When California officials struck an unprecedented conservation deal Friday with a group of farmers who have the strongest claims on the state’s dwindling water supply, it showed no one was immune from the fallout of the drought.
The land is bare, except for a few weeds, and the ground is cracked. For the second year in a row, Dan Errotabere is fallowing one third of his ranch: 1,700 acres of California farmland that might have grown tomatoes, garlic, onions and garbanzo beans.
California farmers who hold some of the state’s strongest water rights avoided the threat of deep mandatory cuts when the state accepted their proposal to voluntarily reduce consumption by 25 percent amid one of the worst droughts on record.
Delta farmers can voluntarily reduce water use during the drought without capitulating to outside interests who are targeting their water rights, according to supporters of an unprecedented plan approved Friday.
In a move reflecting the growing severity of California’s drought, state water regulators have accepted a historic proposal by Delta region farmers to voluntarily cut water usage by 25%, or, alternatively, to allow a quarter of their fields to lay idle.
Five local municipal water suppliers are currently awaiting the response from the State Water Resources Control Board that will determine whether they will be granted a low monthly water conservation quota or be hit by cuts up to seven times that amount.
As environmental review for its Monterey Peninsula desalination project approaches a critical stage, California American Water is already moving ahead with hiring contractors for key aspects of the project.
Decades ago, industrial pollution began fouling some groundwater wells throughout Los Angeles County. That prompted water officials to stop using the most polluted wells and rely more on water from Northern California and the Colorado River.
Citing heavy demand for fake turf and other drought-tolerant landscaping, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is considering a $350-million increase in the money it spends on conservation rebate programs.
With California farmers not planting as much rice due to water restrictions, Southern rice-growing states are jumping in to fill the gap by expanding their production and taking some of the Golden State’s markets in the process.