Fluoride Resource studies


Ten Key Papers that Challenge the Pro-fluoridtion Mantra

Introduction 

Promoters of fluoridation repeat ad nauseam the mantra that fluoridation is “safe”, “effective” and “cost effective” (how many times have unsuspecting legislators been told that for every $1 spent we save $38?). Instead of backing up these claims with any solid scientific evidence, they use a long list of impressive but fairly meaningless (i.e. “science-free”) endorsements. This is not surprising because the science is not there to support the mantra. What is surprising is that public health officials and professional bodies repeat these claims with no sense of embarrassment. I believe that historians will be astounded that so many “respectable” professional associations and health agencies (in the handful of countries that fluoridate) have endorsed a practice, which has such little scientific and no ethical justification. In Orwell’s Animal Farm the pigs rule, in the fluoridated world the sheep rule.

Below is a list of 10 studies (actually nine studies and one review) that invalidate this mantra.  Fluoridation is neither effective, nor safe, nor cost-effective. In addition I give a few words about the first four studies that challenge the mantra of fluoridation’s “effectiveness” and  “cost-effectiveness.”

In part 2 of this article, I will say a few words on the papers that pertain to safety.

Part 1. A Listing of the 10 studies

1. Brunelle and Carlos. 1990. Recent Trends in DentalCaries in U.S. Children and the Effect of Water Fluoridation. Journal of Dental Research,69(Special Issue):723-727.

2. Featherstone JD. 2000.The Science and Practice of Caries Prevention. Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), Jul; 131(7):887-99.

3. Warren JJ, et al. 2009. Considerations on optimal fluoride intake using dental fluorosis and dental caries outcomes–a longitudinal study. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 69(2):111-15. Spring.

4. Ko L, Thiessen KM. 2014. A critique of recent economic evaluations of community water fluoridation. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.

5. Luke J. 2001. Fluoride deposition in the aged human pineal gland. Caries Research 35(2):125-128. See also Luke’s PhD thesis click here.

6. Xiang Q, et al. 2003a. Effect of fluoride in drinking water on children’s intelligence. Fluoride 36(2):84-94, and Xiang Q, et al. 2003b. Blood lead of children in Wamiao-Xinhuai intelligence study [letter]. Fluoride 36(3):198-199.

7. National Resource Council of the National Academies. 2006. Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.

8. Bassin EB, et al. 2006. Age-specific fluoride exposure in drinking water and osteosarcoma (United States). Cancer Causes and Control, May;17(4):421-8.

9. Choi AL, Grandjean P, et al. 2012. Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(10):1362–1368.

10. Choi AL, et al. 2015. Association of lifetime exposure to fluoride and cognitive functions in Chinese children: A pilot studyNeurotoxicology and Teratology, 47:96–101.

A few words about papers 1-4.

STUDIES ON EFFECTIVENESS OF FLUORIDATION

1. Brunelle and Carlos. 1990.Recent Trends in DentalCaries in U.S. Children and the Effect of Water Fluoridation. Journal of Dental Research,69 (Special Issue):723-727.

This was the largest survey of dental decay in children in the US (the authors studied 39,000 children in 84 communities). The study was organized by the pro-fluoridation National Institute for Dental Research (NIDR). These NIDR authors found an average difference of only 0.6 of one tooth surface between children (aged 5-17) who lived all their lives in a fluoridated community compared to a non-fluoridated community (see Table 6). This result was NOT shown to be statistically significant. The pro-fluoridation bias of the authors becomes apparent in the way they present these unimpressive results in their abstract. They do not report the difference in tooth decay as an absolute value (i.e. 0.6 of one tooth surface) but as a relative % difference. This value of 18% looks more impressive than an absolute saving of 0.6 of about 100 tooth surfaces in a child’s mouth (there are 128 when all the teeth have erupted). Nor did the authors admit that they had not shown that this result was statistically significant: it wasn’t! Here is an excerpt from their abstract, which says more about the politics of this issue than the science.

“Children who had always been exposed to community water fluoridation had mean DMFS (decayed missing and filled surfaces, PC) about 18% lower than those who had never lived in a fluoridated communities. When some of the “background” effect of topical fluoride was controlled, this difference increased to 25%. The results suggest that water fluoridation has played a dominant role in the decline in caries and must continue to be a major prevention methodology.” (my emphasis, PC)

Really?

