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Water crisis in California deepens

The Associated Press reports, “Amid severe drought conditions, California officials announced Friday they won’t send any water from the state’s vast reservoir system to local agencies beginning this spring, an unprecedented move that affects drinking water supplies for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland.”

“Friday’s announcement came after Gov. Jerry Brown’s official drought declaration in mid-January, a decision that cleared the way for state and federal agencies to coordinate efforts to preserve water and send it where it is needed most. The governor urged Californians to reduce their water use by 20 per cent.”

“State officials say 17 rural communities are in danger of a severe water shortage within four months. Wells are running dry or reservoirs are nearly empty in some communities. Others have long-running problems that predate the drought. …The announcement marks the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project that such an action has been taken, but it does not mean that every farm field will turn to dust and every city tap will run dry. The 29 agencies that draw from the state’s water-delivery system have other sources, although those also have been hard-hit by the drought. Many farmers in California’s Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country, also draw water from a separate system of federally run reservoirs and canals, but that system also will deliver just a fraction of its normal water allotment this year.”

And Time magazine has reported, “More people and more crops have their straws in California’s water supply. Even in normal years, the state would be in trouble. If we see a return to the bone-dry climate of the Medieval period, it’s hard to see how the state could survive as it is now. And that’s not even taking the effects of climate change into account—the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report found that it was likely that warming would lead to even drier conditions in the American Southwest.”

In her book Blue Future, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow writes, “California exports large amounts of water-intensive hay and more than half its rice production – another water-intensive crop – to Japan.” And that, “In water-short California, some farmers are letting their fields lie fallow and are selling water as a cash crop to local municipalities. The state is now facing proposals to allow farmers to sell their water to developers, piping it long distances from its watershed. …Aside from the obvious concern about letting good farmland be taken out of production, the government has already subsidized most of these farmers for the water they now want to sell for profit.”

She also notes, “Even some sub-national governments such as California have introduced right-to-water laws…” And that, “In 2010, residents of Mount Shasta, California, successfully campaigned to have an ordinance placed on the ballot that prevented cloud seeding and bulk water extraction within city limits.”

Further reading
California governor signs right to water legislation
Chapter activist calls on Canada to follow California on right to water
Water crisis in California