Report Calls for Water Reforms to Avert Crisis

Tacy CalliesCalifornia Corner, Water

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Much of California’s irrigation water arrives as snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the central and northern part of the state.

California citrus growers may soon face even more water hardships, according to a report by University of California, Berkeley economists David Sunding and David Roland-Holst. The report shows that the lack of responsible, balanced water reforms will lead to the loss of up to 20 percent of today’s working farms.

According to data released by California State Assemblyman Jim Patterson, the permanent economic impacts of the new groundwater recharge requirements, coupled with the state’s repeated reductions in water allotments, will require that up to 1 million acres of productive farmland be permanently fallowed in the San Joaquin Valley. This is about one-fifth of all acres under cultivation in the area and includes land with permanent crops such as citrus.

The report shows the new groundwater recharge requirements will result in farm revenue losses of $7.2 billion per year, or about 14 percent of the state’s total farm production. California will permanently lose as many as 85,000 full-time jobs and $2.1 billion in employee wages across California. Local and state tax revenues will drop by approximately $535 million per year.

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While the impact is statewide, the areas most impacted by job losses are the state’s most underserved communities already suffering from the lack of quality drinking water. The citrus-growing regions around Lindsay and Porterville suffered greatly in the last drought, due to poor groundwater supply and no water allocations from state programs. In addition to lost citrus orchards, community and private wells were shut down, and drinking water had to be brought in by truck.

The report was supported by the “Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley,” a broad coalition of local governments, academic institutions, water users and others.

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Len Wilcox

Correspondent at Large for Citrus Industry Magazine and AgNet West