[env-trinity] Editorial: Make farmers do their fair share to conserve water
tstokely at att.net
Thu Feb 22 11:25:26 PST 2018
Make farmers do their fair share to conserve water The Bay Area should embrace the state’s call Tuesday to make permanent waterwasting rules that were in effect during the last drought. It’s the responsible thing for urban water users to do when the Sierra Nevada snowpack stands at only 20 percent of normal.But farmers should be required to do their part, too.Agriculture is the state’s largest water user, gulping down 80 percent of California’s usable supply. With urban users facing $500 fines for allowing water from sprinklers to run onto sidewalks, shouldn’t Big Ag pay a proportionate fine for allowing sprinklers to water roads and highways when irrigating Central Valley fields? Nearly 60 percent of California farmers still don’t have drip or other efficient irrigation capable of producing crops with 40 percent less water.The State Water Resources Control Board should approve the permanent rules for urban users when it meets next month. The board should also impose a similar set of rules on farmers, including penalties for irrigating low-value crops in dry areas of the state. A little-known provision of the California Constitution gives the state the power to ban “waste or unreasonable use” of water. It’s past time the board put that power to use.California is the nation’s No. 1 food producer. Its 75,000 farms grow more avocados, grapes, lemons, lettuce, melons, peaches, plums, tomatoes and strawberries than any other state. But California farmers should be held accountable for the irresponsible choices they make on which crops to grow and the method of irrigation.During the last drought, from 2012 to 2016, Central Valley farmers doubled their plantings in water-intensive almond orchards to 800,000 acres. Ten percent of the state’s available water supply goes to those almond orchards, or roughly half the water consumed by California’s urban users. Every almond harvested in the Central Valley takes a gallon of water to produce, and 70 percent of the crop is exported, primarily to India and China.The State Water Resources Control Board rules under consideration for urban users are reasonable. They make it illegal to, for example, irrigate lawns so much that water runs onto the sidewalk, an adjacent property or the street; wash a motor vehicle with a hose, unless it has a shut-off nozzle; or water lawns within 48 hours of a measurable rainfall, defined as a quarter-inch.California has sufficient water to meet its needs in the event of another drought, but only if the state imposes on farmers the same commonsense approach to conservation that it proposes for urbanusers.We’re all in this together. It’s time for farmers to do their part.Nearly 60 percent of state farmers don’t have drip or other efficient irrigation capable of producing crops with 40 percent less water.DAVID MCNEW — GETTY IMAGES
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