Global environmental challenges
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?”
”Think of that (Australia) as California’s future,” water researcher Heather Cooley of California’s Pacific Institute told my colleague Peter Henderson. You can see his report, part one of our series on water scarcity in the U.S. West, here.