From the KQED blog: California’s Central Valley: ‘More Than Just Farmers on Tractors’
After watching this video about water in a California farming community, it made me wonder whether this kind of problem can actually be solved. Not because there are no possible solutions to be found over the longer term, but simply because it’s such a political hot potato. In this case, the question of water rights between two competing sets of interests pits the relatively powerful agriculture sector against the interests of local individual homeowners.
Eventually, reality, in the form of mother nature will settle the issue.
Which leads me to ask the following related questions (and try to answer some):
- Will monoculture production farming be practiced in 10-20 years in areas prone to extended periods of drought, and where fresh water resources are in limited supply?
- In 2014, how bad a drought year has California had throughout the state? Turns out, about 98% of the state is experiencing (at the least) the third most severe level of drought, or worse.
- Is there a mechanism to ration the agricultural use of limited ground water supplies when neighboring communities experience their private wells run dry? Apparently, not in Tulare county, and probably not in California, in general.
- Are the droughts that are effecting California, Texas, and other parts of the country likely to go away soon? Not if you believe in climate change, and what the world’s climate scientists are telling us: While no one can predict long range weather patterns in specific areas, in general we are likely to see more extremes in weather. This means, more extremes of high and low temperatures; bigger storms; longer and wider areas of drought; and greater precipitation in other areas.
- There may be no short-term way to manage a severe drought by cutting back agricultural consumption of water without immediately endangering a farmer’s crops. Should the government seek to develop longer range policies to restrict the drilling of new wells, increase regulations tightening the use of irrigation water, in order to maintain the adequate availability of water supplies for other stakeholders?
- Over the longer term, is there also a role for government to help production agriculture farmers transition to lower water intensive farming practices, through education, and use of more efficient water irrigation technologies?
- When it comes to availability of drinking water, and local water rights, should we accept that each individual within a community is in charge of their own destiny? Farmers can continue unabated into the future to drill and use as much water as they need without restriction, and homeowners (along with other stakeholders) can hope for the future for a normal weather season like the almond farmer in the video suggested, maybe next year?
- If needed, in order to preserve dwindling supplies of water, would you be willing to purchase only foods grown seasonally, and that were certified to be more water and energy efficient to produce?
What is normal weather? tell us about the normal weather you have been experiencing in your area. In Portland, Oregon, we have had weeks of unseasonably high temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s, sometimes reaching in the very low 100’s. Almost no precipitation to speak of, but for us during this time of year, that does seem normal.