Agricultural land in a state of drought

Photo credit: Kristine Delicana

The first in California’s history—Gov. Jerry Brown orders mandatory water restrictions over the entire state. Although not a complete shock, considering the state is entering into its fourth year of a drought, the restrictions are still having large effects. Effects that are unfortunately not falling in the right area.

Brown’s “Save Water” restrictions consists of a 25 percent decrease in water usage for all towns and cities in California, along with significant cuts to campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and landscapes. However, there happens to be one group missing from this unprecedented water restriction: agriculture.

The casual exemptions of agriculture from Brown’s April 1 press release did not have casual reactions, nor should it have.

Members of the media, like The Associated Press spoke out about this inequality, “agriculture uses 80 percent of the water that Californians draw from groundwater and surface supplies,” which is significantly large, compared to the minuscule 25 percent usage that comes from urban water.

Urban Water – lawns, golf courses, parks and public medians—will be reduced, along with the 50 million feet of drought tolerant lawns and a ban on home developments that avoid a water-saving drip system. But, the mandates on agriculture were again, extremely mild, especially for the agriculture-investor favorites like, almonds.

The market for almond agriculture has largely expanded over the past decade. They are now considered a multibillion-dollar company and the top in export crop, with a consumer increase of 1,000 percent.

This demand for California almonds seems to be coming from everywhere, but more specifically, the Asian market.

“That strong Asian market is producing up to 30 percent returns for investors, prompting agribusinesses to expand almond planting in the state by two-thirds in the past decade. The crop has come to be dominated by global corporations and investment funds,” The Associated Press said.

However, this astonishing agricultural growth holds very little weight to the states economy overall. California retains only around 2 percent in gross domestic product from agriculture. Not to mention, almonds consume more water than all indoor water usage made by the 39 million residents living in California. And to top it off, this isn’t even the most water consuming crop in California.

An unconcerned Brown said California’s farms are, “providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America.” And, although Brown is right, California still needs to limit and transfer crops with high water usage and low economical growth.

Our land is becoming too dry, and with the influx of agricultural growth our groundwater will continue to decrease.

How can we truly believe in a drought recovery, when our plan is restricting water from areas that least consume our groundwater?

Almonds and agriculture, they sound compatible but not in a California drought!