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California Drought - Crops vs. Livestock Prodcution

60 minutes ran a piece on California's water crisis.  Living in the Central Valley, this topic is not just near and dear to my heart, it is essential to the wellbeing of my city.  The usual debate of smelt and farmer's water rights was rehashed.  The need for efficeincy in cities' was also briefly discussed, though urban areas use less than 5% of the water supply.  (Agriculture consumes roughly 80% of our water supply.)  Agricultural efficiency or a change in types of agricultrual products were not even noted in the program.  (It really ended up being a vehicle for Swartzenegger's politcal career and an attack on state environmental legislation and environmentalists.)

To me, this seems like a important point in the water debate.  The meat, poultry and dairy production are much larger consumers of water than produce and other crops.  They are also a much smaller part of our agricultural revenue.  According to the State's website, 73% of our ag revenue comes from crops and 27% is from livestock.  We are known for out produce and specialty crops.  Almonds for example can only be grown a few places in the world.  Stanislaus and Merced counties have  a 75% share in the global almond market.  On the other hand, our dairy industry has been struggling for years - supply greatly outpaces demand - and is propped up by subsidies.  Crop production and processing also employs more people. 

The question is should we prop up our dying dairy and beef industries at risk of specilty crops, like almonds, that are the 'bread and butter' of our ag industry?  I do understand that people depend on these industries for their livelihoods.  However, it is time that our state made priorities that benefit the majority of it's residents.  Perhaps, we need to start converting our dairies, poultry houses and feedlots into more sustainable food production.

What goes to urban areas and what goes to ag is dependent on the water source.  If I remember the numbers correctly, for runoff that reaches waterbodies within California, 10% is used in urban areas and 40% is used for ag.  About 70% of State Water Project water is used in urban areas and 30% for ag.  Nearly two-thirds of Southern California water comes from the Colorado River (25% urban / 75% ag).  I think we still use more than our allotment in SoCal, which means we need to reduce our water use altogether instead of repurposing it.  I think a challenge of changing ag from animal to plant is that salinity becomes a problem in areas with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Lawns are the #1 irrigated crop in the US.  From a practical point of view, I wouldn't mind if California had both fewer CAFOs and lawns.

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What goes to urban areas and what goes to ag is dependent on the water source.

The numbers I use are from ecology and geography classes. I believe they gave numbers that reflected the state water usage as a whole not particular areas.  In most calculations, agriculture takes up a much larger share of water than urban areas. 

I think we still use more than our allotment in SoCal, which means we need to reduce our water use altogether instead of repurposing it.

 
Wouldn't repurposing to a less water intensive industry/use conserve water?

I think a challenge of changing ag from animal to plant is that salinity becomes a problem in areas with concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

I meant a transition in general terms.  Our focus should be on agricultural commodities that are more profitable and less water intensive.

Lawns are the #1 irrigated crop in the US.  From a practical point of view, I wouldn't mind if California had both fewer CAFOs and lawns.

  Water can't be transported from one distribution system to another.  Conservation has to be done within that particular watershed/region.  Less water use in Southern California would not nessesarily lead to more water in the Delta. Less lawns are a great idea especially if they are removed from the frontyards of those in the Central Valley.  However, an overall switch to more sustainable crops/ag industries within a particular water region is more prudent and essential to our economic success, particularly in the Central Valley.

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Water can't be transported from one distribution system to another.  Conservation has to be done within that particular watershed/region.   Less water use in Southern California would not nessesarily lead to more water in the Delta. Less lawns are a great idea especially if they are removed from the frontyards of those in the Central Valley.  However, an overall switch to more sustainable crops/ag industries within a particular water region is more prudent and essential to our economic success, particularly in the Central Valley.

It can't? Why is there continual discussion about the exportation/appropriation of fresh Canadian water by US interests, particularly appropriate in this case BC water to California? These discussions have been ongoing for most of my life, one would assume that because it has been discussed for so long the paltry issue of how to transport the water from one location to another has already been solved.

I'm not saying this is the best solution, far from it - just that I don't believe your quote above to be entirely correct.

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I reread your initial post and I think I understand about water usage.  Were the stats in the 60 Minutes piece about water use distribution specifically in the Central Valley?  Did our Governor propose building more levees/dams so as to deliver extra water to farmers and back it up by talking about ag worker unemployment and smelt?  He puts less-than-accurate spin on his angle, if that's what the program was about.

Wouldn't repurposing to a less water intensive industry/use conserve water?  Not enough.

Our focus should be on agricultural commodities that are more profitable and less water intensive.  I'm with you.

Water can't be transported from one distribution system to another.  Yes, it can be (e.g. SWP & Colorado Aqueduct).

However, an overall switch to more sustainable crops/ag industries within a particular water region is more prudent and essential to our economic success, particularly in the Central Valley.  I'm all for more sustainable crops and cutting off subsidies.  Nearly 20% of landfills are food waste.  I'd like to think that if food was more expensive, people would trash less of it.

eta:  There are many (many, many, many) more jobs in the industrial sector than the agricultural sector for a given amount of water.  Further, farming is a much smaller part of the economy than the industrial sector.  Considering how water intensive ag is versus its contribution to the economy, California may be better served converting from ag land to industrial parks. 

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There is more jobs in the industrial sector.  However, most employment in the Central Valley is still dependent upon agriculture.  There is some towns that have a 30-40% unemployment rate to the drought.  Fresno, Kings and Kerns counties have been devestated.  For a time, the housing sector had offset it's economic impact.  Now that that has collapsed, it has become very bad in the Valley.

We are also the largest agricultural state in the country.  We supply produce, nuts and other specialty crops for the nation and many parts of the world.  Our agricultural industry is not minor.

