California Drought May Be Over, But the Damage Is Done

Fluoride will soon be added to Coronado's water supply.

Water, as we all know, is one very valuable resource. We need it for the basic essentials—to bathe, to clean, to drink. It’s also the reason all of us are able to eat. Without water, our farmers couldn’t grow food—not just for us, but for the world. But recent water restrictions have hindered farmers, causing loss of jobs, loss of crops and higher food prices.

In 2008, due to a drought and threat to an endangered fish, a decision was made to cut back water usage. Normally, when extra water is needed, water is pumped from various reservoirs. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a main fresh water resource for us, contains a fish known as the delta smelt. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibited the pumping of water from the Delta, fearing that the endangered smelt would be threatened.

The smelt, along with a California drought, caused more water shortage and higher water prices. In 2009 and 2010, a severe water restriction was put in effect for our state and the farmers got hit the hardest.

“Thirty percent of water usage was cut in Southern California,” said market manager Mary Hillebrecht. “Central Valley was cut by almost 100 percent.”

The drought was deemed over by Gov. Jerry Brown at the end of March 2011, but these extreme water restrictions have not yet been completely lifted. And unfortunately, once the bans do lift, the damage from them has already been done.

“Farmers cut down a third of their trees,” Hillebrecht said. “Or they cut back (pruned) their trees, which then died. Trees don’t live without water.”

Farmers who decided to keep all of their trees ended up losing some of them anyway. And those who cut down their trees lost a percentage of their crops, their workers and income. Hillebrecht believes cutting back so severely on agricultural water use ended up negatively affecting our economy.

“We would’ve had jobs, shipping, more usage of fuel, people would’ve been buying more of our product,” she said.

All in all, the water restrictions have had a domino effect. Not only have they put people out of jobs, both in the farming industry and in the shipping industry, but they’ve affected the price we pay for our fruits and veggies.

“Prices are the highest they’ve been in a long, long time because of water restrictions,” Hillebrecht said, “and also because of other happenings in the world (like the extreme frost storms in Florida and Mexico).”

According to the American Farm Bureau, retail food prices as a whole have increased by 4 percent already this year.

Hillebrecht boasts that farms, like Valdivia Farms, have adapted well to the restrictions. Other local farmers, like Bob Polito of Polito Family Farms, sit on water boards with hopes of making a positive change in the way people view water and agriculture.

“Unfortunately, we can’t change the law or how people think,” Hillebrecht said. “But we do what we can.”

Ways farmers have had to adapt to the water changes include growing different crops. While it’s not ideal, it’s sometimes necessary. Big money-making crops have been hit the hardest.

“Hay, corn, cotton, wheat and barley have all been affected” by lack of water, Hillebrecht said. “Fruits and vegetables, too. Nothing’s been untouched.”

It’s important for residents to realize that while home sacrifices have had to be made (like only watering the lawn on mandated days), the farmers’ sacrifices have been far greater. And while the drought may be declared “over,” water usage is something we should still be conscious of.

“It’s not thoughtful to go from a closed-tight policy to free-use,” said Coronado resident Barbara James, who thinks that the restrictions lift will contribute to more water waste. “The management of water is crucial to farming.”

For now, the farmers continue selling their best products at our market, hoping the slightly higher food prices won’t deter the local residents from buying. And though the drought may be over, don’t let that fool you into thinking prices will drop anytime soon.

“The price of water has gone up more than double since the restriction was lifted,” Hillebrecht said. “And a discount is not offered to farmers anymore.”

So the next time you’re at the market, scoffing at the price of your favorite peas, remember all of the work, struggle, money, and effort put into growing that beautiful crop. And the next time you take a long shower, think of the more useful ways for all of that precious water.

“If we lose our farmers … well that’s what feeds the country!” James said. “Everyone needs food.”

 

Resources:

 

Thoughtful Ways to Conserve Water

  • Shorter showers. Time them for 5 minutes. And don’t shave with the water running.
  • Sweep your driveways, patios and sidewalks.
  • Water your grass and plants at night.
  • Use energy-efficient appliances, like dish washers, toilets and washing machines
  • Fix those leaks! Not only will it save the state water, it’ll save you money on your water bill.


