When drought-struck California moved to curb consumers’ use of water, I wrote about agriculture’s massive and under-regulated use of water. On Friday the state moved to cut many farmers’ use of water, in terms of some of the older rights-holders who divert water from Central Valley rivers and streams. In spring, cuts were made to thousands of junior rights holders’ usage, including many growers. This is more than the state did when it curtailed Big Ag’s water use nearly 40 years ago, in 1977, the last time it made such a move. What it hasn’t done is to move strongly to curtail the industry’s waste of the water it’s allocated to use, which is to say … it’s allowed to use most of it (about 80 percent).
Just for “fun,” here’s an annoyingly educational reminder that most Americans make the California drought worse by eating the food grown there. That’s not to say they should forego the glorious bounty and cramp the world’s 8th largest economy, but some would argue just that, more or less. Let’s say that some of Cali’s major crops — rice, almonds, avocados — should be grown where there is ample water because they need so damn much of it. Maybe not so much compared to raising beef, but still — a lot.
Another not-fun thing: Sucking up the groundwater is making the surface of California sink faster than ever before, and it’s going to cost a lot of money as infrastructure like bridges and roads suffers damage.
It’s Long Past Time to Police Big Agriculture’s Water Waste
Report: Feeding Ourselves Thirsty: How the Food Sector Is Managing Global Water Risks – Ceres (full report)
California Cuts Farmers’ Share of Scant Water – The New York Times
California Move to Restrict Water Pumping by Pre-1914 Rights Holders – Los Angeles Times
Drought-Ravaged California Orders Record Water Cuts on Farmers – The Guardian
The Untapped Potential of California’s Water Supply – Pacific Institute and NRDC
California Is Literally Sinking Into the Ground – Mother Jones