Good news: There is no water shortage

Kudos to J. for its enlightening cover story on water conservation in Israel (“Israeli help for California’s water crisis?” May 15). California, like Israel, needs conservation, but water in the Golden State must be priced properly.

According to the California Department of Water Resources, California receives on average 200 million acre-feet of water annually from precipitation and from water imports from rivers (like the Colorado River) originating out of state.

An acre-foot (326,000 gallons) is the amount of water needed to cover an acre 12 inches high. An acre is roughly the size of a football field. A typical family of five uses 1 acre-foot of water annually. Of the 200 million acre-feet that California receives per year, about 50 percent evaporates or flows in the Pacific Ocean. Thus, 100 million acre-feet remain for agricultural, industrial and municipal use.

Of those 100 million acre-feet, 34 million — some studies dispute this figure — go for agriculture. This means 66 million acre-feet are left over for nonagricultural purposes. Sixty-six million acre-feet can, at least in theory, support 330 million Californians. The state’s population is 39 million.

The federal government subsidizes much of the water going to California agriculture, which represents 2 percent of the state’s economy. Removing the subsidy would force farmers to use water more efficiently. For example, farmers might use water-saving sprinklers (or Israeli-style drip irrigation) rather than flood fields.

Much of California’s agriculture produces specialty crops like almonds and avocados. While delectable, these crops are not essential for human nutrition.

California does not really have a shortage of water. What does exist is a lack of political and economic sensibility in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

Richard S. Colman   |   Orinda


Misleading headline

“Televised report points finger at Tawonga for fatal tree fall.” This headline (May 15) is as sensational as the NBC Bay Area report. It leads one to believe the camp was negligent, which is absolutely not the case, as you go on to report in the article. Shame on you for misleading the readers.

Eve Bernstein   |   San Francisco


‘Hapless’ bus passenger resents boycott message

On May 3 at 11:55 a.m. I boarded a 31 Balboa bus at Eddy and Divisadero in San Francisco. I was alarmed to see a huge black sign with gigantic white lettering on the side of the bus. It read: Boycott Israel until the Palestinians get their rights (or some such language, reducing a very complex situation to a slogan). I would have waited for the next bus, but did not have the option as I was already late to a meeting.

It may be legal to use public transportation to advertise political beliefs, but is it wise, fair or appropriate? I greatly resent, as a hapless bus passenger, being used as a live captive purveyor of a manipulative political message, regardless of its source.

I wrote to the director of passenger services at SFMTA, asking Muni to decline such advertisements in the future. I have yet to receive a reply.

Harriet Koskoff   |   San Francisco


Misguided choice by federation leaders?

The May 1 article announcing the selection of the most recent S.F. federation executive director brings to mind that the same group of lay leaders picked the last four executives, most of whom lasted a very short time and none of whom worked a single day in another federation.

The same misguided lay leaders do not understand what a real federation is. They weren’t involved in other major communities. They think the federation is a foundation (based on the Endowment Fund, which has dominated the organization for decades) and that its professional head should come from left field. So, how has that worked out for them?

The most recent pick may be smart, but he has been a volunteer and has no training or experience as a professional in the Jewish community.

Robert Rosiner   |   San Francisco


Cutting down trees to save the earth

In Josh Wilson’s May 15 response to two letters, he writes about “an environmentally sustainable society” and being “the stewards of biodiversity.”

Strangely, for some people, that translates to cutting down trees and using very toxic herbicides to prevent tree regrowth and change the vegetation to their liking.

Another strange thing is the idea of presumably instantaneous tree “replacement.” Trees don’t grow big by the wave of a magic wand. It takes a long time. Not all of them survive.

Out of 25 oak saplings planted on Tank Hill to replace 26 mature and healthy eucalyptus trees cut down in 2002 for “habitat restoration,” only five survived. They are less than 3 feet tall.

Five oak trees planted on Mount Davidson in 2007 to replace about 100 healthy mature trees cut down to move the water pipe away from the “native” plants are doing well. In 2015 they are still very small — 6 or 7 feet tall.

Oaks are slow-growing trees. And there is no evidence that “native” oak supports “habitat for a larger variety of plants and animals.” See www.tinyurl.com/million-trees-biodiversity.

Susanna Klebaner   |   San Francisco


Eucalyptus grove, a quiet killing zone

As a longtime environmentalist, I listen with frustration to the emotion and incomplete science in the voices opposing Josh Wilson’s call for reducing the number of eucalyptus in San Francisco (and down the Peninsula).

Although Joyce Kilmer’s poem says “I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree,” he neglects to add that some trees are very bad for some environments and need to be replaced with other trees. And, since it takes a decade or three to grow, we need to start as soon as possible.

Eucalyptus was brought here for only one reason: railroad ties. Eucalyptus trees draw a tremendous amount of water and are an extreme fire hazard due to the oil in their bark. But in addition, the reason a eucalyptus grove is so quiet is because it kills almost everything that tries to grow below it … no plant diversity, and thus no animal or insect diversity.

Yes, the flowers at the top of the canopy during one season are great for hummingbirds and insects, and some trees should be preserved. But below, it is a dead zone. Imagine Golden Gate Park with just one type of plan.

Even so, the plan is not to clear-cut, but rather selectively take out some trees to open up the canopy and plant a diverse set of tall trees, mid-height bushes and trees, and low bushes. With it comes many more species of birds and animals and insects. That is what we need to strive for. And the sooner, the better.

David Moss   |   Palo Alto