California Water Crisis: How Inequality and Antiquated Policy Come Into Play

We all have heard of the drought that California has been experiencing for sometime now. It’s so well known, it’s even becoming the butt of many people’s jokes about California.

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But jokes aside, what has caused this current crisis and what are the issues that have arrived out of it?

A drought of this duration and severity is caused by a handful of environmental issues working in tandem. As we’ve read, Earth’s aquifers have been shrinking at an alarming rate.  Add this to the fact that the demand on these aquifers are increasing, and the weather warming, and we have the crisis that is currently devastating the state. With an economic and environmental disaster on their hands, one would think water conservation would be of the utmost priority.

Not necessarily.

In the midst of this crisis, there has been great inequality of water rights that have allowed the already scarce water supply to be further strained. Much of the fault lies with the State and their reluctance to regulate the farming industry. The farming industry accounts for about 80% of the water consumption in the state of California and has been able to water thousands of acres without regulation.

On the other hand, residents’ water usage have been regularly monitored by water fines. This selected regulation has not only allowed the corporate farmers to deplete the water supply even further and leave little for residents, but also created an economic divide between those residents. Wealthier residents have had less of a need to change their water use, while lower income residents have needed to carefully manage and learn to live with less.

Thankfully, this economic inequality has sparked controversy and criticism. As of June 2015, the State has intervened and finally restricted water rights of corporate farmers with plans for further restriction if they deem it necessary. Still, it is troubling to think of the time wasted and the water spent since the beginning of the drought.

 

 

One thought on “California Water Crisis: How Inequality and Antiquated Policy Come Into Play

  1. “In 2014, the most recent year for which a full crop-year report is available, California’s 76,400 farms and ranches received approximately $54 billion for their output. This represents an increase of 5.1 percent over 2013. California is the leading US state in cash farm receipts with combined commodities representing nearly 13 percent of the US total.”

    “In 2014, California’s agricultural exports amounted to $21.59 billion in value. As a percentage of the total US agricultural exports for 2014, California’s share represents 14.3 percent… ”

    “California’s top 10 export destinations—European Union, Canada, China/Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Korea, India, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Vietnam—accounted for 69 percent of the 2014 export value. For 2014, India showed the largest growth in total export value compared to the previous year at 19.1 percent.”

    https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/

    ““California is running through its water supply because, for complicated historical and climatological reasons, it has taken on the burden of feeding the rest of the country,” Steven Johnson wrote in Medium, pointing out that California’s water problems are actually a national problem — for better or for worse, the trillions of gallons of water California agriculture uses annually is the price we all pay for supermarket produce aisles stocked with fruits and vegetables.

    Up to this point, feats of engineering and underground aquifers have made the drought somewhat bearable for California’s farmers. But if dry conditions become the new normal, how much longer can — and should — California’s fields feed the country? And if they can no longer do so, what should the rest of the country do?”

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/05/05/3646965/california-drought-and-agriculture-explainer/

    I am not convinced that farmers and farming are the villains. .

    California’s population has skyrocketed to 30 million. That is only going to continue. Without California’s Farms where will the United States get its food from, China?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/magazine/californias-central-valley-land-of-a-billion-vegetables.html