Actions in a widened drought emergency order issued today by Gov. Gavin Newsom will provide some short-term benefit through voluntary water transfers and exchanges in parts of drought-stricken California, the California Farm Bureau said, while the organization expressed concern about emergency powers granted to the state water board and re-emphasized the need for significant, long-term investments to secure future food production in the state.
“The pandemic has reinforced that farming is an essential business and the drought has reinforced that water is essential to farming,” California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said. “We appreciate any effort the state can make to provide more water in the short term to farmers who need it. At the same time, we must not lose sight of existing water-rights priorities and the need to balance supplies for food production, fisheries and cities.
“By widening the drought emergency, the governor has recognized the reality facing much of rural California: Our future is not guaranteed,” Johansson said. “By proposing to invest in canal repairs and other projects, he has shown a willingness to address part of that longer-term problem, but where are the projects the voters invested in when they approved a water bond seven years ago?
“Following a year of economic shutdown for our communities, record wildfires, blackouts on the state’s electrical grid and soaring home prices, it is apparent Californians face a quality-of-life issue. We hope this is a watershed moment in which we realize that building, not just planning, will preserve that way of life,” he said.
“In addition to longer-term infrastructure needs, we also need to ensure family farms—and the people, communities and businesses that rely on them—are able to survive this year. We urge the governor to engage with family farmers, at the local level, to understand how best to ensure that our farms and the food they produce will be available to Californians for years to come,” Johansson said.
“Water to farms means food for families, jobs for farm employees and much-needed help for rural economies,” he said. “With predictions that climate change will lead to even less certainty about precipitation and water supplies, California must commit to a full-scale program to increase storage, enhance efficiency and create new supplies through water recycling and desalination.”