Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneg-ger’s emergency drought proclamation came as a glass of cool water at a time when local agriculture groups are thirsting for good news.
Among other features, Schwarzenegger’s proclamation orders the Department of Water Resources to transfer more groundwater through the California Aqueduct. It also requires the department to work with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which provides water to growers through the federal Central Valley Project, for improved deliveries to contractors.
These are important short-term solutions needed to prevent a total collapse for the 2008 growing season. However, both the governor and Central Valley legislators recognize that the state will continue to operate in crisis mode until longer-term solutions are found.
Those include the means for more water storage and an improved conveyance system, though such efforts must be performed with the utmost environmental care. In addition, increased conservation measures are needed for municipal and industrial users, who typically receive a far higher percentage of their promised water allocations than agricultural users.
Meanwhile, growers should take advantage of the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program, among other programs that provide money for conservation efforts.
Happily, the city of Patterson seems to be keying in to the need for conservation, as the City Council recently discussed existing water rationing measures for residents and the need to conserve water on public lands. The city plans to enforce these measures soon and plans to consider ways to improve the efficiency of its own irrigation practices.
City and county leaders must carefully consider the water situation as they plan for the future. At a time when the city is preparing its future general plan and county leaders are planning for a potential 4,800-acre industrial park in Crows Landing, it is imperative that the area’s water needs are carefully considered.
For example, there may be challenges in selling water from districts north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to users south of the Delta, so mere “paper water” agreements may not be enough. It will be important to determine whether water sold by other districts is actually accessible.
There is plenty of work to be done in the short term, too. Everyone must do their part to get through the next few months by using water wisely.
We live in an irrigated desert. It is time to face that reality, rather than allowing cities, their businesses and their residents to expend our limited water supply as if we were living in a rainforest.