California Drought Crisis in a Nutshell
- “California’s water policy is about more than farmers. It’s about jobs, schools, families and our environment. The San Joaquin Valley is the #1 agriculture producing area in the country and has the unique ability to provide a safe and reliable food supply, which is essential to the California economy and long term security of the United States.” –familiesprotectingthevalley.com
- According to the US Drought Monitor Index, 58 percent of California was in an “exceptional” drought, as of July 29, compared to just 36 percent the previous week. Although the word “exceptional” usually carries a positive connotation, in this case, it is the worst drought classification available. The rest of the state continues to suffer from “severe” and “extreme” drought conditions, according to the Index’s rating system – meaning the entire state in a serious drought.
- California’s reservoir system also reflects the deteriorating water supply situation with many reservoirs at less than half of normal levels for this time of year. The state’s largest reservoirs, Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, are both nearly two-thirds empty. Meanwhile, San Luis Reservoir, a key storage site for south of Delta water users, is at just 20 percent of capacity.
- In 1960, 1.3 million people lived within the five county Delta regions. Today, that same area is inhabited by almost three times as many residents. As the population has grown, so have the impacts to the Delta ecosystem.
Doesn’t Agriculture Use all the Water?
- Most agricultural contractors with the State and Federal Water projects received none of their Delta water allocation for 2014, forcing them to fallow over 800,000 acres of productive crop land.
- Another oft-repeated statistic is that agriculture uses “80 percent of all the state’s water.”
o When politicians and water experts say agriculture uses 80 percent of all water, they mean 80 percent of the smallest pool of water for human use.
o By defining “all water” as the smallest pool of water, the percentage of water used by agriculture thus is inflated to 80 percent.
o On average, agriculture uses only 42 percent of all system water and only 17.7 percent of all average annual rainfall and imports, according to the California Department of Water Resources..
- California farmers have increased their water use efficiency through the years – crop production has nearly doubled since 1967 while applied water use has stayed stable or decreased.
- Almost all trees and vines established since 1990 are irrigated using micro-irrigation.
- Most of the water is allocated in California is to the environment, not farming or lawns and swimming pools.
- Farmers have already spent $2 billion since 2003 on water conservation improvements.
- In a wet year, 64 percent of all system water is dedicated to the environment — where it is flushed to the sea through rivers, mainly for fish runs.
- When we think of “environmental water,” we think of water flowing by gravity in natural rivers, streams and lakes. But in a modern technological society, water has to be captured in storage reservoirs to prevent flooding and released to rivers for fish runs. In other words, water for the environment also has to use electricity.
- Where California could get its greatest water savings is through quantification and greater efficiency of environmental water, not agricultural or municipal and industrial water.
- A recent court decision will keep in place protections for the delta smelt that cost water users over 800,000 acre-feet of water in 2013.
- That’s enough water to provide 1.8 million households or 320,000 acres of farmland with water for a year. Yet these restrictions have shown little to no evidence that they have had any benefit to smelt populations.
“More than 3 million acre-feet of water that once served farms, homes and businesses has been ‘re-prioritized’ each year for environmental purposes. Unfortunately, unlike urban and agricultural public water agencies, environmental uses are not required to meet any sort of efficiency standards.” -Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition
**(tnfarmbureau.com / article section at bottom of page)
An acre-foot contains 325,900 gallons of water, and can supply the annual indoor and outdoor needs of one to two urban households.
Do you know how much water is used in your house?
Brush your teeth? – 2 to 5 gallons
Wash the car? – 50 gallons
Use the dishwasher? – 8 to 15 gallons
Flush the toilet? – 1.5 to 4 gallons (each flush)
Take a shower or bath? – 17 to 24 gallons
Run the washing machine? – 35 to 50 gallons (each load)
Watering the lawn? – 180 gallons
Do you know how much water it takes to produce the food you consume?
Lettuce (1 cup)? – 3 gallons
Tomatoes (4.3 oz)? 8 gallons
Milk (8 fl. oz)? – 48 gallons
Egg (1)? 63 gallons
Almonds (1 oz)? – 80 gallons
Chicken (8 oz)? – 330 gallons
Hamburger (4 oz)? -616 gallons
Steak (8 oz)? – 1,232 gallons