The Future of Water in California

Patrick Cavanaugh, owner of the California Ag Today Radio Network, participated in a southern California hour-and-a-half forum on August 21, entitled, “The Future of Water in California,” hosted by KPCC, a public radio station in Pasadena, California. Panelists included Los Angeles public water leaders and consultants, as well as the senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. More than 300 attendees watched the discussion and were invited to ask questions. Video was available “live” on the Web and was recorded for subsequent broadcasts throughout southern California. Patrick was invited to speak on behalf of California’s vast, dynamic $45 billion agricultural industry to tell how much water farmers use in California. The forum host said agriculture was using 80 percent of the available water in California.Patrick’s comments were designed to set the record straight for this southern California urban audience.

California Ag Today Radio Network owner, Patrick Cavanaugh
speaks about the state’s agricultural water usage.

“Let’s all get this right. Agriculture does not use anything close to 80 percent of the water in California,” he began. “In a normal water year basically two-thirds of all water that is developed in state comes from rainfall and snowmelt in Northern California, more than a hundred miles north of the Sacramento Delta. That water is captured and stored in the Shasta and Oroville reservoirs. Again, that is the bulk of the rain and snow that falls on California on an average year.”

“From that ‘two-thirds’ water, 75 percent of it flows through the Sacramento Delta and out to the ocean to prevent saltwater intrusion into the Delta, to help the fish species, as well as for the Delta’s general health,” Patrick explained. “Of the 25 percent left over, the Delta farmers use about six percent to farm potatoes, asparagus, and sweet corn. That leaves 19 percent for users south of the Delta farms, including many farms, towns, as well a good chunk going to Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose,” he explained. “It’s not possible that farmers are using the majority of developed water.” “Furthermore,” Patrick said, “many farming areas south of the Delta are getting zero water allocations this year. The eastside of San Joaquin, where citrus and other tree fruit, walnuts and many vegetables are grown, typically utilizes 800,000 acre-feet of federal water. This year they are getting zero. Similarly, the westside of the Valley throughout Fresno and Kings counties in a normal year would utilize 1.5 million acre-feet of delivered water through state and federal projects. This year, the deliveries are zero. Growers who have groundwater are desperately using it to keep their permanent crops alive,” Patrick said. “These crops include  hundreds of thousands of acres of almonds, pistachios, cherries and vineyards.” Addressing the crowd, Cavanaugh challenged, “We all need to make a decision. Do you like lettuce, tree fruit, almonds, walnuts, pistachios and strawberries? If you do, and you want these to be produced by California instead of being imported from elsewhere, then we all better figure out a way to ensure a reliable water supply for everyone in California.”

Regarding his participation in the panel, Patrick said, “It was a good opportunity to tell the big-city dwellers the real story behind the rural area of California that produces so many nutritious crops and employs a lot of people.”