Mar 29 2014
Fox News Magazine
Dateline: September 27, 2080
By William Brown
The Worldwide Geo team has returned that has been touring the ghost towns of
the region formerly known as the Southwestern US. They spent more than
three months documenting the effects of depopulation of this once thriving
desert and coastal region. Judy and George Halvorson have taken time out
from their training for the Mars Mission to talk with us.
FNM – George, would you please tell our viewers why you did this tour and
give them a thumbnail of the tour?
GH – Sure. Judy and I were selected due to our experiences around the world
reporting on the depopulation effects of climate change, depletion of water
resources and political upheaval. For years we’ve heard about the massive
changes in the area we toured, some caused by nature and some human-caused,
but until we actually saw it, we didn’t appreciate the enormity of it all.
The results of the failure of that regional water system can only be
evaluated by viewing the images we captured, and reading the narrative
written by the two hydrologists, Dr. Scott Diamond and Barry Foster. The
tour covered what is now Mexona, over to the coast to San Diego, through
Los Angeles ending at the US/Mexican border at Monterey.
FNM-We’ll get to the route you took. I’ve seen some of the work your team
did. I am particularly interested in the Great Central Valley.
JH – We nearly didn’t go there. It really didn’t fit our ghost towns
mission, but it’s such a huge area, and the effects of no water are so
stark, we did take the time to cover it. George did some spectacular work
using black and white imaging that really tells the story.
FNM-Talk to me about what you saw.
GH-Stark is a good adjective. The whole valley is returning to its original
condition, but it’s held back because of the depletion of the giant aquifer
than lies beneath it. Someday it may return. Reisner said in Cadillac Desert,” In the 1850s, when the
California gold rush was at full flood, the Great Central Valley traversed
by the miners on the way to the mother lode was an American Serengeti-a
blond grassland in the summertime, a vast, flourishing marsh during the
winter and spring. The wildlife, even after a century and a half of Spanish
settlement, was unbelievable; millions of wintering ducks, geese, and
cranes, at least a million antelope and tule elk, thousands of grizzly
FNM – In the San Diego UT archives back in 2014 I found an article by Paul
Miller that was directed at the technological water assistance the State of
Israel was providing. In that piece he said, “According to CNBC,
“California’s Central Valley grows 99 percent of the country’s almonds and
pistachios, 96 percent of all tomatoes, 89 percent of all lemons, 86 percent
of all carrots and 49 percent of all lettuce farmed in America, according to
California’s DeparFNMent of Food and Agriculture. All told, California
produced more than $44 billion in fresh produce last year, and the drought
threatens up to $11 billion of that this year.” Amazing. What did you learn
in your research?
JH — Those figures are likely accurate, but don’t tell the whole story.
Pardon me while I read from my little cheat sheet here on the tablet. While
that area led the US in cash farm receipts, it accounted for just under 12
percent of cash farm receipts at 37.5 Billion dollars in 2010.
FNM – Any idea of what those figures might be now?
GH – Not really. Since the Valley has been split in half between Mexico and
the US, figures are difficult to find. My guess is they are just a small
fraction of that now. We saw a few truck farms, but nothing like it was
FNM – Do you think it will ever be farmed on the scale it was before?
GH – The hydrologists on the team covered that in their narrative. They say
no. It didn’t make sense then, and won’t in the future. With annual
precipitation a fraction of what it takes to grow crops, there are much
better ways now to provide vegetables and dairy products using aeroculture
where water use is controlled. Agri-business consumed an amazing 80 percent
of the water in what was then the State of California, leaving little for
urban use and population growth.
FNM – Thanks much for talking with me. I understand you aren’t on the Mars
mission for some time, so hopefully we can continue this conversation.
53. Reisner, The Cadillac Desert, [Beginning with In the
1850’s and ending .grizzly bears.].
By Milt Burgess • Blog • 0 • Tags: California Aqueduct, Colorado River, conservation, drought, El Nino, La Nina, MWD, potable, purification, rainfall, SDCWA, State Water Project, water Storage, wet centuries