Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Governor Brown Says: Tear Out Lawns, Take Short Showers, or pay $500 fine.

Brown says NO statewide mandatory reductions for farmers since “they must feed the nation and the world.”

Huh?

For a comprehensive report on the use (and mis-allocation) of agricultural irrigation in California, click here.  Page 4 shows the three year average acre feet (AF) water use of California crops.  Alfalfa, forage, corn, rice, cotton, and other grains consume 16,300,000 AF of water per year.  Thirteen other products listed in the slide only use 9,300,000 AF.

Measured in gallons (one AF = 325,900 gallons), alfalfa (160 acres of alfalfa consume 240 million gallons a year), rice, corn, and cotton together consume over 3.7 trillion gallons of water a year. That’s more than almonds, pistachios, orchards, grapes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and potatoes combined.

By value, water usage by crop is downright shocking.   In 2005, for example, gross revenue divided by gross water use per AF was $31 for irrigated pasture, $127 for rice, $176 for corn, $200 for alfalfa, and $416 for cotton.  Contrast that with $3724 for truck farming (includes assorted vegetables) and horticulture, $1401 for fruits and nuts (includes all berries), and $375 for other field crops.  Gross revenue divided by net water usage shows a similar distribution.

It is absurd to use water to grow alfalfa, wheat, corn, rice, and cotton in California.  Neither the United States nor the rest of the world need California to produce these crops to meet consumption.

Historical water rights make it politically difficulty to change water allocations.  But that’s no excuse to continue the status quo.  If Brown is correct that global warming means more and longer droughts, now is the time to start reallocating water use, not 5, 10, or 20 years from now.

Come on Jerry.  Do the right thing.  Leave a real legacy.  Assume the drought will continue for one, two or more years and plan accordingly.  After all, it was you and your environmental friends that halted all new water infrastructure construction since the 1960s.

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