2. Featherstone JD. 2000.The Science and Practice of Caries Prevention. Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), Jul; 131(7):887-99.

In this article, which was a cover story in JADA edition of July 2000, Featherstone reached the same conclusions that many prominent dental researchers had reached over the previous 20 years: Namely, that the predominant mechanism of fluoride’s beneficial action is topical not systemic. The CDC acknowledged the same thing in 1999. In other words you don’t have to swallow fluoride to protect your teeth and therefore there is no need to force it on people who don’t want it via their drinking water. This is probably one of the reasons why, according to the World Health Organizations data online, that tooth decay rates in 12-year-olds have been declining at about the same rates in non-fluoridated as in fluoridated countries since the 1960s (http://fluoridealert.org/issues/caries/who-data/ ). Here are Featherstone’s conclusions:

CONCLUSIONS:

Fluoride, the key agent in battling caries, works primarily via topical mechanisms: inhibition of demineralization, enhancement of remineralization and inhibition of bacterial enzymes.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS:

Fluoride in drinking water and in fluoride-containing products reduces caries via these topical mechanisms.

3. Warren JJ, Levy SM, Broffitt B. et al. 2009. Considerations on optimal fluoride intake using dental fluorosis and dental caries outcomes–a longitudinal study. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 69(2):111-15. Spring.

If the Brunelle and Carlos (1990) paper was the largest US government funded study, the Warren et al (2009) paper was the most precise. This investigation was conducted as part of the “Iowa study,” which has been examining tooth decay in a cohort of children since birth. Warren et al. examined tooth decay as a function of daily ingestion of fluoride in mg/day (i.e. they examined individual exposure rather than the traditional way of comparing dental decay rates between communities with different concentrations of fluoride in water). The authors could not determine a clear relationship between caries experience and daily dose in mg/day. The authors’ state:

These findings suggest that achieving a caries-free status may have relatively little to do with fluoride intake, while fluorosis is clearly more dependent on fluoride intake.

CONCLUSIONS: Given the overlap among caries/fluorosis groups in mean fluoride intake and extreme variability in individual fluoride intakes, firmly recommending an “optimal” fluoride intake is problematic.

Please note that all three of these studies were carried out by pro-fluoridation dental researchers. Many dentists are oblivious of the fact that research carried out by their own pro-fluoridation colleagues has undermined the effectiveness that they claim. In addition it should be noted that in the 70 years since fluoridation was launched in 1945 there has never been a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) to establish in a scientific fashion that swallowing fluoride lowers tooth decay. This is the gold standard used by the FDA to establish the efficacy of any drug. Considering such a flimsy scientific basis for the effectiveness of this practice it is the height of arrogance to force a known toxic substance on people who don’t want it.

STUDIES ON THE COST-EFFECTIVENESS OF FLUORIDATION

4. Ko L, Thiessen KM. 2014. A critique of recent economic evaluations of community water fluoridation. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.

This paper demolished the claim by Susan Griffin (an economist at the CDC) that for every dollar spent on fluoridation $38 was saved on dental costs. This statement has been used countless times by state dental directors, public health officials and other promoters of fluoridation.  We have provided more details on this in a previous bulletin.

In part 2, I will say a few words about papers 5-10 that challenge the mantra of fluoridation’s “safety.”

Paul Connet, PhD
Director
Fluoride Action Network
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San Miguel County Passes Tough Oil and Gas Regulations

From La Jicarita

San Miguel County Passes Tough Oil and Gas Regulations.

By KAY MATTHEWS

Today the San Miguel County Commission unanimously voted to adopt the San Miguel County Oil and Gas Regulations ordinance, which uses zoning and stringent requirements to regulate how and where the oil and gas industry can explore, drill, and hydraulically “frack” within the county. At the last public hearing before the adoption of the ordinance, Robert Freilich, the land use law attorney who helped the county draft the ordinance, stated, “This ordinance is a lot better than Santa Fe’s ordinance.” He also acknowledged the hard work of the members of PROTECT San Miguel County, whose diligence in reviewing the ordinance and helping in its revision makes it one of the toughest in the country. After the commissioners passed the ordinance, they also thanked all of those who had worked so hard to make this a reality.

