The Significance of California’s Agricultural Water Provides

We can’t accommodate critical dialogue on the demand facet of water questions with out engaged on the provision facet

By Chris Scheuring, Particular to CalMatters

Wendell Berry famously stated that consuming is an agricultural act. That makes all of us into farmers, and nowhere is that extra true than in water phrases.

For farming is irreducibly the method of blending dust, water and sunshine to deliver forth from the bottom what we have to eat. And irrespective of who you’re, it’s true:  any individual, someplace, should commit numerous water to the method of feeding you.

Some have been sidestepping this truth within the ongoing coverage evolutions over the best way we should seize, retailer and transfer water in California. But even essentially the most ardent city environmentalist finds herself on the native grocery retailer or the farmers’ market – filling her basket with California-grown nuts, vegetables and fruit.

A few of these crops can solely be grown right here, or in one of many few related agricultural climates all over the world, in an irrigation-based agricultural economic system.

Take almonds, every now and then the whipping-post of California water use: They can’t be grown in a spot the place it rains in the summertime. Iowa, for instance, is terribly chilly in February – which is exactly when almonds want gentle Mediterranean winter climate for his or her blossoms to be pollinated. Mediterranean crops want a Mediterranean local weather, which normally means gentle winters and scorching, dry summers.

Past that, the case for California agriculture is made by our farming practices and their regulatory backdrop, no matter pure reticence California farmers might have about being regulated. We do it extra effectively right here, and with extra oversight, than in most various agricultural venues all over the world. I’d evaluate a California avocado favorably to an avocado anyplace else on the planet, on these phrases.

That’s why I’ve at all times thought {that a} refined pressure of NIMBYism runs by way of the retrograde concepts that some have about “reforming” agricultural water rights right here and constraining the water initiatives that in the end ship meals to the world.  With almost 8 billion individuals on the planet, pinching off California’s agricultural water provides is a sport of whack-a-mole which can trigger the identical water points to come up elsewhere.

With out query, we should proceed on our trajectory of constructing California farming extra water-efficient. When you have been watching California agriculture for a technology, you already know that a lot of the panorama has transitioned from old style flood and sprinkler irrigation to extra environment friendly drip and micro-sprinkler methods – even within the case of row crops. We should proceed this path; new applied sciences associated to irrigation proceed to be developed, together with higher monitoring of utilized water and crop water use.

We should additionally acknowledge inherent conflicts between agricultural water use and the wildlife which can be dependent upon our rivers and streams.

Gone are the times in California when a grizzly bear may paw a salmon out of the Suisun Marsh, however we are able to work collectively to seek out non-zero-sum water and habitat options that may benefit from alternatives to guard and rehabilitate species of concern, the place it may be carried out with out disproportionate human affect. Time and again by way of public enactment, California has demonstrated its will to maintain the surroundings in thoughts as we transfer ahead.

Additional, we should additionally carry ahead processes to develop new water provides for California’s farms and rising cities, whether or not these are storage services above floor or under floor, or stormwater seize and aquifer recharge, or desalination or recycling. Within the face of a altering hydrology and the anticipated lack of snowpack, we merely can’t accommodate critical dialogue on the demand facet of water questions with out engaged on the provision facet. In any other case, we’re chasing a receding goalpost – and we won’t get there.

Lastly, do not forget that farming is just not a query of “if,” however “the place.” We’re going to eat – all of us all over the world – and we’re going to farm so as to take action. So we must always defend California’s agricultural water provides, as a result of the case for California water getting used on California’s farms is robust.

Chris Scheuring is senior counsel for water coverage on the California Farm Bureau. He’s additionally a household farmer in Yolo County, rising walnuts, almonds and pistachios.

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