California Drought: State of Emergency

Published: Apr 10, 2015 13:23pm EDT
By Rick Rinker, Political Editor for Konsume Politics

Please Note: This article was updated Apr 10, 2015 @ 01:23pm EDT

 

In California, nearly one-million farming acres will be unable to grow crop this year as water dries up, sending many farm employees and residents in California’s central valley into a state of unemployment, poverty, and a lack of basic running water.

2015 is the fourth year of a record drought plaguing the golden state, and as residents are being hit with an unprecedented mandate to reduce water consumption, it is ironically California farmers that are being hardest hit. This is not just bad news for California, it has the potential to be bad for the Nation.

national drought map 2015

 

In the midst of a historic drought and state of emergency, California’s water woes are more the result of climate than consumption.

Two weeks ago California Governor Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent reduction in urban drinking water to help ease the dire water shortage. While the Governor’s actions were effective in calling national attention to the disaster, this reduction only accounts for 6% of the state’s overall water consumption.

In fact, 80 percent of the state water goes to the agriculture industry, a $43 billion industry that ranks in the top 10 of worldwide production. The agriculture industry wields tremendous power in the state; so much power that the governor did not tackle the issue by limiting the 30 billion gallons of water consumed by the industry annually.

Even with the lopsided water consumption between residents’ tap water and mass industry use, California as a whole ranks shockingly low for water consumption per capita. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, California’s per capita water consumption is well below the national average, ranking 34 percent better than most states, despite the fact that California’s agriculture production is double that of any other state, and is home to the nation’s largest population and economy.
 

Top Water Consumption by State
 

Throughout the 1900’s, California developed its appetite for farming, and water, during a period of unusually high rain and snowfall levels. These levels have begun to recede back to “normal” levels for the state from a historic perspective.

Making matters worse, the California drought is poised to worsen significantly in 2015, which will spell certain doom for any number of farms and farming employees in the region.

The drought’s impact is already being felt in California’s central valley, home to millions of farming acres and considered the nations breadbasket. As water access diminish for farms, farmers find themselves unable to grow crop, leaving thousands without work.

The impact of regional unemployment, poverty and lack of water was well documented by Vice’s Derek Mead. In the 20 minute video piece, entitled Crippling Drought in the Golden State: California Soul, the human cost of the historic drought is well sourced and worth a watch.

With the nation’s largest producers of vegetables, fruit and nuts in peril, look for rising costs in your local grocery store. Public policy experts warn that as consumer costs rise the likelihood of fruit and vegetables farms leaving the state likely will too.

While the issue of conservation might be a small factor in this drought, even if the state can somehow manage to lower its water consumption significantly, something that is not yet even on the horizon, both corporate and family-owned farms, the agriculture they produce and tax revenue they generate will dwindle with the reduced water supply. In other words, California agriculture is largely at the mercy of Mother Nature.

 


 

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Rick Rinker
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