California has been suffering from a drought that has reached troubling levels for several years. In recent years, water has been subject to rationing in order to reduce consumption by 25% to try to conserve the water levels. Some sectors like Kent County do not have drinking water service forcing them to buy bottled water or processed water. Other sectors such as Lost Hills have their drinking water is contaminated with arsenic forcing residents to incur an estimated expenditure of more than $ 69 per month, which is an obvious impact on the pocket. On the other hand, we have the agriculture industry that does not apply rationing and have free use of water. It is here that there is a war between industry and citizens.
In the 90’s the Monterey Agreement was created setting up a “Water Bank”. This water bank is nothing more than filling the aquifers found in the California plains whenever the delta exceeds its capacity to be used in times of drought. Does not sound so bad after all. These aquifers are under private ownership and as groundwater is not regulated by the state the owners of these lands can make free use of them. 58% of the water stored in Kent belongs to Steward Resnick who owns the Paramount Farming Company and the Wonderful brand. Resnick is the largest farmer in California and is among the richest people in the United States.
Agriculture uses 80% of California’s water and accounts for only 2% of the state’s economy. Farmers receive virtually free water, which allows them to sow the crop that generates the most profit. In California are grown 99% of almonds, 98% of pistachios, 91% of strawberries, and 88% of grapes g of the annual crop of the United States. Although this region supplies 25% of the food consumed within the country, most of these products are exported, leaving profits of 33.8 billion dollars to farmers in 2013. As drought increases in California, agriculture has grown from to be a $ 24.9 billion industry in 2009 to $ 33.8 billion in 2013. Earnings to the owners of these companies while citizens have no water to consume.
In California, 680 trillion gallons of water is used to produce 1.8 billion pounds of almond, which makes up more than three times the water used in the city of Los Angeles annually. To this we can add the 27 million of gallons extracted by the Nestlé company for its products and bottled water. John Vidovich (Farmer) said “We are about planting, definitely about planting. That’s why I always extract groundwater. ” Faced with these facts, all affected Californians are increasingly struggling for equity against this nonrenewable resource.
Just in 2013 is that in California the government has begun to pay attention to the claims of citizens between legal battles of environmental lawyers fighting the interests of large companies. Even today, the Monterey Agreement that ceded millions of gallons of water to farmers has not changed. In 2015, the Groundwater Sustainability Management Act (SGMA) was established. The EMS constitutes an effort by the government and companies to maintain the standards of groundwater and establish business and citizen consumption plans, as well as regulate who owns these waters. This represents a partial victory for citizens and environmentalists since this act has phases that constitute from 2015 to 2042. Year in which the total control of these groundwater came into force. Meanwhile, the farming companies have continued to plant and consume excessive amounts water since they will not receive any type of penalty until 2045. Meanwhile, the struggle of citizens continues to stand for a better distribution of drinking water in California.
“Whiskey is for drinking; Water is for fighting. ”
Natioanl Geographic Docuemtal ‘Water & Power: A California heist’