Apr 8 2015

California Water Policies Attract National Comment on Disparate Treatment

The disparate treatment of residential water consumers in various California communities has received national media attention this week.   The April 6, 2015 New York Times reports that California water policy –

“is a case study in the unwise use of natural resources, many experts say. Farmers are drilling wells at a feverish pace and  pumping billions of gallons of water from the ground, depleting a resource that was critically endangered even before the drought, now in its 4th year, began.”

In July 2014, while some Piedmonters were consuming 100 – 150 gallons per day or less, residents in some hotter locations used more than 600 gallons per day. Even after Governor Jerry Brown’s demand of a 25% consumption reduction is fulfilled, the four to one or greater differential of water use will remain in many areas. And some communities still do not meter water, instead charging residential customers a flat rate for unlimited water use. A few make no charge for water, according to The New York Times.

On April 7 Richard Howitt, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Resource Economics, at UC Davis, told Bloomberg Surveillance that yards in hotter areas of California should look more like Arizona. Howitt, a lead researcher at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Studies recommends California’s agriculture sector convert to higher profitability crops. “Cut down on low value crops, continue growing carrots.” 

Howitt continued, “The agriculture sector has got to realize that water is now a commodity, not political, and must be treated as such. Our agriculture would have to change its way of operating in a long term drought. We would only grow those crops that would really be very profitable. There are margins for adjustment in crops.”

Meanwhile the Central Valley agriculture well drilling frenzy has lowered the water table by as much as 50 feet, The New York Times reported. Land is sinking as much as one foot per year, damaging roads and bridges. Nevertheless, no limits on well drilling or groundwater exhaustion have been established for agriculture.

At its Tuesday, April 14 meeting, the EBMUD Board will review the District’s  year-end Water Supply Availability and Deficiency in this historic drought. The Board will decide on potential actions, which may include mandatory conservation restrictions, drought surcharges and excessive use penalties.

Read CA Water restrictions on urban and suburban communities  March 27

One Response to “California Water Policies Attract National Comment on Disparate Treatment”

  1. The Cal. Dept. of Food and Agriculture states “California agriculture is a $42.6 billion dollar industry.” As of 2013 the gross state production is $2.05 Trillion. By these figures agriculture produces 2% of the state total economy. Agriculture uses 80% of the water with no cutbacks mandated. Big Agriculture well understands that water is a political game and evidently a game they are winning.

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