Cone of depression indeed…

In attempting to learn more about the proposed dairy near Coloma, and the effects it will have on the environment, I have been relying on information from folks a lot smarter than I am.  A key source of information has been studies by hydrologist.

Basically they have been able to explain to me what is happening under my feet, things that I can’t see.  One interesting term I have been introduced to is the “cone of depression”. Here is the scientific definition:

Cone of depression: The zone around a well in an unconfined aquifer that is normally saturated, but becomes unsaturated as a well is pumped, leaving an area where the water table dips down to form a cone shape. The shape of the cone is influenced by porosity and the water yield or pumping rate of the well. The land surface overlying the cone of depression is referred to as the area of influence.

So in layman’s terms, a high capacity well has an influence over a much larger area than just the immediate land it is drilled on. Hmmm?

This got me thinking about the proposed dairy in general, and it’s “cone of depression”. While the dairy will sit on a relatively small amount of land, what is its cone of depression? Certainly with land spreading of manure over an estimated 16,000 acres, one can see that the cone goes out a LONG way.

People that are subjected to the smell, increased traffic, and potential water contamination of a factory farm are left with few options to complain about the operation. Daily family activities as simple as sitting outside on a summer night can be affected. Attempts to sell are mostly fruitless, if you don’t want to live there, who else will? This feeling of helplessness has been proven to be a source of increased depression for those living near factory farms.

Studies have shown a reduction of property values for owners located near factory farms. As the affected area becomes less desirable for living, an area of depressed property value is created. Depressed property value has a direct impact on the real estate taxes collected for local government.

Smaller family farms face increased cost for crops and land rental as the factory farm asserts its relative purchasing power in the local area. The large influx of milk production in a local market then depresses the milk prices for these producers. The increased cost vs. lower income is often too much for the family farm to cope with, and they close or sell out to the factory farm.

Long term studies have shown a direct correlation to hidden cost of a factory farm in terms of; economic, social and environmental impacts. I think that much like the unseen underground effect of the high capacity well, the far reaching “cone of depression” created by the factory farm is one we all need to take a long hard look at.