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Agriculture Gets Free Pass As California Adopts Mandatory Water Rules


Agriculture Gets Free Pass As California Adopts Mandatory Water Rules

Nadia Prupis, staff writer

For the first time ever, California's state water board on Wednesday approved mandatory water conservation rules in the face of a historic drought, now entering its fourth year. But the regulations, which will require water usage cutbacks of up to 36 percent for some communities, are letting the worst environmental offender in the state—the agriculture industry—off the hook.


Actually, this is less and less true. Much of the produce consumed in the US now comes from Mexico. A significant portion of the land in California formally used to produce food for US domestic consumption is now used to raise cash crops for export, such as almonds (which are a water-intensive crop).


California produces a sizable majority of many American fruits, vegetables, and nuts: 99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, and 69 percent of carrots (and the list goes on and on). Some of this is due to climate and soil. No other state, or even a combination of states, can match California’s output per acre.

Farmers in California’s Central Valley, the world’s most productive agricultural region, are paying as much as 10 times more for water than they did before the state’s record drought cut supply.
Costs have soared to $1,100 per acre-foot from about $140 a year ago in the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, which represents 700 farms, said Gayle Holman, a spokeswoman. North of Sacramento, the Western Canal Water District is selling it for double the usual price: $500 per acre-foot, about 326,000 gallons (1.2 million liters).


Yes almonds take a great deal of water about one gallon per almond. The almond growers have stopped irrigating thousands of acres of trees and letting the trees die . Some have been bull dozing them and chopping them up and giving them to power plants for fuel. The growers can no longer afford the water bill. Free ride! NO WAY.


So what I’m reading is a reporter from Portland, Maine interviewing a couple of Lawyers from uh, “non-profit” environmental groups… Uh-hunh Puuleesze


When I lived in the Sacramento Valley during the 1970s almond trees reached the point of diminishing production at 35 to 40 years of age, at which time they were removed and sold for firewood. Orchardists have probably reduced the age at which they turn orchards into cord wood.


One of the primary issues is the insistence upon raising cash crops that are water-intensive, rather than figuring out more sustainable approaches and crops. The American diet has become complex and in some ways used to the exotic, and farmers have accommodated our tastes. I admit to loving almonds, oranges, avocados, grapes, corn…lettuce…


Cotton is not edible. Yes, limit agriculture to edible crops for consumption within California. The rest of the country can grow their own food.


All over the country, people are establishing local food systems so that our food will not use so much fuel to get to us, and so that we can have it fresh. Innovative growing methods are being developed to overcome climate barriers. Here in Michigan, for example, MSU has found that lettuce and other greens can be harvested all winter from passive hoophouses with a few simple inventive methods.
We don’t need to use up California’s water in order to eat well.


Big Ag was borne out of the Industrial Age, without a thought to best land practices, and these particular corporate marauders don’t give a damn–now or then–about anything except for their profits. In other dry states, desert land is not converted to crop land. Unfortunately, California is way past that.

When the public is under such harsh restrictions, it is only right that corporate Ag users take every step to ensure no water is wasted. A lot of water is lost to evaporation in California agriculture. It occurs to me that industrial agricultural users should at the very least be forced to install new watering equipment of the drip or soaker hose variety–at their own expense–but the ideal would be to install desalinization plants. There’s no shortage of seawater, especially with the rising water levels from global warming, which brought about California’s drought. Close the circle.


All the changes needed in the ag industry cost MONEY which will make your artichokes cost more, so to speak. I worked as a young man in ornamental horticulture in CA where I"m from, and reside. I have lived in Portland ME, am as far to the left politically as anyone here, lol. But be realistic-you and we like the stuff we grow here. Use some discretion before blasting your mouths, any of you from outside the are who love those CA things-winter produce, citrus, wines, nuts, greens in January,etc. Or simple: just pay up!


I am somewhat amazed at the short-sightedness of California people/government/industry. The last 200 years has been remarkably wet in Ca. Before that 10 - 20 year droughts were pretty common, the longest drought identified through tree ring research is about 240 years. We’ve gone 3 years so far, from a historical perspective that ain’t a drop in the bucket. Do the math: people use between 5 - 10% of the water, if they all just stop watering their lawns, taking baths, drinking - how much of a dent is that going to make if the current conditions continue? If Ca is going to get less than half its “normal” supply of water for the next 7 years, what makes you think there will be any AG left anyway? Bottom line is AG has been getting a free ride for decades. At the very least high water crops should not be grown in Ca. Be assured if this continues they won’t, the only question is how much more irreplaceable ground water is going to be used before people come to their senses.


It’s important to understand that California is part of the great American western desert. The existence of California, as it is today, survives due to man’s efforts to manipulate Nature.

The biggest user of water in California is fracking.

Northern California uses so much water for vineyards they cause wells to go dry.

Water issues, like everything else in our capitalist dominated country, is all about money.


I know hunh? Maybe she’ll interview the lawyer dealing with anti-fracking next time…


Well, Los Angeles should have little problem meeting their target usage…empty private swimming pools (and fountains) in ALL neighborhoods (including Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills…water only the greens on golf courses and intermittently water fairways…use only recycled water for watering public parks and spaces…all places to start. And, a huge water saving measure would be to BAN ALL FRACKING IN THE STATE.

Here is a link to the fracking sites (proposed and active) in California (most located from central to southern California): http://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/fracking-across-the-united-states

This fact is frightening: Generally, 2-8 million gallons of water may be used to frack a well. Some wells consume much more. A well may be fracked multiple times, with each frack increasing the chances of chemical leakage into the soil and local water sources.

And for only ONE well!


An acre-foot is over 325,000 gallons. That new outrageous $1100 price works out to 0.3 cents per gallon. LA residents pay double that - 0.6 cents per gallon for municipal water. They pay six times as much as farmers north of Sacramento, who get their water for 0.1 cents per gallon. I suspect that all those prices are FAR, FAR below what supply and demand would dictate, if this water were allocated by capitalists.

So, yeah. Pretty much free pass.


Why did you put scare quotes around “non-profit”? Is there such a thing as a for-profit environmental group? Really?


Hi happyrabo.

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.


Well, they get their funding from someone somewhere. I’m sure it’s all legit, but I remember back in the Day when the WWF was caught taking contributions from Monsanto in exchange for “sustainability certification”, also known as “green washing”.



So what else is new…those with power and money seem to carry the day!



One of the things people need to keep in mind is how the water situation started back in the 19th century in California, and NOT the south but the north. As a native, Northern CA loves to bash LA, rightfully so, but it all started with the railroads and the federal subsidies that came here for land after 1849. We are a state that was given everything, and in return we produced everything from agriculture to aerospace to movies ad infinitum. So for people out of state to bash California is always just a bit disingenuous-we basically carry a lot of the economy for the nation. The water issue is going to take some time to work on-it is just the beginning of adjustment. The swimming pools in Palm Springs are NOT going away. A lot of people do not like our lifestyle but realize not all of us consume water at the same rate. Hysteria will solve nothing.