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In July, governor Gavin Newsom urged California residents to cut water usage by 15%. Two months later, water use has dropped a mere 1.8%. That said, the 15% goal came without state-wide mandates, resulting in varied responses from different regions. For example...
- Water usage restrictions were enacted in Sonoma and Cloverdale, resulting in a 50% and 37% reduction in usage, respectively.
- Meanwhile restriction-free areas such as Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego saw no change while water suppliers in the area actually used more water.
Environmental activists argue this imbalance in conservation stems from unfair contracts, drawn decades ago, that favor older water management companies (or irrigation districts). These contracts today provide those senior contractors, who manage water for agribusinesses and lands like golf courses, with four million acre-feet of water from the state even as junior agricultural contractors get none. So while residents and wildlife suffer the consequences of low water levels, senior contractors are getting no less than 60,000 acre-feet allocations — enough for 1.8 million Southern California households for a year.
Though there’s more contributing to the worsening crisis, in which hundreds of wells are running dry and reservoir levels drop well below historic averages.
- First, there’s legal farming. Farmers suffering from drought-driven losses over the years are turning to emerging revenue opportunities, such as coffee farming, which requires double the water needed to grow almonds — a notoriously water-intensive crop.
- Then there’s illegal farming. Water thieves in California are profiting off water stolen from just about every source imaginable, including fire hydrants. The stolen water is then sold on the black market and most often ends up on illegal marijuana farms set up in the desert.
And it’s a problem affecting more than just California residents. The state is home to 131 native fishes, most of which can’t be found elsewhere. The drought now has 81% of them in decline with 24% already listed as threatened or endangered. For example, the endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon is expecting an 80% mortality rate this year. To begin resolving the issue, some are recommending a statewide monitoring program to regularly check on fish conditions.
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We sourced information today from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Donating to support their work helps them continue to research and develop blueprints for solutions that better support our planet.
- The Counter (Where we found this story) 1 week old | 11 minutes long
- Civil Eats Growing coffee in Cali 9 days old | 15 minutes long
- California WaterBlog Drought impacting fish 3 months old | 14 minutes long
- Below the Fold Water theft in the state 2 months old | 2 minutes long
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