Saturday, January 16, 2010

CASE STUDY: California's Water Crisis

By Courtney Shipe

Finishing up its third straight year of drought, California is in a desperate situation in regards to water. With the Central Valley population continuing to expand and grow, the demand for water is stressing the state's water districts which are already struggling to make sure there is enough water to go around. The agricultural areas of California, such as the Westlands southeast of Fresno have been hardest hit, not only by the drought, but by pumping restrictions on the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. These restrictions were put in place to preserve the Delta smelt, an endangered fish similar to an anchovy. About 25 million people and 2.5 million acres of agricultural land receive their water from the Delta.

If a solution is not found to California's water crisis, farmers say that the agricultural community will be finished. "It's one of the grimmest water situations we've ever faced," almond grower Bill Diedrich states. "It's an absolute emergency and anything to get water flowing quickly is needed." Finding a solution that will satisfy all parties involved is a difficult prospect however. Politics is playing a big role in the way the water crisis is being handled. With environmentalists, farmers, Republicans and Democrats facing off in the "water wars", lawmakers were barely able to pass a series of bills in November of this year that call for a new canal to move more water from the north part of the state into the south. A roughly forty billion dollar project, the bills also allow for an increase in monitoring water usage and penalties for water misuse.

According to a New York Times article, "Many environmentalists still believe that the bill's not go far enough. But they won oversight of the ailing estuary, checks and balances on future dams and some mild penalties for failures to conserve water." Almost a quarter of the agricultural land in the Central Valley remained fallow in 2008 due to water shortages. Shortages have also led to a decline in the salmon population throughout the state. Clearly there is a need for some solution to California's water crisis. One can only hope these new bills will begin helping the ailing state. Until then, water conservation remains the best way for individuals to help their state's water supply.

For more information about California's water crisis please visit

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