La Jicarita spoke with PROTECT San Miguel County member Bob Wessely about what makes the San Miguel County ordinance so strong. He described it as basically a “large collection” of details that have gone through four or five incremental drafts to address problems raised by his organization and by the public at the 15 or so hearings held over the last several years. He cited four areas in which the final draft is particularly rigorous:

  • Permit application processes and studies are extensive, including detailed environmental impacts, water availability, traffic, infrastructure, geohydrology, fiscal impacts and emergency response plans.
  • Regulations for enforcement now include the hiring of a well-qualified county inspector, paid for by the industry, who will be responsible for overall application review as well as frequent monitoring and inspections stipulated in the ordinance. The strong post-permit monitoring now includes a 10-year annual inspection of abandoned wells for possible leakage.
  • The industry is held responsible for all County costs, including application technical review, ongoing inspection and monitoring, and additional off-site infrastructure (roads, judicial system, etc.).
  • Protection and mitigation requirements have been expanded to cover all areas of potential impacts by the drilling process (surface water, groundwater, air, noise, lighting, traffic, viewshed, etc.).

These regulatory requirements will apply to the eastern portion of the county—the boundary line is about 30 miles east of I-25 and runs from north to south— where exploration and drilling will be allowed. The western portion of the county is off limits.

sanmiguel_map

Other regulations that PROTECT requested or worked on with the county have also been included in the ordinance:

  • Pre-operation baseline testing requirements for air quality and water quality are extensive.
  • Air quality monitoring has been strengthened to protect county citizens from potential leaks of gasses during operations (drilling, fracking, and extraction). Closed loop systems are required. Open pit storage of fluids is prohibited.
  • Disposal of all wastes must be at state approved waste facilities, of which there are none within the county.
  • Water quality requirements were strengthened by designating which substances the industry has to test for.
  • Set back limits from drilling operations were established for a wide arrange of categories. Residential and school set backs are 4,000 feet, approximately a kilometer; non-residential structures are 1,000 feet; and groundwater recharge areas such as wetlands, acequias, and rivers are 1.5 miles. Conchas Lake, a popular recreation area, has a 2-mile set back.

I asked Wessely if he felt this ordinance would act to discourage oil and gas development because of its onerous requirements. He answered that it would certainly discourage a “fly by night” operator and would make large companies like Shell carefully consider whether it’s worthwhile, before engaging in the process. While there is currently no drilling taking place in the county, there are leases in the Watrous area (west of the dividing line) and some ranchers in the eastern area are desirous of having drilling on their ranches.

San Miguel County Board of Commissioners (L to R: Commissioner Marcellino Ortiz, Nicolas Leger, Consultant Steve Burstein, Dr. Bob Freilich, Commissioner Art Padilla, Commissioner Gilbert Sena, County Manager Les Montoya) final Oil and Gas Ordinance Public Hearing, 3 November 2014.

The San Miguel Oil and Gas Regulations were long in the making. La Jicarita asked Pat Leahan, with the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center and PROTECT San Miguel County, to provide a timeline of how the public and county worked together to promulgate this ordinance.

  • In 2008 the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center was asked by some folks in Mora County to look into leases that were being requested in Mora County, which prompted the Center to see if there were any leases also being pursued in San Miguel County.
  • In October of 2009 the Center went before the San Miguel County Commission to present the information that there had been drilling activity in 2006. The county was unaware of that fact and when it looked into county regulations involving extraction found that the regulations dealt primarily with gravel and other types of mining, not oil and gas.
  • San Miguel County Attorney Jesus Lopez directed the commission to look into drafting a moratorium on oil and gas drilling to give the county time to look into the issue.
  • At the November 10, 2009 county commission meeting the Peace and Justice Center presented documentation on the well that was drilled in 2006—location map, permit application, capping, etc.—and the Las Vegas Basin White Paper, a report that was commissioned by the group Drilling Santa Fe to analyze the impacts of potential drilling and fracturing in the Basin. The Center also presented this information to the mayor of Las Vegas who imposed a moratorium within the city limits.
  • On December 8, 2009, the County Commission adopted Resolution 12- 08-09-NATURAL RESOURCES, proposing the adoption of a one-year moratorium on conditional use permits for oil, gas or geothermal exploration, extraction, or drilling. A moratorium was passed on January 10, 2010.
  • In early 2010, after a screening of the film “Split Estate” a small group of people (Bob Wessely, Leslie Hammel-Turk, Brad Turk, Barbara Ehrlich, Kim Kirkpatrick, Carole Silon, Pat Leahan, Kate Daniel, Don Shaw, and Arielle Hawney) organized PROTECT San Miguel County to educate themselves and strategize on the issue of oil and gas development.
  • The Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center retained the New Mexico Environmental Law Center as a consultant to help draft an oil and gas ordinance. After consulting with Drilling Santa Fe it learned of Robert Freilich, the land use attorney who helped draft the Santa Fe County Ordinance. Freilich was subsequently hired by the county to help draft the San Miguel ordinance.
  • PROTECT San Miguel County sponsored and participated in many community forums and talks on Community Peace Radio to educate the public. A San Miguel County Oil and Gas Ordinance Task Force had been established and members of PROTECT joined the task force. The task force proved largely ineffective because of obstructionist tactics by the New Mexico Independent Petroleum Association representative.
  • The moratorium on oil and gas development was renewed several times for a total of four years.

