Watch Desert Wars September 25, 2006 at 8 pm on KUED Channel 7
At Big Spring located on Garland's Ranch
Cecil Garland: What we've got here is the Big Spring. It's been known from ever since the Europeans got here as the Big Spring I guess. It's recharged through the alluvial from the mountain aquifer. Its recharge occurs about a year after we get a good wet year in the mountains and the water begins to come up down here so this spring is the lowest spot in Callao, maybe in all of Snake Valley. It is, as I say, recharged from the hydrostatic pressure underneath the ground and water from the mountain. It has returned to its historic level of water. We're glad to see that because it had been below historic level for about eight years. It's the first sign from the good wet year that we got some recharge beginning to take place in the underground Callao aquifer. This spring is probably the largest spring in all of Snake Valley. Our mountains that go up over 12,000 feet are really an inverted reservoir—it collects a little snow and rain out of every storm that comes through and that becomes part of the mountain aquifer and then that gets into the alluvial material underneath and comes down under Callao and then it builds a hydrostatic pressure and that forms a spring. In other words these springs that you see here are the direct result of the amount of water that we get on the mountain and it follows the storms in mountain by year so what we have here is a reflection of the good year we had last year—the first good year that we've had maybe in eight years. So it would take several of these years in order for the aquifer underneath Callao to recharge itself to historic levels.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about hydrostatic pressure. What happens when that is removed and why that is a problem with this ground water pumping?
Cecil Garland: The hydrostatic pressure is not an unusual phenomenon in the western mountains and valleys. The water comes under and gets down underneath. There are layers of clay that keep the water under there and as the water presses from the mountain, it begins to create that pressure underneath. Now these springs are a direct result—there's a pressure relief valve for the hydrostatic pressure underneath, but the truly significant thing is out to the Northeast is the great salt desert. That's filled with ice-age water. It's very brackish and has a lot of minerals in it. It's highly alkali and nothing will grow in it. Stock can't drink it and people can't drink it and you can't grow anything. If the hydrostatic pressure, which is underneath us here, is ever reduced by pumping or over pumping, then that very brackish toxic water from the great salt desert will rush into our aquifer here underneath and it will be destroyed for all practical times as a useful aquifer and our potent water will become brackish itself. That is are great fear. For many years this pond here was a pond and it was a beautiful pond and in the spring it would recharge, but in the winter the ice would form on it and there are ice skates hanging all around Callao here that haven't been used because this pond is dried up. That is the direct result of not having the recharge from the mountain aquifer that keeps these springs and ponds alive. Until we get that kind of recharge, this will only remain as a dried up water hole as it is now. The greasewood is a ubiquitous plant here in the valley floor. It's uniquely designed or has evolved to live here in this kind of an environment, but it has some limitations: #1 it has to have roots in water. The greasewood grows where only it can reach water, so you don't see it up out of the valley floor, but it lives here. The significant thing about greasewood is that if the water table is ever taken away from it, or it drops beyond it's root zone, which is about 45 feet, (in other words it's roots can go down about 45 feet) if that happens that greasewood dies and it is the significant vegetation that holds the valley floor together. Once it's gone, and it will go, then the valley floor is subject to the wind tunnel effect of the winds that roar up and down this valley north and south and what you're going to have here is frequent dust storms that are going to go 3,000 to 5,000 feet in the air and it will effect the Utah Test and Training Range, it will effect the wilderness area to the west, the Great Basin National Park to our south and Fish Springs Wildlife Refuge to the east. This is a catastrophic thing. It's not anything to play lightly with.
Interviewer: Tell us about Big Spring, and what we saw and what the significance of it is.
