Worried About the Water Bill?
HERD ABOUT IT?
by Ana Grarian
In my area water is a funny thing. We live surrounded by lush green fields and forests. Crop damage is more likely to come from too much water than from too little. Fields are terraced to reduce erosion and tiled out to reduce wet holes. (Over time we’ve learned that those tiles are not likely a good thing as they transfer soil and chemicals into our lakes and streams during snow melt and heavy rainfall)
Yet with all this water, getting water to flow from the faucet can be tricky. Our well is a flowing artesian well. We have never had a lack of water. Yet our neighbors on both sides have. The farmer to the north paid to have a town waterline come in from a quarter of a mile away in order to ensure enough water for his livestock. The neighbor to the south drilled two wells and barely got enough water for a small household.
In the summer time water haulers bring truckloads of water to dump into property owner’s wells. Some are just households, and at other times the customers are larger farms. My understanding is that the town had to regulate water withdrawals to ensure that people had water for home use. Some very large dairies have gone to creative lengths to obtain enough water for their cows, and the water needed to run their manure handling systems.
We aren’t used to debating water use in NYS like they are in the west. Hopefully we will be able to learn from the process that California, Colorado, etc. have gone through.
NYS is considering at least two water withdrawal bills.
The Citizens Coalition To Protect NY and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club are calling for hearings on the proposed legislation to address the issue of fair water allocation and the permitting of water withdrawal by companies engaged in hydro-fracking. A hint that something foul may be afoot is that the oil and gas industry are not in opposition to the bills.
Hopefully this is an issue that can be addressed jointly by both the anti-fracking lobby and the sustainable farming lobby.
The legislation exempts agricultural uses from the permitting requirements.
The legislation also reduces the existing reporting requirements for agricultural users from reporting usages of 100,000 per day
to reporting usages which average 100,000 a day over a month.
This may be why Farm Bureau is in support of the bill, though many farmers will be put at a significant disadvantage in situations of water scarcity when they don’t have permits and the large industrial CAFO users do. (FB knows from which side their bread is buttered) Permits are likely to enable permitted users to obtain priority.
Yet another reason why livestock operations should have the concentration of animals limited by the amount of acreage needed to sustain them.
NYS water is under attack on many fronts. The oil and gas industry wants to use enormous amounts of water laced with toxic chemicals to try to force (un)natural gas out of the deep shale it is embedded in. In addition this toxic fluid will come back up out of the well where it has been further contaminated and made radioactive from elements in the shale itself. This waste water will need to be stored and eventually disposed of. The state’s waste-water treatment plants, many of which are already overstressed especially in times of heavy rain, are being asked to take this fracking fluid, which they are not capable of treating to acceptable levels. Industrial agriculture is moving in to make use of excessive amounts of water, not only to provide drinking water for livestock, but also to facilitate handling systems from manure to food production waste.
What are YOU gonna drink when the well runs dry? (or dirty?)