While folks in San Miguel County are celebrating the passage of these regulations, neighboring Mora County is navigating tough legal terrain. In 2013 Mora County passed an outright ban on oil and gas development and is now embroiled in two industry lawsuits. Last week, U.S. District Judge Browning heard arguments on a motion for summary judgment in the SWEPI LP (a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell) vs. Mora County lawsuit. Based on his statements in the courtroom—“Some of these provisions are pretty wild; they’re pretty inconsistent with centuries of federal law” —it seems likely that at a subsequent hearing he will rule that either some of the language in the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance is unconstitutional or that the entire ordinance should be thrown out. Another lawsuit filed against Mora County by private landholders and the Independent Petroleum Association remains extant but settlement negotiations are ongoing.

FRACKING BAN

From Santa Fe New Mexican

FRACKING BAN A New Mexico county’s fracking ban is all about the water

A New Mexico county’s fracking ban is all about the water  Roger Alcon tends cattle on his family’s ranch in Mora County on May 16. Alcon’s family has run cattle in the area for five generations, and he supports the county’s ban on drilling for natural gas by using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, even though it would mean money for allowing drilling on his land. Julie Cart/Los Angeles Times

Posted: Sunday, June 2, 2013 10:00 pm | Updated: 11:24 pm, Sun Jun 2, 2013.

By Julie Cart
Los Angeles Times | 5 comments

OCATE — Sitting in the tidy living room of the home they built themselves, Sandra and Roger Alcon inventory what they see as the bounty of their lives: freedom, family, community, land, animals … and water.

“We’ve lived off the land for five generations,” said Roger Alcon, 63, looking out on a Northern New Mexico landscape of high mesas, ponderosa pines and black Angus cattle. “We have what we need. We’ve been very happy, living in peace.”

Wells are the Alcons’ only source of water. The same is true for everyone else in Mora County, which is why last month this poor, conservative ranching region of energy-rich New Mexico became the first county in the nation to pass an ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil and gas extraction technique known as “fracking” that has compromised water quantity and quality in communities around the country.

“I don’t want to destroy our water,” Alcon said. “You can’t drink oil.”

In embracing the ban, landowners turned their back on potentially lucrative royalty payments from drilling on their property and joined in a groundswell of civic opposition to fracking that is rolling west from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania in the gas-rich Marcellus shale formation.

Pittsburgh became the first U.S. city to outlaw fracking in November 2010 after it came to light that an energy company held a lease to drill under a beloved city cemetery.

Since then, more than a dozen cities in the East have passed similar ordinances.

The movement leapfrogged west last summer when the town of Las Vegas, N.M., took up the cause, calling for a halt to fracking until adequate regulations protecting public health are adopted.

It has now reached California, where communities are considering similar bans.

Culver City — home to the nation’s largest urban oil field — is drafting oil and gas regulations that call for a moratorium on fracking. Citizen groups in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are preparing their own community rights ballot measures aimed at outlawing the procedure.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to fracture rock formations, releasing oil and gas that is hard to reach with conventional drilling methods. A blizzard of applications to sink wells using fracking is spurring a nationwide energy rush sometimes called the “shale gale.”

