Our “valley of tribes” must work together on water issues

November 14, 2019
by Lois Henry
Lois Henry

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Water and oil do mix, or at least they should in order for the San Joaquin Valley to succeed, said Sarge Green, a project director at the Water, Education and Technology (WET) center at Fresno State.

Green spoke at the annual Kern Energy Summit Wednesday morning. He was joined by Steve Bohlen, Energy and Homeland Security Program Director at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Green made the case that water has a place in discussions about the future of energy production, particularly when it comes to oilfield produced water. Oil production pulls up a lot of water, most of which is too salty or mineral laden to be used, even for irrigation.

The WET Center regularly works with start ups trying to find cost effective ways to reclaim water from a variety of sources. And that reclaimed water will be sorely needed in the future, Green said.

The state’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) will likely result in the loss of 500,000 productive acres (some say it could be double that) in the Central Valley.

And that’s not the only challenge facing groundwater. New regulations on nitrates through fertilizer applications and salts flushing into aquifers will make dealing with SGMA even more difficult. Goundwater banking and on-farm recharge are the main avenues to replenishing groundwater.

“We have to work together better for the whole valley,” Green said. “Right now, we’re a valley of tribes and we need to get over that.”

Ag and energy can partner to find ways to increase opportunities for both industries, he said.

Bohlen envisioned a new valley industry managing CO2, carbon sequestration, which could be injected deep underground and suggested the Central Valley could become the next Silicon Valley.

“California is the Saudia Arabia of (underground) pore space,” he said.

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.

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