Wednesday, May 5, 2010

60 Minutes: All-American Canal Kills Over 550 immigrants

I was completely ignorant of the unnecessary drowning deaths in the All-American Canal until this recent 60 Minutes report. It is shocking and sad.

For the past year, I have been listening to Paul Rodriguez and others in the Latino Water Coalition suggest (wrongly) that farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley are dieing because environmentalists and people like me support reduced water deliveries from the Delta that lead to some fallowed fields.

Here we have a farm water irrigation project that no one disputes is killing hundreds of Mexican immigrants, and the solution only costs $1 to $3 million. Where is the Latino Water Coalition? Where is the protest? Where is the march?

Just in case 60 Minutes got the story wrong (they have been known to flub reports on California water), I read the Imperial Irrigation District's response. They say they support safety features in the canal, but other water agencies are also responsible for the cost, not just them, and that 60 Minutes forgot to mention that the concrete lining saves enough water to irrigate a few thousand acres of land each year in addition to killing people. I am all in favor of measuring both benefits and costs, but I don't think that gets them off the hook. It looks to me like we could afford to spend $300 million to save some water, but not afford an extra 1% in cost to save hundreds of lives. Unbelievable.

OK fine, many water agencies share responsbility. ACWA, your members are responsible. Show some leadership and get them to solve this problem now! Don't let water conveyance kill any more innocent people in California. [Note: This paragraph has been lightly edited from original to say ACWA members are responsible and not ACWA itself in response to the comment below.]

Update: I was happy to see a report that Paul Rodriguez of the Latino Water Coalition canceled a show in Arizona and made a public statement condemning Arizona's new immigration law. As a latino leader in the water exporter community, it seems natural that he would step up to get something done about the All-American canal too.


  1. How is ACWA responsible?

    I tried to look at the membership list for ACWA to see if Imperial Irrigation District is a member, but I can't imagine why.

    The Imperial Valley is a whole different world from the Central Valley, hydrologically speaking. They get their water from the Colorado River, a Reclamation project, on a river that is controlled from Washington (Dept. of Interior is the official watermaster) and operates under a pact agreed to by the seven basin states. Or, in other words, ACWA's activities have no bearing or interest to IID, and I would be surprised if they were a member.

    The San Diego County Water Authority however, likely is, and they also financed the canal lining project. I would think they are more responsible for it than ACWA.

  2. Anon,

    OK, maybe that is too harsh, this story upset me.

    How about, ACWA show some leadership.

    I'm not a water insider who knows who is and isn't in ACWA. All I know about ACWA is that they represent themselves as an organization of California Water Agencies, claim to represent statewide interests, and are an integral part of this deceptive campaign that says the reason we need to invest in water infrastructure is failing to creates a humanitarian crisis.

    If people are dieing because California water agencies have a disagreement, then I would like to see them step up and solve the problem. They would gain a lot more credibility with me, not that they care about that.

  3. Because the source is 60 Minutes, loud alarm bells go off on my BS detector. But if this story is anything like true, it is disgusting, and a black eye for the IID. Even from the jaded perspective of a Simon Legree, devoid of moral compunctions (which is what that damned woman sounded like), this is a horrible waste of cheap labor.