Among the leading concerns of opponents is the absence of any federal law requiring companies to fully identify the chemicals in their fracking fluids. Such formulas are considered by the industry to be a trade secret. Community-based anti-fracking campaigns — citing public health issues — call for complete disclosure of injection fluids.

Many New Mexico counties welcome oil and gas production, an industry that adds to the tax base and employment rolls. But in sparsely populated Mora County, where 67 percent of the 5,000 residents are Spanish-speaking, people cherish their culture and way of life.

Sandra Alcon said her neighbors don’t care about mineral rights or oil money. They are angry about the way energy companies’ “land men” treated them. Residents here are seen as easy marks for hustlers offering little compensation for oil and water rights, she said.

“They know we have a lot of elderly and rural people; some don’t speak English,” she said. “They don’t know that some of us went to college and some of us have the Internet.

“I may look stupid, but I’m not. I know what they are doing.”

Mora County, using its authority to regulate commercial activity, specifically barred corporations from fracking. The ordinance also established that citizens have a right to a safe and clean environment.

County Commission Chairman John Olivas said the ordinance is not a referendum on oil and gas. Rather, he said, it “is all about water,” estimating that 95 percent of the county’s residents support the ban, although some argue that the jobs and income that accompany drilling would help the depressed area.

Olivas, a hunting and fishing guide, said he grew up watching his parents work in the uranium mines of Eastern New Mexico. When the mines played out, towns shriveled up.

Chasing that boom-and-bust economy is not worth despoiling an environment that remains remarkably untouched and provides a sustainable living for most people here, he said.

“We are one of the poorest counties in the nation, yes, but we are money-poor, we are not asset-poor,” Olivas said. “We’ve got land, we’ve got agriculture, we’ve got our heritage and we’ve got our culture.”

The California community closest to adopting an anti-fracking ordinance is Culver City, which includes a portion of the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field. More than 1 million people live within five miles of the field, where some 1,600 wells have been drilled since 1925.

The City Council is considering a fracking moratorium, even though only 10 percent of the field is within the city limits. The bulk of the wells are in unincorporated Los Angeles County.

City officials and residents say they are concerned about air and water quality, as well as about earthquakes being triggered by drilling at 8,000 to 10,000 feet — the depths where the untapped oil is found.

Low-magnitude earthquakes have been associated with fracking, but Ed Memi, a spokesman for PXP, which operates in the Inglewood Field, called suggestions that high-pressure drilling causes earthquakes “hysterical accusations.”

“There is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has caused felt seismic activity anywhere in California,” Memi said. “The practice of hydraulic fracturing has been subjected to dozens of studies in recent years, and the fundamental safety of the technology is well understood by scientists, engineers, regulators and other technical experts.”

But Meghan Sahli-Wells, Culver City’s vice mayor, said the city needs to see more study of fracking’s impact before it could be allowed.

“I grew up in L.A. All my life I’ve heard about air-quality problems, earthquakes and water issues,” Sahli-Wells said. “It just so happens that fracking really hits on the three major challenges of this area. Frankly, I’ve been waiting for people to wake up and say, ‘We are fracking on a fault line? Is this really in our interests?’ “

If Culver City moves forward with a moratorium, it could take months to complete, she said.

Fracking is unregulated in California, and no accurate figures exist detailing how many of the state’s wells are completed using the technique.

A number of anti-fracking bills are pending before the state Assembly, and statewide regulations are being finalized by the state Department of Conservation.

Sahli-Wells endorses legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City, that calls for a moratorium on fracking in California until a comprehensive six-year study can be undertaken.

“Look before you leap” legislation is pending in other states.

On a recent day back in Mora County, Roger Alcon drove his ranch with his herding dog, Pepper, at his side. He said the region’s aquifer has been depleted by oil and gas operations in the region. He sees no reason to hasten the water decline.

Alcon pointed out the truck window toward the snowcapped Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

“We have what we need,” he said. “To me, the fresh air and the land, and water. It’s better than money.”

Denmark

I thought you might want to see my recent op-ed for The Huffington Post which discusses what we can learn from Denmark’s progressive social system.

Thank you for your interest and support.

