overdue. I’ll leave the double-speak to the politicians.