California drought pits farmers vs. cities. But neither is the biggest water victim,
Published November 28, 2015
In August, the Senate voted unanimously to approve a spending bill that included $1 billion in funding for the Central Valley Project to supply California’s agricultural water needs. If the funding is approved, the CVP will provide water to more farms and ranches. But California residents will pay more than once.
The state is planning to begin a $1.6 billion desalinification project to raise water from the Sacramento River, then distribute it to cities and farms. But the process has already been costly for farmers, who have been forced to invest in expensive pumps, storage facilities and other water-use equipment. The project requires water-bearing sediments from the Sacramento River to be dredged before the water is released from the San Joaquin Estuary – an expense that would be shared by farmers and the city of Stockton.
In the long run, the more expensive water storage and delivery projects are likely to harm the environment, according to the report, “The Central Valley Water Conversation: The Politics of Water in California,” by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a research and educational nonprofit.
“The current drought has already forced more water out of the Sacramento River than it’s ever done,” said E.L. & P. President and CVP Director Andrew Brown. “This drought has already forced more water out of the Sacramento River than it’s ever done and it continues to do so every year. The next year will bring more.”
But farmers have not let up despite the pressure to cut costs by diverting water from the CVP. Farmers in the Central Valley are among the hardest hit by the drought. E.L. & P.’s Brown noted that farmers are already facing the loss of at least $26.7 million for water this year and will likely face millions more in losses due to reduced agricultural production if the drought continues.
“So while it’s great to get