Letters to the Editor: Of course there's a water crisis for farmers near Trona. They're in a desert

·2 min read
Trona, CA - July 26: Rusty old water pipes, owned by Searles Valley Minerals, snakes through Poison Canyon along Highway 178, on Monday, July 26, 2021 in Trona, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Old, rusty pipes owned by Searles Valley Minerals carry water to Trona, Calif. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The idea pushed by farmers near the Mojave Desert town of Trona that there is much more groundwater underneath the Indian Wells Valley is nonsense, plain and simple. There is indeed plenty of water, but it is unfit for drinking, watering lawns, growing crops or even filling swimming pools. ("A 7.1 earthquake couldn’t kill this Mojave Desert town. But a water war just might," Sept. 23)

With continued business as usual, nearly all wells will be unable to produce potable water.

Furthermore, commercial agriculture brings in far less money to the Indian Wells Valley and creates far fewer jobs than the nearby Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and the Trona chemical plants. The only reason the basin is in overdraft is commercial agriculture. China Lake and the Trona plants can function with water that can safely be pumped.

Finally, China Lake and the Trona chemical plants are essential, whereas the alfalfa and pistachios produced at local farms can be grown in many other places. Anyone who started farming in the Indian Wells Valley during the past 40 years did so despite the widely known looming water crisis.

Frank Grober, Oakland

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To the editor: From 2006-11, I was the conservation director at the Indian Wells Valley Water District, which serves Trona, the Mojave Desert town whose existence is threatened by a water dispute. When I was named to the position, California had recently passed legislation requiring water authorities to cut usage by 20% by 2020.

In the Indian Wells Valley at that time, there was an ongoing, longstanding argument about whether our aquifer was an open or closed system. In other words, were we getting water solely from mountain runoff, or were we receiving replenishment from outside our basin? If the former was true, our usage had created a huge water deficit.

We instigated a carrot-and-stick, multi-pronged conservation program that helped cut usage by 17% over four years. I convinced our constituents that xeriscape was the landscape of the 21st century and that water was more precious than gold.

Unfortunately, the water district's revenue was also cut by 17%, and my position was the first one cut. Still, I'd do it all again — because without clean, affordable water, we cannot exist.

Lucinda Sue Crosby, Palm Desert

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To the editor: If people don't want to pay to create alternative water sources, the answer is simple — just keep pumping until the wells run dry, then pack up and leave.

California has many ghost towns, and Trona and nearby Ridgecrest could easily be next. The same goes for much of the San Joaquin Valley.

Noel Park, Rancho Palos Verdes

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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