High and dry on the California farm

March 13, 2009

At lunchtime in California’s San Joaquin Valley, farmers meet up at Jack’s Prime Time Restaurant, where they can get a good, honest meal … just what one expects from an establishment smack dab in the middle of the most productive farming region in the world.

But the mood at Jack’s is decidely somber. A few days earlier, the farmers in these parts were told not to expect any federally supplied water this year due to a third year of drought and low levels in the reservoirs.  Without water, they can’t plant their lettuce and tomatoes, and they may lose parts of their precious almond and pistachio orchards.  All this land flourished with water brought from hundreds of miles away, snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada.

In reporting for our series on water scarcity in the U.S. West, I was amazed that the top farming region in the nation had not prepared itself better to deal with Mother Nature’s fickle ways with water. But many here feel they would have avoided this predicament were it not for the “man-made drought” —  new regulations to save endangered fish species by sharply restricting water pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. And there’s a lot of anger at environmentalists who want more water for wildlife habitat and less for farming.

“Everyone’s looking to place blame,” said Jack Minnite, who owns the popular restaurant in the town of Firebaugh. “But if the environmental restrictions on the Delta were lifted, would our problems be solved?”

Probably not. As you can see in Part 4 of the water series, there is no silver bullet for the water scarcity that cloud’s California’s farming future. Climate change is expected to worsen the intensity and frequency of drought in California, leading to drastic diminution of the Sierra snowpack that serves as the state’s largest fresh surface water reserve.  A combination of additional water storage infrastructure, a new canal, more low-water crops and greater conservation could save the industry, experts say. But that will require a lot of compromise and, as processing tomato buyer Frank Pitts says, “laying aside the emotion.”

One gripe that comes up time and again in these parts is that the American public and politicians do not understand what is at stake in the San Joaquin Valley. Let the region’s farms succumb to water scarcity, they say, and Americans will see less fresh produce at their supermarkets and higher prices. Oh, and then there’s that issue of food security. 

“This is like buying foreign oil,” almond farmer Mike Wood said. “All of the sudden, we have no control over our food supply.”

Farmers insist they are not crying wolf over water. This is the worst it’s ever been for them, they say. But are California’s farmers to blame for their own water woes?

Photo credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith (A water canal and almond farmers in Firebaugh, California, February 2009)


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Cloud seeding is the only resort to get more precipitation.Today,China is the world leader on cloud seeding by producing about 65 billion cubic meters of annual additional rainwater at an inexpensive cost benefit ratio of 1;27 by employing 37000 technicians to squeeze more water from the atmospheric clouds.see the following websitehttp://jcsepa.mri-jma.go.jp/outre ach/20070131/Presentations/P3_Yao.pdfhtt p://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-06- 29-china-rain_x.htmhttp://gitam.edu/cos/ env/English-Book.pdf -http://www.indiawaterportal.org/blog/in dex.php/2007/11/16/cloud-seeding/prof.T. Shivaji Rao.M.S.[Rice,Texas,1962]Director,Enviro nment,Gitam University,visakhapatnam.India

Posted by prof.T.Shivaji Rao | Report as abusive

1) There has to be clouds to seed2) Cloud seeding is horribly wasteful way of eeking out a trivial amount of moisture3) I bet these guys wish they would have taken R3-D2 serouse back in the early 80’s when he chirped about water conservation.4) To bad Bush Sr pretty much destroyed small time Mid west farmers back in the 80’s They would have been perfectly postioned to take up the slack…..

Posted by eron | Report as abusive

lets see will you get any help from Nancy, or Barb Boxer, well maybe the Govenator will do something. My my you have a problem, that’s for sure. I do to, everything will cost more. Well maybe we need more illegal aliens. Ya Think?We sure love you on the left coast. Happy Ameros to ya

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

Google Amero

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

Similar rifts between environmentalists, federal government and municipalities seeking access to potable water plague north Georgia and Lake Laniers precipitous decline. The most essential resource we have has been ignored for decades and we relegate ourselves to arguing over who gets what little is left.It is evident that humanities great concern is the world economic crisis. I just don’t think our leaders get it. The massive consumption of fossil fuels was as unsustainable economically as environmentally. In fact one can argue the high cost of diminishing water is as debilitating to the economy as the high cost of energy.How we produce food, the appliances we manufacture and consume and where we build cities to live and work will all have to be rethought. Change is inescapable. The cost will be high and to some unacceptable. I doubt prolonging the inevitable will make any easier the changes we must all undertake. Such change probably will prove to be more costly the longer societies delay substantive action.I guess the real question is do we want to choose our sacrifices to mitigate the crisis we face? Or do we let the crisis choose our sacrifices for us?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Cloud seeding to fight the impacts of climate change in USA————————————————————Recently Australian Government held an international workshp n cloud seeding and concluded that cloud seeding is the need of the ghour to fight the impacts of climatre change.Hence intelligent Californians should copy the example of China and Australia and take up cloud seeding to fight the growing water scarcity as suggested by prof.T.Shivaji rao who is working as an Expert for the cloud seeding project of the A.P.State Government since 2004.For more details see the following web sites alsohttp://www.bom.gov.au/bmrc/basic/eve nts/cloudseeding/CS_Booklet.pdfhttp://ww w.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_release s/ho/20070509.shtmlhttp://www.abc.net.au  /rural/content/2007/s1920342.htmhttp:// shivajirao.cloudseeding.googlepages.com/ scienceofcloudseedinghttp://www.indiawat erportal.org/blog/2007/11/16/cloud-seedi ng/

Posted by Ms.P.Subhashini | Report as abusive