A report released today by the Southern California Water Committee and the Committee for Delta Reliability exposes the unintended consequences of nearly two decades of water cuts caused by environmental regulation – showing the hardest hit are those who rely on agriculture to survive, such as farmworkers, food processors, truck drivers and warehouse workers, among many others.
Acclaimed U.C. Berkeley Professor and Department of Agricultural & Resources Chair David L. Sunding studied the impacts of water cuts since 2000 and found that California is losing an average of 1.3 million acre-feet of water each year – enough water to sustain more than 10 million Southern California residents for a full year or irrigate 400,000 acres of farmland. Sunding also studied future impacts of water cuts and determined that the outlook is bleak for hard-working Californians toiling each day to grow our nation’s food supply, as they’re expected to lose more than 21,000 jobs every year over the course of 30 years – with more than 11,000 being farmworker jobs.
“Water cuts have resulted in more than 38 million people competing for fewer available resources,” Sunding said. “While everyone is impacted to a degree, it’s clear that California’s farmworkers have been ignored and forgotten in the state’s water woes – ultimately losing jobs and income.” The report concludes that farmworker wages are an unforeseen causality of water cuts – with workers already having lost $900 million in wages since 2000 and poised to lose $4 billion in wages over the span of three decades.
Sunding’s data also shows that consumers are losing out – with California’s fertile heartland shrinking and threatening the future of the Golden State’s food supply. The report concludes that 55,000 acres of farmland have been fallowed each year since 2000, and that number is expected to increase to 195,000 acres of farmland each year over the course of 30 years.
Agriculture is not the only industry impacted by water cuts. The report also concludes that current water restrictions have already cost urban communities more than $5 billion since 2000 as they recoup lost water supplies. That number is expected to grow, as it’s estimated that water districts will likely spend an additional $10 billion over the next 30 years just to make up for water cutbacks.
“Although California is no longer facing an emergency drought, this year’s influx of rain does not solve the long-term problem of water storage, management and availability,” added Charles Wilson, Executive Director of the Southern California Water Committee. “We cannot conserve our way out of a drought and assume that those negatively impacted by water cuts will be made whole. Instead, we need a balanced solution – like California WaterFix – to ensure a clean and reliable water source for all Californians, now and in the future.”