Water Not Waste Launches to Save Barnes Aquifer

We welcome a new citizens’ group and blog to the Pioneer Valley political scene: Water Not Waste.

“Water Not Waste is a new citizens’ group committed to preserving the quality of the Barnes Aquifer in Western Massachusetts. We oppose the expansion of the Northampton Landfill over this aquifer. Our current priority is passage of the Proposed Initiative for a Non-Binding Public Opinion Question to be placed on the November 2 ballot.”

City Council will debate this initiative today in City Council Chambers, 212 Main Street, with public comment starting at 7:15pm. Concerned citizens are urged to attend. The proposal reads:

See also:

City Councilors Michael Bardsley and Marianne LaBarge Seek a Non-Binding Public Vote on the Fate of the Landfill
“I think it’s only right that the voters of Northampton have a chance to clearly express their opinions on the landfill expansion,” said Councilor LaBarge. “On the Proposition 2 1/2 Override and the Community Preservation Act, the people had their say. We want to give them the same opportunity on this critical and controversial decision.”

Wall Street Journal: “In the U.S., water managers in 36 states anticipate shortages by 2013” (2/17/09)

“Bringing Agriculture Back to Water – A Sustainable Solution for the 21st Century” (PDF)
Because of water supply concerns, many observers and agricultural scientists (Postel 1992, Reisner, 1986) point out that desert irrigated agriculture is unsustainable. Salt build up due to evaporation in an arid climate eventually makes soils useless. Only enhanced flushing of the soils requiring ever-increasing amounts of water can stave off the inevitable poisoning (Postel 1992, Arax and Wartzman 2003).

Given the above considerations it seems certain that there will be a contraction of agriculture in the west. Urbanites and their water needs (and votes) will eventually trump farmers. This loss of agriculture in the U.S. will have to be made up elsewhere. It could go offshore. However, we believe that this is not in the best interest of the food/fiber security for the U.S. or in the best interest of the global environment. Agriculture is not benign in its environmental impact. Foreign countries (especially third world countries) will not take the same precautions relative to pesticides, herbicides, erosion and water pollution as will the U.S. Additionally, worldwide demand for irrigation water in arid areas is outstripping supply (Rosegrant et al., 2002)…

Based on the past, present and gloomy outlook to the future, we believe that the more natural and sustainable agricultural system for the U.S. is irrigated assisted rain-fed agriculture in the east and not desert irrigated agriculture in the west. Because of natural rainfall in the south only 6-9″ of irrigated water are needed for crops rather than the four feet needed in Arizona and California…

In summary – the paradigm for the 20th century was to take water to agriculture. This led to colossal water projects in the west that moved water hundreds of miles to be put onto deserts and the ultimate dislocation of agriculture from the east. These projects were fostered by the belief that any water making it to the sea was wasted water and resulted in great harm to natural river systems, fisheries and estuaries. We believe that the paradigm for the 21st century should be to return agriculture to the east where irrigated assisted rain-fed agriculture is sustainable.

Video: Board of Public Works Discusses Scope of Waste Management Alternatives Study at 1/21/09 Special Meeting

Video and Slides: Public Forum on Innovative Approaches to Manage Northampton’s Solid Waste, 11/19/08

Department of Public Works: Proposed Phase 5 Expansion Information

Northampton Redoubt: “Mary Serreze interviews Northampton BPW Chair Dave Reckhow on the proposed landfill expansion” (11/15/08)

Valley Advocate: “Trash is Good” (10/9/08)

Video: Department of Public Health Presents Landfill Study