02 April 2015 - California Fighting Serious Drought Crisis

Very often when I tell people that California is the number one agricultural state in the country, I get this response….‘That can’t be true. Our number one agricultural state has to be in the Midwest or maybe Texas.’ But in California they raise over 400 different commodities, many of them are high-end specialty crops bringing high prices, so from a dollar-value standpoint California ranks, far and away, number one. For example, 80% of the world’s almond crop is grown in California.

But I’m beginning to wonder if that can continue because of the water crisis, the four-year drought in California, that a few days ago forced Governor Jerry Brown to issue an Executive Order mandating state-wide water restrictions to reduce usage by 25%. He was standing on bare ground at a state snow monitoring station in the Sierra Mountains near Lake Tahoe when he issued the order. He said. . . “We’re standing on dry ground and we should be standing on 5 feet of snow.”

Yes, California right now, is looking at the lowest snow-pack on record and it will produce very little run-off this Spring to fill streams and reservoirs with precious water for crop irrigation. The latest U.S. Drought monitor for California shows 99.8% abnormal drought and 41.4% impacted by exceptional drought which is the highest level of drought on the monitor. If all of the rules are followed in Governor Brown’s Executive Order, the state would save about 1.5-million acre-feet of water during the next nine months.

The order stipulate, among other things, that…

  • -50-million square feet of lawns across the state be replaced with drought tolerant landscaping,
  • -the state create a consumer rebate program to replace old appliances with newer, more water-efficient models,
  • -directs agencies providing water for farmers to develop detailed plans for managing water.

Before these cuts in water use, farmers had already cut back the amount of acres they planned to plant this year because of the water shortage. Once again, farmers and ranchers find themselves in a battle over water with homeowners and environmentalists. Can you imagine the reaction when thousands of homeowners are told to replace their lawns with rocks and gravel and water-efficient plants? To make matters even more difficult, think how tough it must be to sit in drought-stricken California and watch TV coverage of flood waters in the South and Midwest. There is nothing fair about Mother Nature!

Water, water, everywhere, except in our No. 1 agriculture state, California.

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