Sincerely,
Bernie
Senator Bernie Sanders

The Huffington Post

What Can We Learn From Denmark?
By Senator Bernie Sanders
May 26, 2013

Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen spent a weekend in Vermont this month traveling with me to town meetings in Burlington, Brattleboro and Montpelier. Large crowds came out to learn about a social system very different from our own which provides extraordinary security and opportunity for the people of Denmark.

Today in the United States there is a massive amount of economic anxiety. Unemployment is much too high, wages and income are too low, millions of Americans are struggling to find affordable health care and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.

While young working families search desperately for affordable child care, older Americans worry about how they can retire with dignity. Many of our people are physically exhausted as they work the longest hours of any industrialized country and have far less paid vacation time than other major countries.

Denmark is a small, homogenous nation of about 5.5 million people. The United States is a melting pot of more than 315 million people. No question about it, Denmark and the United States are very different countries. Nonetheless, are there lessons that we can learn from Denmark?

In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a “solidarity system” that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe. As the ambassador mentioned, while it is difficult to become very rich in Denmark no one is allowed to be poor. The minimum wage in Denmark is about twice that of the United States and people who are totally out of the labor market or unable to care for themselves have a basic income guarantee of about $100 per day.

Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in our country. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age. Interestingly, despite their universal coverage, the Danish health care system is far more cost-effective than ours. They spend about 11 percent of their GDP on health care. We spend almost 18 percent.

When it comes to raising families, Danes understand that the first few years of a person’s life are the most important in terms of intellectual and emotional development. In order to give strong support to expecting parents, mothers get four weeks of paid leave before giving birth. They get another 14 weeks afterward. Expecting fathers get two paid weeks off, and both parents have the right to 32 more weeks of leave during the first nine years of a child’s life. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers.

At a time when college education in the United States is increasingly unaffordable and the average college graduate leaves school more than $25,000 in debt, virtually all higher education in Denmark is free. That includes not just college but graduate schools as well, including medical school.

In a volatile global economy, the Danish government recognizes that it must invest heavily in training programs so workers can learn new skills to meet changing workforce demands. It also understands that when people lose their jobs they must have adequate income while they search for new jobs. If a worker loses his or her job in Denmark, unemployment insurance covers up to 90 percent of earnings for as long as two years. Here benefits can be cut off after as few as 26 weeks.

In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The United States is the only major country that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation time. The result is that fewer than half of lower-paid hourly wage workers in our country receive any paid vacation days.

Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world among some 40 countries that were studied. America did not crack the top 10.

As Ambassador Taksoe-Jensen explained, the Danish social model did not develop overnight. It has evolved over many decades and, in general, has the political support of all parties across the political spectrum. One of the reasons for that may be that the Danes are, politically and economically, a very engaged and informed people. In their last election, which lasted all of three weeks and had no TV ads, 89 percent of Danes voted.

In Denmark, more than 75 percent of the people are members of trade unions. In America today, as a result of the political and economic power of corporate America and the billionaire class, we are seeing a sustained and brutal attack against the economic well-being of the American worker. As the middle class disappears, benefits and guarantees that workers have secured over the last century are now on the chopping block. Republicans, and too many Democrats, are supporting cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition, education, and other basic needs — at the same time as the very rich become much richer. Workers’ rights, the ability to organize unions, and the very existence of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are now under massive assault.

In the U.S. Senate today, my right-wing colleagues talk a lot about “freedom” and limiting the size of government. Here’s what they really mean.

They want ordinary Americans to have the freedom NOT to have health care in a country where 45,000 of our people die each year because they don’t get to a doctor when they should. They want young people in our country to have the freedom NOT to go to college, and join the 400,000 young Americans unable to afford a higher education and the millions struggling with huge college debts. They want children and seniors in our country to have the freedom NOT to have enough food to eat, and join the many millions who are already hungry. And on and on it goes!

In Denmark, there is a very different understanding of what “freedom” means. In that country, they have gone a long way to ending the enormous anxieties that comes with economic insecurity. Instead of promoting a system which allows a few to have enormous wealth, they have developed a system which guarantees a strong minimal standard of living to all — including the children, the elderly and the disabled.

The United States, in size, culture, and the diversity of our population, is a very different country from Denmark. Can we, however, learn some important lessons from them? You bet we can.

JourneySantaFe Collected Works

In the wake of the news that New Mexico’s drought is the worst in the nation, and Mora County’s decision to impose a moratorium on fracking, comes this Sunday’s meeting of Journey Santa Fe at 11 AM at Collected Works Bookstore and Café. This is the first of a series on water in New Mexico.Journey Santa Fe presents:
Overview of Water Law, Water Rights and Water Conflicts in New Mexico
with water law specialist Peter White.

Attorney Peter White will present an overview of water law, water rights, and water conflicts in New Mexico. He will follow up in two or three subsequent Journey Santa Fe gatherings to discuss in more detail New Mexico’s water problems, summing up of his work over the past 40 years.

Co-presenter attorney Denise D. Fort, Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico School of Law and Director of the School’s Utton Center, will discuss her booklet WATER MATTERS.
If you get that water is pivotal to our state’s existence, especially during this drought, you will want to attend. See you there.

Albuquerque Journal:

New Mexico’s drought worst in the country

By on Thu, May 2, 2013

POSTED: 7:54 am
LAST UPDATED: 12:07 pm

New Mexico this morning rose to the top of one of those lists of US states that you don’t want to be on. Drought conditions here are now the worst in the nation, according to this morning’s federal Drought Monitor:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

The analysts who develop the weekly monitor significantly expanded their designation of “exceptional” drought, their worst category, to include much of the Rio Grande Valley, the state’s most populous region:…

Avoiding Priority Calls for the Right and Wrong Reasons

New post on La Jicarita

Avoiding Priority Calls for the Right and Wrong Reasons

by lajicarita

By KAY MATTHEWS

As April slides into May in the upper Sangre de Cristo watershed I’m thankful for whatever green I get: the pasture grass first, emerging almost overnight into clumps of mixed brome, rye, timothy, and various unidentified shoots. The apricot trees in the orchard are just breaking into bloom, with an intrinsic knowledge that any flower display before the end of April is a fool’s game (and they were indeed zapped last Thursday night). The ornamental forsythia at the front door flaunts this rule but unlike the apricot doesn’t have to prove its worth in fruit; its justification is its persistent yellow beauty. The unrelenting wind makes Eliot’s declaration of April being the cruelest month manifest by threatening to rip the hoop house plastic from its tenuous hold on its PVC frame.

The irrigation water in my first-in-line village starts flowing around the same time, depending on the commissioners’ adherence to formal tradition—the water isn’t released until the acequia is cleaned—or informal tradition—whoever has a direct line to the commissioners gets the water whenever they don’t have it.

Although my village lies only a few miles away from Picuris Pueblo, whose priority date is “time immemorial,” there is no question that we are literally ”first in use” in my valley, as the New Mexico water code defines priority administration of water rights. With a priority date in 1700s this village on the Rio de las Trampas gets the water first as it flows from the high Pecos peaks directly through the pastures and gardens of the village parciantes. We are allotted a certain amount for irrigation, although no meters, only gauges measure the circos that traditionally correspond to shovel widths of water flowing through our three presas, or diversion dams, on the river.

Yet the concept of “priority date” implies that the water we use we own, which is contrary to the way the acequia communities throughout northern New Mexico have always managed their water. José Rivera, in his book Acequia Culture, Water, Land, & Community in the Southwest, quotes from an affidavit submitted by acequia commissioners in the early years of the Taos Valley adjudication to determine priority dates and ownership of water:

“the aforesaid acequias by and through their fully elected commissioners agree that they will continue to follow and be bound by their customary divisions and allocations of water and agree that they will not make calls or demands for water between and among themselves based upon priority dates.”

In accordance with the traditional practice of repartimiento, or water sharing, the acequias did not want to establish a practice whereby a priority call could shut off water to “junior” water rights holders in times of drought.

The Office of the State Engineer (OSE), the agency that administers water rights in New Mexico, has also been reluctant to issue priority calls to junior users but not with such altruistic motives: junior water rights largely belong to urban areas developed after the establishment of Pueblo and Hispano acequia communities and a priority call would generate a political nightmare.

But now the Carlsbad Irrigation District (CIB) has issued a priority call on the Pecos River against the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District (PVACD) and we’re going to witness a legal process that won’t be as messy as if city wells were being threatened but will provide plenty of action.

