CALIFORNIA WATER CRISIS AND AGRICULTURE'S ROLE *UPDATE*
572 Days 3 hours 12 minutes 47 seconds… 48… 49… 50…
As this is being written, it has been over 572 days since the governor of California, Jerry Brown, declared a state of emergency because of the drought. A drought that has lasted over 4 years.
94% of citizens have said that the drought is serious, that fact is pretty obvious. The controversy is in how to use the limited water supply that the state does have. Some believe that it should go to homes and keeping water prices down for individuals; others think it should be conserved for wildlife, or used for businesses and industry. The most supported use of the water, with 74% of people thinking it should be the top or high priority, is in agriculture.
Now we aren’t saying farmers and ranchers shouldn’t do their part to help cut California’s enormous consumption of water, but for the 26% of people who don’t recognize food production as a top priority we will attempt to illustrate the majority’s common sense reasoning.
First, we have to show how much we need food. Not only to keep hunger pangs away and simply survive, but our body needs appropriate nourishment to function and stay healthy. Malnutrition can cause blindness, learning disorders, memory deficiency, and poor immune health. We cannot just simply cut certain foods out of our diets, and thus we cannot abandon the farming of such foods, especially in such an important farming state.
California grows hundreds of different crops, including almost all of the nation's almonds, apricots, dates, figs, kiwi, olives, prunes, pistachios and walnuts. They also lead in the production of avocadoes, grapes, lemons, melons, peaches, plums, and strawberries. On top of all of that, they are the second ranked producer of livestock products in America.
That is a huge impact, both on the local economies and on the health of the nation. With a majority of our fruits and nuts (and a large portion of animal products) being produced in our nation’s largest state, it would be disastrous if that production was hindered.
The simple fact of the matter is that agriculture uses a lot of water; there is no getting around it. Take a look at this statistical visualization from flowingdata.com that shows how many gallons of water it takes to produce an ounce of these different foods.
But imagine eliminating any of these foods from the average diet. Yes, raising livestock takes enormous amounts of water, but eliminating it from America’s diet would cause many more problems than the drought. The same goes for soy, pasta, asparagus, and all of the other foods described.
This is something that the less rural people in California need to learn and quickly, because the likeliness of the drought ending soon is slim to none. Scientist say that a half-decade of torrential rains might end California’s drought, but the problems are more structural and systemic.
Explosive urban growth matched with crops and other demands has caused the population to overuse the supply of water. Although some claim that the drought was caused by climate change, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report found that it was mismanagement of the water supply which caused the vulnerability to the lack of rain.
In other words, if people had recognized that water could run out before the lack of rain happened and limited their use as much as possible to the important things like agriculture, then the effects would not be felt nearly as hard.
All-in-all, California is running dangerously low on water, we cannot feasibly take any more water away from agriculture, and most people recognize this. Other than waiting for five years of heavy rain, the solution is in our hands: the management of California’s water must be very meticulous to include everything of importance while cutting out waste.