So, who really IS to blame for California’s drought? With media headlines demonizing the almond industry for their gallon-per-nut water usage and scolding urban populations for their lack of water conservation, there’s no clear-cut, single answer. The members of the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment (CRAE) recently met to untangle the myths surrounding our current water crisis.
“Being an aggie is like having a bull’s eye on your back,” said one CRAE member, representing agricultural interests. Several CRAE members reported struggling with the perception that they got off the hook under the Governor’s recent mandatory water restrictions. It doesn’t help that media memes continue to portray California’s ag sector as water wasting, despite expensive efforts to continually increase efficiency. For many in the ag community, farming is a way of life, and the threat of losing all they’ve invested hits in a very personal way.
CRAE members representing environmental interests pointed to the lack of media coverage about the impacts of drought on wildlife. With some species quickly moving toward extinction, they are questioning whether Californians value our wildlife. And similar to the self-reflecting concerns of their ag colleagues, CRAE environmental representatives worry that environmental water is being portrayed as a wasteful expense. They also expressed concern that weakening environmental regulations to boost water supply would only create a negligible increase yet cause irreversibly detrimental effects to wildlife and ecosystems.
Urban populations (represented at the meeting by guest presenters) are concerned about the cost of water and want to do their part to save water and keep prices down. In the long term, they are interested in planning efforts that ensure an adequate water supply and functional infrastructure for the future.
In the ensuing dialogue, the diverse members of CRAE converged on the fact that casting blame on one another prevents us from reaching collaborative solutions. We are all residential, ag, and environmental water consumers – if any of these three uses fails, we all lose. We must collaborate to find solutions that work for us all.
Ultimately, it’s not about us and them – it’s about the future we want, together, for California.