This isn’t the first time the CID issued a priority call. As I wrote about in my article “How Not to Manage for Drought in New Mexico” the state paid Texas the big bucks back in the 1980s to prevent the CID from making that call. In that case, which lingered in court from 1974 to 1988 during the infamous State Engineer Steve Reynolds’ tenure, Texas claimed that New Mexico failed to deliver required water under the terms of the Pecos River Compact. Instead of complying with the condition by enforcing the state’s priority system, which would have required acknowledging Carlsbad Irrigation District’s senior water rights by shutting off Roswell area junior wells to get water to the Texas state line, the New Mexico state legislature bought and retired enough water rights to meet the Texas water demand. It cost $100 million.

The CID has late 1800 senior surface water rights as opposed to the Roswell area farmers in the conservancy district with junior groundwater rights that, as the CID claims, are being pumped while the irrigation ditches go dry. The attorney for the CID seems to think that this time around the OSE, instead of the state legislature, is going to come to the rescue. That’s because of the Active Water Resource Management (AWRM) rules (recently upheld in a decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court), which will allow an appointed water master to implement an administrative priority cut-off date. All water rights holders whose priority date is later than the administrative date must stop using the water. This would, of course, cut off water to the PVACD, just as enforcement of the priority system would require, except that AWRM would enforce it more expeditiously and also allow the PVACD to file a replacement plan: the junior water right holder could temporarily use other senior water rights that aren’t being used, assuming it’s hydrologically viable.

When AWRM was first promulgated in 2004 many expressed concern that replacement plans denied the due process of formal water transfer protests and hearings and that it expedited the marketing and leasing of water (acequias and community ditches are expressly exempted from expedited marketing and leasing provisions). According to the OSE, replacement plans “do not adjudicate your water rights but are only an interim determination for administration and can be superseded by the courts.” Replacement plans would be limited to two years, which the OSE claimed would prevent developers from transferring water rights without a full public hearing.

So while the state moves further away from priority administration—although many would say in the wrong direction—the worsening drought continues to count coup on all our efforts at water management and distribution. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) the April streamflows remain dismal. The Rio Grande Basin streamflows range from 57 percent of normal for Rio Lucero near Arroyo Seco, to 11 percent of normal for the Jemez River below Jemez Canyon Dam. At Otowi Bridge, flows are forecast at 30 percent of normal, or 192,000 acre feet (af), and San Marcial is also 11 percent of normal or 53,000 af. March precipitation was 32 percent of normal, drier than 2012. Year to date precipitation is at 60 percent, also lower than last year at this time. While snowpack is below average at 55 percent, a little better than last year, much of the low to mid elevation snowpack has already melted, much earlier than average. Total reservoir storage in the basin is 614,300 af, down from last year’s 974,400 af.

 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association releases graphs showing precipitation outlooks several times a month. Here’s the April 29 to May 5 forecast.

So far our solutions to this extreme drop in participation and surface water storage are to pump more groundwater and import surface water. Texas continues to seek redress in the Supreme Court over alleged violations of the Rio Grande Compact, claiming that New Mexican groundwater pumping below Elephant Butte Reservoir is preventing Texas from getting its required water delivery. All the water settlements thus far negotiated rely on imported water, either San Juan/Chama contract water or transferred rights, usually from agriculture.

What I also see happening, as a member of the Taos County Public Welfare Advisory Committee, which reviews all water transfer applications within or from Taos County, is that as surface waters dry up and irrigation seasons shorten, even small water rights holders are applying to transfer their surface water rights to groundwater so they can continue to irrigate via pumps instead of acequias. It all adds up, folks, and no amount of wheeling and dealing is going to change the fact that we’re in an extreme drought, the planet is warming, and climate change is upon us. I got the water last night to irrigate my field, orchard, and garlic patch, but we’ll see how long it lasts as the summer progresses. You might say my village is a kind of indicator species: when it goes dry up here it’s a sure sign there’s not much hope below.

 

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Gila River

A 9th grader in Silver City has initiated a petition addressed to the Interstate Stream Commission asking that the Gila River water not be diverted and piped to Deming (by way of the copper mines near Silver City) in order to facilitate development.

Will you consider signing the petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/jim-dunlap-chairman-of-the-interstate-stream-commission-don-t-divert-the-gila-river-through-the-awsa-2?

Please pass on the word.