Whether you’re a California resident or not, as an American, you have an impact on California’s water crisis. 80 percent of the water in the state is consumed by agriculture. That agricultural activity produces one third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts, the New York Times reported Thursday, May 21. According to that same New York Times report, the average American consumes more than 300 gallons of California water every week. Considering just how much the nation relies on California’s agricultural output, it’s not a surprise that the Golden State has wound up bone dry.
Do you like almonds? Well it takes 15.3 gallons to produce just 16 of them. How about eggs? Well, one third of that egg takes 6 gallons to produce. That glass of milk before bed? That costs the state of California 143 gallons of water for every four glasses. As California’s drought trudges along through another dry year, it has become very clear, California’s drought is not just a California problem. It’s an American problem.
On April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced an executive order mandating the scale back of California’s water use by 25 percent. While cities have scaled back water use, residents throughout the state have become privy to the state’s lack of oversight on agricultural water use. Of course, California farmers supply the entire country with a major portion of its food supply and those same farmers hold water rights that date back to the Gold Rush, so it’s not a simple task to even begin to try and take that away from them.
But on Friday, May 22 state water regulators accepted a historic agreement from California’s most influential water stakeholders. Water Resources Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said, “We’re in a drought unprecedented in our time. That’s calling upon us to take unprecedented action.” The agreement, brought forth by several farmers from the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, would serve as an important precedent in curtailing the state’s rapidly dwindling water supply, the Associated Press reported.
Michael George, state water master for the Delta, called the agreement “an illustration of creative practical approaches that water managers in the state of California are taking to help get us all through this devastating drought.” While that may be true, many farmers and residents throughout the state are skeptical of the agreement. That agreement requires delta farmers to show, by June 1, how they will reduce water use by 25 percent.
Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation told the Associated Press he was skeptical that the deal will be able to protect farmers if (and when) the drought gets worse.