Cecil Garland: Big Spring is probably the biggest spring in Snake Valley. It's fed entirely by the underground hydrostatic pressure of the water that comes through the alluvial soils from the mountain and from the mountain aquifer. It is never fed nor does it have any way for water to get into it except from that source. In the last eight years Big Spring dropped about four feet. There has never been any record of that changing. It has never varied before, but this once in 500 years drought, plus the use that we ourselves are putting on it caused the Big Springs level to drop. Then we had this wonderful year last year in which the recharge is now reaching the valley floor from the mountain aquifer and it has come back to its normal elevation or height, but not to its normal flow. It hasn't reached the flow that it used to historically maintain. It's another one of those springs that is fed by the hydrostatic pressure of the water from the mountain. Of course these springs are a pressure relief valve, so to speak, for the hydrostatic pressure underneath. Well this beautiful pond back there, fed by these springs, when it would freeze over and get really cold in the winter, then all of the kids and whoever would like to ice skate and there were ice skates hanging around all over Callao and they'd go out and have a party and ice skate. That hasn't occurred for the last several years because we simply haven't had the water in that place to ice skate on.
Interviewer: Tell me in your opinion what is happening with the SNWA. What are their plans and what are your fears?
Cecil Garland: Well there is an enigma there. We don't know really know exactly. They are somewhat pretty tight-fisted about what they tell us and they presumably have their reasons for doing so, but this is one of the disturbing things about trying to deal with SNWA is that we really don't know their plans and they aren't willing to give us those plans until we do and until those plans are known to the rest of us, how in the world are we going to make some kind of a cohesive plan ourselves to have them understand what our problems are?
Interviewer: Is it a water grab and what do you fear the most is going to happen?
Cecil Garland: It is a water grab. It can't be anything else. Patty Mulroy said over in Ely that this is our last chance and our only prerogative and I stood up and said, "If this is your only chance, then you don't have another chance because we're in a water deficit ourselves. We have been for many years so how can you come to one of the driest valleys in the driest region of the whole United States and expect to take surplus water without destroying the surface water that exists there and destroying the community and their ability to farm and the ability of people to live there? That's essentially what you're going to do." I wish Miss Mulroy and people of Southern Nevada that we had an abundance of water that we could let you have. We don't. I'm sorry… we do not!
Interviewer: Talk about that. That's one of their points that there is a lot of surplus water. Is there surplus water and if not, why not?
Cecil Garland: The surplus water is a myth, or the idea that there is surplus water. First of all the springs the seeps, the wet areas, the marsh areas that we have are already under stress and I know of no better indicator than that. To look at those areas that contain free endophyte vegetation—this is where the migratory birds must come, this is where the wildlife must go to get their water and when the water table drops to the point where they dry up, and I say and continue to be redundant about this, it is drying up! We lose the value of living here because you cannot live without water. The first thing to go will be the wildlife and those things that are sensitive to having water. We by implication will be next.
Interviewer: The SNWA point of view is that there are regulations in place that would protect you and the wildlife in this area. What is your opinion of that?
Cecil Garland: The SNWA better realize that that is a fallacy and isn't so. You cannot come into a valley where we already have the set-up to make a living here. It's a very tenuous thing even at that to pump this water out of the ground and that's sheer propaganda. Let me give you a good example. Miss Mulroy says, "We will take water out of here and if this area begins to get dry, we'll come over and take water out in an area over here." And I say, "No, that isn't the way it really is." Look at the Colorado River. It's down to 50% of its carrying capacity to being full. Now that took the whole West, so when you say you'll take a little here and a little here, there is nothing to establish that you can do that because when a drought hits the West, it's all the way from the Canadian to the Mexican border and you don't have any choice about switching from one part of it to another. It doesn't work that way. It's a drought, it's pervasive, and it's usually long term.
Interviewer: Is it appropriate, in your opinion, for a metropolitan city like Las Vegas or any of the cities of the West to take ground water from a rural area—essentially far away from its boundaries. Is that an appropriate thing to do?
