The California Farm Water Coalition released a dire statement on Tuesday warning that California’s agriculture industry and food supply are at risk due to restricted agricultural water supplies. “Today’s State Water Board emergency water conservation regulations continue to demonstrate the severity of this year’s drought. Water conservation measures are increasingly reaching our communities and now go beyond the water supply cuts experienced by farms and rural communities in California earlier this year.
The California Farm Water Coalition represents agricultural water suppliers, water districts, agribusiness, farmers, as well as supporting agribusinesses such as farm equipment suppliers, tractor manufacturers, etc. .
It was only last summer that the State Water Resources Control Board cut off water supplies to thousands of family farms throughout the Central Valley, just two years after reservoirs in the were full after a particularly wet year. “The California State Water Resources Control Board has announced that thousands of farmers from the Central Valley to the Oregon border will have their water reduced through winter, The Globe reported.
When the State Water Board orders water to be cut off to farmers, the food supply is also cut off.
California drought conditions are actually historically normal, however, each of California’s droughts is touted by the government and the media as the driest period in the state’s recorded rainfall history. Scientists studying long-term climate patterns of the western United States say California has been dry for much longer periods – over 200 years.
The Globe spoke to Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, on Wednesday about the State Water Board’s emergency water conservation regulations. Wade said the most important step they can take to highlight the seriousness of California’s water shortage is to connect consumers through the food they eat.
Wade said surface water supplies are short, so farmers will have to rely on groundwater. But the state is encroaching on groundwater availability through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), passed in 2014. And water district irrigation managers are putting caps on the water by limiting pumping.
“The taps that supply surface water to the farms that grow the local foods we buy in grocery stores were effectively shut off in March and April. Nearly half of California’s irrigated farmland has had its surface water supply reduced by 50% or more,” the CFWC said.
The Globe asked Wade if water authorities acknowledged that it was food production that was affected. “We’re starting to see recognition of California’s importance to the nation’s food supply,” Wade said. He noted that agriculture is shrinking in the state.
“We live in an increasingly unstable world, but politicians and regulators are not doing the work necessary to protect our safe and affordable national food supply during these uncertain times. Failure to act will not only make rising food prices worse, it could permanently disrupt food systems that many now take for granted,” the CFWC said.
“We need to invest in surface and groundwater storage,” Wade said.
“California farms produce more than half of the country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables. California foods aren’t just in the produce aisle, but also in the ready meals and ingredients we consume every day. It can’t happen without water, and we can’t just move California production to other states. A secure and affordable national food supply is a matter of national security, as is energy. The government must make this a priority,” the CFWC said.
“Water shortages are affecting families across the state and nation who depend on California farms for the safe, fresh, locally produced agricultural products we all buy at the grocery store.”
Wade said the Public Policy Institute of California released a recent policy brief: Tracking Where Water Goes in a Changing Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, which revealed that there is a lot of water in wet years that can be stored, but this is not currently the case.
One of the biggest issues, according to Wade, is the ongoing discussion in public that California has seen all the water we’re going to get, and that restrictions and conservation are the only way forward. But that is not correct if additional reservoirs are built as voters have already approved, and desalination plants are approved.
The Globe asked about the use of recycled water, noting that only one county in the state actually uses recycled gray water. “Agriculture is the largest user of recycled water at 700.00 acre feet per year,” Wade said. “It has tripled since the late 1980s.”
The California Farm Water Coalition asks a very important question: “Are the reductions a balanced use of water?” »
“The California Water Code requires “reasonable” decisions between competing water uses, but the State Board requires that beneficial water use for fish almost entirely replace beneficial use for agriculture, which is not “reasonable”. And the doctrine of public trust seeks a “balance” of uses, but this reduction is not a balance. »