Although the last week has seen a massive flurry of rain and snow in California, the state’s drought situation is worse than ever and now into its third year. Most of the water from the recent storms has quickly seeped into parched soil in the watersheds, and state reservoir levels remain critically low.
Farms are under stress, and agricultural jobs are being lost statewide. That all of this coincides with the worst recession in years (many farmers will lose agricultural subsidies thanks to the new budget) makes matters even worse for the most economically productive farm state in America.
The water shortage in California has become dire enough that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state emergency, and drought-related economic losses are predicted to reach nearly $3 billion based on the below-normal rainfall this year. (Reuters)
According to The California Report on KQED, if there is no improvement by the end of March, then the Governor could institute mandatory water rationing. He has already asked agencies to expedite water transfers to farmers and consider some emergency exceptions to environmental rules governing water quality in the delta.
The Governor has called on urban citizens to cut their water consumption by 20 percent or more immediately, and asked state agencies to implement a water reduction plan. The governor appears to be serious in his call for water conservation efforts across the state, and believes that the situation is not one that will go away quickly.
“Even with the recent rainfall, California faces it third consecutive year of drought and we must prepare for the worst — a fourth, fifth or even sixth year of drought,” Schwarzenegger said.
California legislators have revived a $10 billion bond package to build new dams, fund conservation programs, and build plants to recycle waste water and recharge aquifers. Dam and canal projects, however, are particularly contentious. Last year, the Governor and Senator Dianne Feinstein put forth a proposal to build a series of dams and a peripheral canal; it received much criticism from environmentalists, who believe that such projects would destroy collapsing populations of local fish by diverting badly needed freshwater flows to subsidized agribusiness.
California produces more than half the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts. However, much of this could be lost this year as the main federal source of irrigation water runs dry, and state water project supplies wane.