Cecil Garland: You know what bothers me most about taking water from these dry, rural valleys is are we to have a mega-metropolis that is green and beautiful with sixty golf courses and numerous swimming pools and water falls and all of the glitz and phoniness that exists in Las Vegas and dry up all of the valleys around it in order to perpetuate that thing and keep it going? I resist that. I think even if I didn't live here I wouldn't want that to happen because I think the Southwest has it's own flavor, it's own culture, it's own way of life that is developed over a period of time, and it's very valuable not only to us but the whole country.
Interviewer: Hal Rothman, a historian in Las Vegas has a new article out in New West magazine. His thesis essentially is that this water would benefit millions of people for jobs and the economy as opposed to water that benefits a very few. What is your response to that?
Cecil Garland: I love to read Hal Rothman and he writes very well and I'm envious of his ability to write and explain himself, although it borders on selfish and I wish he was on our side because he could take our side and do a beautiful job of explaining it. The point of it is, isn't there room for diversity? And isn't there room for all of us? Is it such that if we become wealthy we therefore have the right to everything else that we can buy, purchase or generally coerce people into allowing them to have? No I don't think so. Mr. Rothman is a professor—we who profress. I remember reading sometime ago a book by a gentleman by the name of Alan Bloom and one of things I remember about reading that book, and maybe the only thing is he said, "If you could choose 2,000 off of the street or the Harvard faculty to run the country, he would choose the 2,000 off of the street. And I can never read Mr. Rothman and I don't think of that part of that book.
Interviewer: Tell me about the heritage of the ranch and the people here. What does it actually mean to you?
Cecil Garland: Callao began as a pony express station and the people who came here for whatever reason came to love the area. It was hard—they lived in dugouts and there was a constant threat of the Indians and they hung on. Some of my neighbors have been here for five generations now. They don't want to leave. It's a tragedy to think of what these people would do. I've been here for 33 years and I'm kind of a "Johnny Come Lately." What would I do? I love being here. I want to continue to be here and I don't know that there is enough—I've been to Las Vegas and worked in Las Vegas. I'm not sure there is enough money down there to justify me selling my ranch and the future of my children and grandchildren to Las Vegas for any price.
Interviewer: Let’s talk a little bit about trust and the SNWA. Do you trust them and if not, why not?
Cecil Garland: I don't trust SNWA for what we are about to lose. I honestly don't and I can't. I like to trust people but I can't do that because there is too much at stake here; too much of our future and too much of value, and so it would be wrong to ask us to trust or for them to ask us. This is one of the great things that they continue to harp upon…"We are not going to disturb your environment. We are not going to disturb your way of life." That is tremendous hypocrisy. Let Mulroy et all come and take the tour that I would show them here in this valley. Let them come and look at it, not fly over in an airplane. When they come and actually take a look as Governor Huntsman did, and he spent a day with us, then I'll begin to believe that these people are sincere about knowing about our future and the ability for us to survive here and that requires water. I don't trust them.
Interviewer: If Mulroy was sitting across from you like I am right now, what would you say to her?
Cecil Garland: I would just simply say that we're going to resist! We will resist because we have no alternative to resist. We're going to resist because it's morally correct that we do resist. Is it right to take water from a place that represents or is personified by cattle, children, church and country and give it to a metropolis that is personified by glitter, gluttony, gambling and girls? You make the choice. What will it be—crops or craps?
Interviewer: Let’s talk about the parallel with this issue and the Owens Valley and the infamous water grab around the turn of the century.
Cecil Garland: There is a parallel between taking the water out of this valley in some ways and in some ways not. In some ways Owens Valley was much more prepared to give water than we are because they had lakes and a river and they had a much higher rate of precipitation than we do, so this valley is going to show the stress and the distress much quicker than Owens Valley ever did. The simple fact is that what happened there is exactly a harbinger of what is going to happen here. There is no excuse for us doing it again. How many aquifers do we have to destroy to prove that we can destroy and aquifer? We know so much more now. There is no excuse for us doing this now.
Interviewer: Talk about the history of Lake Bonneville in this area and where this water came from and the age of the water. Where does all of this water come from?
