In A Crisis Too Good To Waste, Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics fears that an impending El Nino phenomena will dampen California’s urge to substantially reform our wasteful water management ways. Recent reforms–new restrictions on groundwater use and actually imposing fines on exceeding water consumption caps–are good first steps, but more are needed, particularly in regards to the agriculture industry, which he points out consumes 80% of the state’s water but accounts for only 2% of its economic output.
“While some individual farmers have been hurt financially by the current water situation, overall, the agricultural industry has most certainly not”
- farm employment is the highest it has been since 2000.
- real agricultural output in California is higher than at any point prior to 2006
- Over the last three years farm earnings have been 35% higher than they were from 2004 to 2010.
- growers of USDA-protected crops have access to federally subsidized insurance programs.
- California’s farmers still grow low value/high water usage crops
He recommends continued limitation of agricultural water consumption even if the rains return and used the savings to” recharge reservoirs, refill ground water basins, and restore natural habitat.”