Droughts continue to spread wildfires, dead grass, and general discomfort across the West Coast of the United States. But the droughts’ effects are far from limited to their above ground damage. There is another issue brewing as the rains continue to hold out; water rights and farming.
“Look at the parks, there isn’t a single park that still has green grass,” Roni Silvada, a Los Angeles native, complains. “We are told that we must make attempts to cut our water consumption, 25% I think it is.” She is referencing Governor Browns Executive Order, put into effect May 18th, 2015, that directed the State Water Board to implement decreased water usage by 25%. The state has been in a drought state of emergency since January. Silvada went on to say, “But other than that, the drought doesn’t have a huge effect on our day to day lives, we cant water our yards and conserve, but the real problem is with the big farms outside the city.”
And she’s right, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California’s produce revenue brought accounted for 14.7% of the total United States agricultural exports. The same year California exported $7.6 billion worth of milk and $3.05 billion in cattle. California’s temperate climate allows for the year round production of a vast amount of foods, and as the drought continues, legal battles are being fought to buy up what little water is still left underground to irrigate these vital crops. But more often than not, a harsh truth is realized, there isn’t enough water to maintain the current level of production.
The same sentiment is echoed up the the coast in Washington, where reduced rains have left entire counties blindly engulfed in dust. Rosemary Hoff, the owner of a horse farm with a small alfalfa crop, is a native of Walla Walla Washington, her farm is situated between vast, large scale wheat crops. “Most people think the drought is solely responsible for our water problems, but that’s not true, there is simply more people drinking and using the same amount of water.” She went on to explain the large corporations have bought up swathes of land around her property, with intentions of growing wheat, establishing wineries, and opening businesses. As of now, Hof’s water usage is maintained through a small man made pond and a well dug on her property. But she fears that will not always be the case, “You can see them, up on the hill, digging wells that they’ll be using to supply themselves with water. The issue with that being that they will suck up all the water that we’ve been using here for years.”
A couple miles down the road, at the Martin house, one of the longest active farms in the county, the same opinions can be heard. Marc Delulo is a 50 year old, independently contracted farmer, hired to farm and sell the hundreds of acres of wheat grown on the property. “My biggest concern is that we won’t address the problem until it’s too late. I genuinely fear that when I hand the business over to my son, I will be dooming him to a failing industry. The fact of the matter is that if you don’t have water, you don’t have crops. I mean look at all this dust we have out here, you can’t even see the mountains.” What Delulo is referencing is the amount of dust in the air. The dry summer has led to dust being blown into the air, creating an eerily apocalyptic feeling throughout the area. Delulo added, “Remember the dust bowl? We’re living in the days leading up to another one, and we aren’t doing very much to stop it.