Fighting about water in California

Posted by Christine, June 19, 2015

In a recent Los Angeles Times‘ op-ed, California agriculture secretary Karen Ross took a bold stand on the No. 1 threat menacing her state’s beleaguered farmers: bad PR.

I’m being facetious. Water scarcity, obviously, is the specter haunting California agriculture. But Ross didn’t go there. Instead, she defended her state’s farms against charges by media pundits of irrigation profligacy, asserting that the farms are “worth” the 80 percent of the state’s managed water that they require.

Tom Philpott explains in Mother Jones:

And here’s where Karen Ross and her bully pulpit could help things. Rather than penning anodyne op-eds defending farmers’ water use from public criticism, she should be helping Central Valley farmers pull out of their groundwater death spiral by pushing for emergency measures to rein in groundwater pumping. “Our soils and climate are what have made it possible for us to supply so much of our nation’s and the world’s food,” Ross reminded us in her op-ed. She forgot to mention the rapidly depleting fossil resource that props up the Central Valley ag powerhouse—both literally and figuratively.