California drought pits farmers vs. cities. But neither is the biggest water victim.
The West, where we live and irrigate, is the largest agricultural exporter. But cities make up more than 80% of California’s population.
We don’t irrigate the most.
A couple times a year the state has to decide whether to water its farms with imported water or cut back on our own water usage.
It’s a tough call. Our largest cities already use some of the lowest water rates in the West.
But every day, the cities get less water as farmers get more.
It’s a tough problem to fix, unless you can get the farmer to stop using the biggest water source.
That’s the problem of the Central and Southern California aquifers. It’s the biggest problem facing the Central Valley. If these two aquifers are dried, we could lose as much as 100 billion gallons of water a year – more than a year’s rain.
There are other aquifers – smaller – that don’t have such an immediate impact like the Central and Southern California aquifers. The problem is that these aquifers have not had their water replenished for years.
In the Central Valley, the problem is the Salton Sea. It serves as the top of a massive underground reservoir. These two aquifers, the Central and Southern California, are the largest reservoirs of water in the world. But because they’re not replenished, they can be damaged by drought and overuse in a way that water we import from Mexico and Canada is not.
If the two aquifers were to be drained, the water used for agriculture would drop by 90% in a single year. More than a billion tons of crops and other agricultural products would be affected.
The problem is the water problem is not in Sacramento. The reason is the California Legislature has refused to restore the billions of dollars of water that was stolen last year.
At a time when our cities are getting more and more expensive to run, the California Legislature chose to spend billions more on the state’s biggest problems. At one point last year, it was spending more than 1.5 billion dollars on the state’s water problem.
California just doesn’t have the money to fix it