We are in the opening days of a tragedy, a disaster with the destructive power of an earthquake. But it’s a politically created disaster, the end effect of callous politicians who favor their friends over anyone else. It’s a crisis our governor could stop at any time, as he is the one creating it.
On the face of it, it sounds like a good idea. To stop over drafting our groundwater, the state will now require water users to replace what they take – to allow surface water to soak in and replace the water pumped out by our wells.
The problem is, the state is not allowing the growers to have enough surface water. The Central Valley Project (Federal) and the State Water Project (California-owned) were created to shift surface water from the wet north to the dry south and to water the central valley on the way. The system works well when it is allowed to do so. But lately, each year, the allocations to farmers are cut and the water flows into San Francisco Bay. Why? Because the water is needed to flush pollution out to sea, pollution caused by inadequate sewage treatment – those Bay Area cities have grown and not spent the money to keep infrastructure up, and now they rely on water stolen from our farms to keep the bay’s fishing industry alive.
A report from the Bay area’s own University of California, Berkeley shows that “the California economy will suffer unless responsible, balanced water reforms are enacted in the effort to achieve groundwater sustainability goals in the San Joaquin Valley.”
The report says that up to 1 million acres of productive farmland will be permanently fallowed in the San Joaquin Valley, about 20 percent of the farmland currently in production.
California swill permanently lose as many as 85,000 full-time jobs and $2.1 billion in employee wages.
Tax revenues will suffer. There will be $242 million in lost city and county tax revenue and $293 million in lost state tax revenue.
Annual farm revenue loss is $7.2 billion per year, or roughly 14 percent of California’s total farm production.
Governor Newsom, you can fix this. Stop the disaster now and restore our water allotments.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.