Public Comment

California Drought

By Jagjit Singh
Friday March 14, 2014 - 01:01:00 PM

The California drought has largely been exacerbated by misguided government policies that encouraged large scale agricultural farming. Agriculture consumes 80% of available water while contributing a minuscule 2% of the state economy. Farmers continue to grow alfalfa, rice and other thirsty crops. Their resource usage has been heavily subsidized by the government and according to The Economist they have paid a paltry 15% of the capital costs of the federal system that delivers much of the water to their fields. Thus, farmers have no incentive to efficiently irrigate their farmlands. The rainy season has less than five weeks to go before the onset of spring and summer which will bake much of California and exacerbate the likelihood of wild fires. The water table has decreased in many areas prompting farmers to drill deeper to reach groundwater further depleting aquifers.  

Last January Governor Brown issued a drought declaration and urged Californians to cut water usage by 20%. $187m of federal aid coupled with $687m of California aid should bring some relief. However what are sorely missing is details of how the funds will be spent. Much greater pressure needs to be directed at farmers where the payback would be far greater. If homeowners are encouraged to let their lawns die, perhaps golf enthusiasts could find some other leisure pursuits and let golf courses suffer the same fate.