Thursday, June 4, 2015

Agriculture Water Use, Consumer Practices and the Drought

California is still in a drought. Surprised? You shouldn't be; this has been all over the news for months now. The lack of ground and other water sources is concerning, and so even though Samantha and I have both written about behavior modification and the megadrought future of California, there is more to be said about what you can do and what others, especially those in agriculture, should be doing to mitigate the dry conditions in the state.

Governor Brown has cracked down on water allotments, reducing potable urban water usage by 25%. Final decisions about agricultural water use have yet to be determined. About 80% of water consumed in the state of California goes to agriculture and the state's farmers need all that water because they supply much of the country’s produce, yet the industry has already seen cutbacks on surface water allotments and will likely see more.

Some farmers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river delta have said they will voluntarily give up 25% of their allotments if the government does not ask for additional cutbacks. This is huge because water rights in this region date back a couple of centuries and are fiercely protected.

Photo Source: econlife
The state may have a decision on the agricultural water cuts soon, but how significant the cuts will be is not known. Even though there are many farmers who have said they would take a voluntary cut, there is no way to know how many actually will and who will wait to reduce their usage when final decisions and programs are developed. Many hope that the farmers who are volunteering water cuts will inspire others to follow suit before final decisions are made.

Farmers may need to rethink their crops as well. Some crops are so water intensive that it will not make sense to grow them as the drought conditions perpetuate. One such crop is alfalfa – the reason why an excessive amount of water is needed to produce a burger. Plus, a lot of our alfalfa crops are sent to China for cattle feed, so American consumers cannot even reap the benefits!

Photo Source: Daily Kos
As a consumer, you, too, can choose to buy and eat less water intensive produce. I stopped drinking Almond milk when I learned it takes about a gallon of water to produce each almond. That is quite a guzzler! And almonds aren't even the biggest guzzler in the nut family; walnuts are far worse!

How can you figure out how much water your food takes to produce? Check out this handy interactive infographic by the New York Times and prepare yourself to be shocked. Try participating in Meatless Monday. Try millet instead of rice. We can all make a difference to mitigate the effects of the drought whether or not we live in California. When will you start?

No comments: