A March 14 editorial in the Los Angeles Times penned by hydrologists Jay Famiglietti, former professor at UC Irvine and Michelle Miro, doctoral candidate at UCLA, discussed the rapid weather shift in California over the last several years from extreme drought to the atmospheric storms this winter which delivered critical moisture to the Golden State.
Unfortunately, the op-ed writers took partial aim at California agriculture, claiming that the Golden State will likely always face drought due to heavy water use by agriculture. The writers claim that California agriculture has an insatiable thirst for water, claiming that “Agriculture is literally sucking the state dry.”
My view is that California is a desert state so drought will always be on its radar screen. What this editorial misses is the fact that largest use of water in California – about 60 percent – is for non-agricultural purposes – water to make computer microchips, smartphones, water releases into the sea, roads, building the bullet train, environmental purposes, and others.
According to the California Department of Water Resources, agriculture uses about 40 percent of the state’s available water supply yet the scornful water use pen too often draws the larger target on agriculture’s back.
Why the hardline stance against agricultural water use these days? In my view, agriculture is an easy target for water use claims since people can easily see farm fields and crop irrigation while driving down highways and interstates. Too many times they only see water used by agriculture and fail to digest the connection where watered crops help fill THEIR bellies and put clothes on THEIR backs. It’s an investment in the human race.
This editorial could have noted that water use by agriculture has fallen dramatically over the decades due to farmer investments in state-of-the-art irrigation systems and a wide array of other water-saving technology. But instead agriculture is still viewed as the problem child, instead of part of the solution.
This is a prime opportunity for the agricultural industry and irrigation companies to further tap social media and other public relations tools to share agriculture’s wise use of water; highlighting the technology in place today that makes agricultural water use more sustainable than ever.