“A 7.1 earthquake couldn’t kill this Mojave Desert town. But a water war just might,”
Farmers in the Mojave Desert town of Trona promoted an idea that there is groundwater under the Indian Wells Valley, claiming that it is plain and simple, nonsense. There is a lot of water, but it is not suitable for drinking, watering lawns, cultivating, or even filling swimming pools. (“A 7.1 earthquake couldn’t kill this Mojave Desert town. But a water war just might,” September 23)
In this sense, many of the farmers took the task of writing letters to the editor to relate their point of view:
Commercial farming brings far less money to the Indian Wells Valley than is thought and creates far less work than Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and the Trona chemical plants. The only reason this basin is uncovered is commercial agriculture. China Lake and Trona plants can run on water that can be safely pumped.
The China Lake and Trona chemical plants are especially essential. On the other hand, alfalfa and pistachios produced on local farms can be grown in many other places. Anyone who cultivated in the Indian Wells Valley in the last 40 years did so despite the crisis they knew was coming.
Frank Grober, Oakland
From 2006 to 2011, I was director of conservation in the Indian Wells Valley water district, which at the same time serves Trona, a city in the Mojave Desert. Still, its existence is in jeopardy due to the dispute that exists over the water. When I was appointed to the position, California recently passed legislation requiring water authorities to reduce use by 20% by 2020.
At the time, in the Indian Wells Valley, there was a long-running discussion about whether the aquifer was an open or closed system. The question at the time was, were we getting water solely from runoff from the mountains, or were we receiving replenishment from outside our watershed? If the former was true, our use of it had created a huge water deficit.
So we launched a carrot and stick conservation program, which helped reduce use by 17% over four years. I managed to convince voters that xeriscape was the landscape of the 21st century and that water was more precious than gold.
However, the water district’s revenue was also reduced by 17%. Therefore my position was the first to suffer cuts. Still, I would do everything the same again because we cannot exist without clean, affordable water.
Lucinda Sue Crosby, Palm Desert
If people don’t want to pay to create alternative water sources, the answer is simple: keep pumping until the wells run dry, then pack up and go. California has plenty of ghost towns, and Trona and nearby Ridgecrest could be next. The same is true of much of the San Joaquin Valley.