Markets for Federal Water: Subsidies, Property Rights, and the Bureau of Reclamation

By Richard W. Wahl | Go to book overview
Save to active project

7
Water Contamination Problems at Kesterson Reservoir

In 1983 the Fish and Wildlife Service noticed that something had gone terribly wrong at the Kesterson Reservoir in central California's San Joaquin Valley: some of Kesterson's newly hatched waterfowl had crippling deformities. Beaks were grotesquely shaped, wings were missing, legs were twisted, and skulls were unformed; many birds died soon after hatching. The reservoir--ironically, part of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge--had become hostile to its inhabitants, and the name "Kesterson" soon became synonymous with environmental disaster.

The cause of this ruin was eventually diagnosed as selenium, a naturally occurring nonmetallic trace element. Selenium was being leached from the soil underlying some portions of the Westlands Water District by agricultural irrigation water. Subsurface drains collected this water and then carried it to the reservoir through the San Luis Drain. Once in Kesterson, the mineral became concentrated in vegetation and small animal life, and the concentrations increased dramatically as selenium moved up the food chain. Selenium in very small amounts is regarded as beneficial to humans, but at higher levels it almost certainly is dangerous. For bird life, the verdict is clear: high concentrations of selenium are fatal.

____________________
An earlier draft of this chapter, "Federal Water Pricing, Agricultural Land Values, and Kesterson Reservoir," was presented at the Conference of the Western Economic Association in Anaheim, California, on July 1, 1985. See also Richard W. Wahl, "Cleaning Up Kesterson," Resources no. 83, Spring 1986, pp. 11-14 ( Washington, D.C., Resources for the Future).

-197-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Markets for Federal Water: Subsidies, Property Rights, and the Bureau of Reclamation
Table of contents
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 312

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?