Cecil Garland: This valley and where you are sitting once had 1,000 feet of water above our head right here. Where did that water come from? Living here I have to look around and say, "Where did all of that water come from and where did all of it go?" I believe that at some point in time, and our astronomy experts look off into space and tell us this is so, that there are two clouds out there that they know about, and it's my opinion that the earth passed in orbit through these, maybe starting 20,000 years ago and it took along time to go through, but it collected that water and filled up this Great Basin into a inland sea and then when we passed from that orbit it got dry. If you look again at the last 10,000 years there has been very little change except that the water has evaporated out of the valley so that the Great Salt Lake is only a tiny remnant of that great sea. Now the significance of that is that we are not gaining water in the Southwest, we're losing water. Scientist now believe that as water evaporates and gets closer to the stratosphere it is atomized and is lost into space. So for all we know, and I believe this from looking at all indications of the dry areas of the contentiousness for water all over this planet that we're getting low on water. We have to judiciously use that water. One final thought on that—I have no problem with Las Vegas being in existence. But if it wasn't in existence within ten years, you wouldn't know it and the country wouldn't be a whole lot worse off, but you start doing without your farmers and ranchers as past civilizations have tried it and failed, pretty soon you start to get hungry.
Interviewer: What would actually happen here if the ground water table was lowered due to pumping?
Cecil Garland: If you lowered the water table, and this is a conservative estimate, the water table would go down 100 feet rather quickly. The artesian wells and springs would of course dry up. We who irrigate and farm and raise hay for our cattle would no longer be able to pump because water weighs 3,600 tons per acre-foot. So we'd have to deepen our wells. The electricity bill to pump would be greater than we could make a profit with. The people who live here and depend upon their artesian spring and shallow wells to live here would have to deepen their wells and the whole process would rapidly deteriorate into another form, as we have said, like the Owens Valley thing all over again.
Interviewer: Is there any scenario that SNWA could offer you that you think would be appropriate or would assuage your fears?
Cecil Garland: There is no appropriate way, in my opinion, to approach a community and say, "Sell your water and sell your future." You can't do that. It is an immoral, wrong thing for them to do. Now there are some things that are worth considering. We have to consider them and I think we are considering them. Water has inherently followed the money so if they came in here, for instance in Callao, and they bought one of the ranches and instead of pumping seasonally in the summer time to irrigate, they pumped 24/7 year round, this would put a pressure upon the rest of us to almost force us, because the water table would fall and we could no longer farm. What would we do? Our cattle would need water and we would need water. So we'd almost be forced to sell. So just considering the wellbeing of my community and my neighbors, they don't have enough money to come up here and buy me out.
Interviewer: How do you think this will resolve in the future? What do you think is going to happen over the next ten years?
Cecil Garland: I wish I could give you an answer as to what is really likely to happen in this. I don't allow myself to be pessimistic or optimistic--that's not a luxury either way. What I have to do is oppose this. That's my duty. I would say that we would be very lucky considering the exponential growth of these cities, whether Las Vegas, Wendover, Salt Lake City, or the whole complex to retain our beautiful valuable portable water underneath our ground here, but we'll try because there is no alternative.
Interviewer: What do you see for the future of the West?
Cecil Garland: The future of the West is pretty evident. It's often said that those who cannot remember the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them, and we're repeating them all in spades. We're building the megatropolis with an unquenchable, insatiable desire for all resources, particularly water. The ranchers are being bought up and being turned into small ranchettes or turned into housing projects. We're developing in Wyoming the whole oil and gas complex. It's doing terrible harm to those people. So we're in a real state of flux and change and I fear that it's not going to be for the best. People should remember, we should all know this by now, the congestion breeds regimentation and please let me say this to anyone that listens. The great American dream was not a car and a T.V. and a house that they can make a payment on--it was freedom. It was freedom that brought people to Callao in the beginning and made them stay—the freedom to be away to choose what to do for themselves and with congestion, that is inevitably lost because the more we are, the more laws we have to make to control ourselves.