I am very well aware of our aqueduct system and how it operates.  You were mentioning urban areas in Southern California.  LA alone draws on several sources of water.  One of them is the California Aqueduct.  Yes, they should draw on less water from reservoirs and aqueducts.  I am not arguing that point.  Your statement seemed as if you felt that a reduction in lawns in LA and other urban areas would drastically reduce water use and refill our reservoirs and the Delta.  It wouldn't! The blame game between Southern and Northern California has been going on for a longtime.  "Who is using the most water?  Whose industry is more needed (ag or industry)?  Who is to blame for the drought?"

My beef with the piece on 60 minutes and the state legislature is that they pin all the blame on urban use and environmental regulations (i.e. the smelt debate).  Fresno has already reduced outside water use to once a week.  Sacramento has been toying around with municipal water meters.  Urban areas are on track for water reduction.  Many produce farmers are letting their farms go fallow.  Nut farmers are pulling out their trees.  Little attention has been payed to to the concentrated dairy and poultry farms.  No doubt that they are using a larger portion of water.  Our dairies in the area are not even profitable.  Why have they not been considered in this debate? 

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Water can't be transported from one distribution system to another.  Conservation has to be done within that particular watershed/region.  Less water use in Southern California would not nessesarily lead to more water in the Delta. Less lawns are a great idea especially if they are removed from the frontyards of those in the Central Valley.  However, an overall switch to more sustainable crops/ag industries within a particular water region is more prudent and essential to our economic success, particularly in the Central Valley.

It can't? Why is there continual discussion about the exportation/appropriation of fresh Canadian water by US interests, particularly appropriate in this case BC water to California? These discussions have been ongoing for most of my life, one would assume that because it has been discussed for so long the paltry issue of how to transport the water from one location to another has already been solved.

I'm not saying this is the best solution, far from it - just that I don't believe your quote above to be entirely correct.

She was mentioning lawns in the US and water use in urban Southern California.  You are referring to the Colorado River Water shed.  I used the term distribution system (i.e. aqueducts).  I am well aware that were have an extensive water distrubution system in California. My point was that concentrating on use in urban Southern California may not be as important as concentrating on use agricultural use in the Central Valley.

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I'm sooo against diverting Sacramento River water (essentially privatizing public water) and bullding dams (when the existing dams already aren't full).

(I'm not partial to the industrial sector over the ag sector, I was proposing that in response to your statement that we should engage the most water-wise economy.  Ag makes up 2% of the economy and uses a disproportinate amount of water, but I don't think we're better served without ag activity.)

That's a devastating amount of unemployment in your area.  Is the ag unemployment you mentioned part of a seasonal fluctuation or does it include people previoulsy unemployed?  According to Fresno County jobs info, there's seasonal fluctation, but not as much annual fluctuation.  Looking at Farm Financial Indicators, it doesn't indicate that the farms are hit as hard as the Governor suggests that they are.  That was all pretty easy to find.  You'd think he'd pick things that are less easy to fact check.  Although, I bet you that most people watching won't question it like you did.

I'm with your reaction to the 60 Minutes segment.  I thought they did better reporting.  They might as well bring on John Stossel to make how much they suck official.

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She was mentioning lawns in the US and water use in urban Southern California.  You are referring to the Colorado River Water shed.  I used the term distribution system (i.e. aqueducts).  I am well aware that were have an extensive water distrubution system in California. My point was that concentrating on use in urban Southern California may not be as important as concentrating on use agricultural use in the Central Valley.

My comment about the lawns being the most irrigated crop is for the entire United States, not specifically a region of California.  I don't know what it is for individual parts of California.

I'm not sure that SWP water is concentrated in Southern California.  According to SWP's Water Balance Summary, not that much goes to urban supply and I'm not sure how much of the urban goes to SoCal.  In dry years, the balance for ag and urban use comes from environmental use.

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The larger cities like Fresno, Stockton, Modesto, Merced and so on do have more of a cushion against the drought.  These cities economies were propped up during the housing boom.  Now that construction is down, the economic impacts of the drought have become more aparrent.  In Stanislaus county, the county were I live, unemployment is approaching 20%.  It has become that bad in the Central Valley.  This may turn around in the next food years if there is growth in other sectors.  I not sure in which industry.  Agriculture is the 2nd largest industry for the whole region and the leading industry in most counties.  Sacramento and Fresno metropoliton areas maybe the only places with a diverse enough economy to make a full economic recovery.

Seasonal umemployment does cause those numbers to fluctuate.  But, the drought has caused endemic unemployment.  The economy was much better in the county I live in a decade ago.  Unemployment has been creaping up in rural areas. Now that the housing market has crashed, it has all gone downhill everywhere.

Smaller towns and cities depend almost solely on agriculture.  Agricultural employment does not just incorporate those working on the farms.  There is also food processing and canning manufacturing. Small service oriented business also depend on workers income.  When there is a decline in production, it will devastate their economy.  Some of the smaller towns I have been to in the last few years have become very sad.

I agree the governor is taking the wrong approach.  The resolution should not be based on increased water flow.  We need to focus on conservation.   Wise use policies for urban areas.  An agricultural industry that better reflects our climate.  (Rice and cotton are also a big drain on the water supply.) Of course, much of this is politcial pandering to the conservatives in the Valley and powerful ag lobbies.  They would not readily back a governor or legislature that told them to use less water.

Personally, I think his gun hoe approach to large water projects is hypocrytical.  Didn't he just  attack our legislature for pet projects that bankrupted the state.  How does a $15 billion + water project hold up to say the Heathy Families Program?

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