Responding to a recently-released UC Davis study, the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and the Westlands Water District stated the study proves that failed government policies, not a lack of rainfall and snowpack, are responsible for the widespread water shortages and the fallowing of hundreds of thousands of acres of land.
“Contrary to some mistaken interpretations, the report did not conclude that the water crisis is easing, rather it exposed the terribly broken California water system that is creating long-term consequences for many California communities,” said Johnny Amaral, Deputy General Manager at Westlands Water District. “Even though the report found that 78,000 acres of prime farmland were taken out of production due to drought conditions, hundreds of thousands of acres are being fallowed due to government mismanagement of the state water system. Mother Nature’s effect pales in comparison to government’s water supply policies.”
Unfortunately, the academic study leaves the impression that conditions have improved for farmers, farmworkers, and farm communities, but the reality is quite different. Some irrigation districts are reporting higher numbers of total land fallowed in 2016, with one district alone fallowing more than 200,000 acres. In the U.C. Davis blog comment section, the author of the study clarified to reader comments that without the drought there would be approximately 1.2 million acres fallowed because of crop rotation and government restrictions, confirming that government decisions are responsible for reducing food production, eliminating jobs, and harming local communities.
According to the Robert Wood Foundation, Fresno and Tulare Counties’ quality of life ranking dropped from 2015 levels to dead last in the state in 2016. While the drought impacts on unemployment may have eased, government impacts have devastated many families; people remain unemployed and some have left the job market altogether.
It’s time for honesty in the very worthwhile public debate over how California’s water supply is being managed.