2 Comments

  • ✞R.I.P Russ Haas 1974-2001✞♈®

    Please Revise my Dust Bowl paper, tell me what I should/need to fix, etc.?
    The Dust Bowl also known as Dirty Thirties was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936, however in some places it lasted until 1940. The Dust Bowl was caused by a severe drought, (which is a long period without rain) also coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation or other techniques to prevent erosion. Deep plowing of the top soil of the Great Plains had killed the natural grassed that normally kept the soil in place and trapped moisture, even during the period of droughts and high winds.
    During the drought of the 1930’s with no natural anchors to keep the soil into place, it dried, turned to dust, and blew away eastward and southward in large dark clouds. At times the clouds blackened the sky reaching all the way to the East Coat cities such as, New York and Washington D.C. Much of the soil ended up deposited in the Atlantic. These immense dust storms were given names such as, “Black Blizzards” and “Black Rollers” often reduced visibility to a few feet.
    The Dust Bowl affected 100,000,000 acres, centered on the pan handles of Texas and Oklahoma, and adjacent parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. The Dust Bowl was an ecological and human disaster caused by the misuse of land years of sustained droughts. Millions of acres of farming became useless, and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes. Many of these families were known as “Okies” (because so many of them came from Oklahoma), traveled to mainly California, along with other states. Because they found economic conditions better than those places they had left. Many owning no land, traveled farm to farm picking fruit and other crops at starvation wages.
    On November 11th, 1933, a very strong dust storm stripped top soil from desiccated South Dakota farmlands in just one of a serious of bad storms during 1933. Then beginning on May 9th, 1934, a strong two-day dust storm removed massive amounts of Great Plains top soil in one of the worst storms of the Dust Bowl. The dust clouds blew all the way to Chicago where dirt fell like snow. Two days later on May 11th, the same storm reached cites in the east such as, Buffalo, Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C. That winter, red snow fell on New England.
    On April 14th, 1935, known as “Black Sunday” twenty of the worst “Black Blizzards” occurred throughout the Dust Bowl, causing extensive damage and turning the day to night. It was so bad that people could not see five feet in front of them at certain points. Some roosters thought it was night instead of day, and went to sleep during them.
    “If you would like your heart broken, just come out here,” wrote Ernie Pyle, a roving reported in Kansas, just north of Oklahoma border, in June 1936. “This is the dust-storm country, and it is the saddest land I have ever seen.”
    “In the dust-covered desolations of our No Man’s Land here, wearing our shade hats, with handkerchiefs tied over out faces and Vaseline in our nostrils, we have been trying to rescue our home from the wind-blown dust which penetrates wherever air can go. It is almost a hopeless task, for there is rarely a day when at some time the dust clouds do not roll over ‘visibility’ approaches zero and everything is covered again with a silt-like deposit which may vary in depth from a film to ritual ripples on the kitchen floor.” Says in a letter from a woman of Oklahoma in June of 1935.
    During president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office in 1933, governmental programs designed to conserve soil and restore the ecological balance of the nation were implemented. Interior Secretary, Harold C. Ickes established the Soil Erosion Service in August 1933, under Hugh Hammond Bennett. In 1935 it was reorganized and renamed the Soil Conservation Service.
    President Roosevelt ordered that civilian conservation crops to plant a huge belt of more than 200 million tress from Canada to Abilene, Texas to break the wind, hold in water in the soil, and hold the soil itself in place. The administration also began to educate farmers on soil conservation and erosion techniques including, crop rotation, strip farming, contour plowing, terracing, and other improved farming practices. In 1937, the federal government began an aggressive campaign to encourage Dust Bowlers to adopt planting and plowing methods that conserved the soil. The government paid the reluctant farmers one dollar an acre to practice one of the new methods.
    In 1938, after extensive work re-plowing the land into furrows, planting tress in shelterbelts and other conservation methods has resulted in a 65 percent reduction in the amount of soil blowing. However the drought continued. In the fall of 1939, the rain came, finally bringing an ending to the drought. During the next few years with the coming of World War 2, the country is pulled out of the Depression and the plains once again b
    In 1938, after extensive work re-plowing the land into furrows, planting tress in shelterbelts and other conservation methods has resulted in a 65 percent reduction in the amount of soil blowing. However the drought continued. In the fall of 1939, the rain came, finally bringing an ending to the drought. During the next few years with the coming of World War 2, the country is pulled out of the Depression and the plains once again become golden with wheat.

    Well it was put into paragraphs but this site fucks off everything.

  • time waster

    Perhaps try to outline/ re-organize all "your" ideas so that you have a few main points (illustrating each with some of your specific details) that follow some logical organization so that it no longer reads as a cut and paste of facts you found in reference books… For instance, you might want to organize your ideas topically, as in 1. reasons for the Dust Bowl
    -over farming/poor practices…
    Etc
    2. results of Dust Bowl
    -government intervention
    -immigration West
    Etc..
    (these examples are just brief illustrations…not a real outline for you to follow)…
    or perhaps you might want to organize your paper temporally, that is trace the events of the Dust Bowl as they developed over time…. Point is, you need to give your paper/argument a more cohesive structure…As it stands now, it makes one feel like you cut and pasted facts from several web searches, roughly sketching out a time line of the event, but not offering much insight …(you’ve obviously done some good research, but now you need to show the results of actually running this information through your specific brain, as you seem to have a good one..)
    References :

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