Farmers Cut Back as Beleaguered California Hit by Water Loss

A day before California accepted voluntary water cutbacks by farmers, vandals targeting an inflatable dam in Fremont sent 50 million gallons of water meant for the city’s residents flowing into the San Francisco Bay.

“This is a very significant loss of water under any circumstances, and more so in the drought conditions we are experiencing,” Robert Shaver, the Alameda County water district general manager, told the Oakland Tribune on Thursday. “It is an utterly senseless, destructive, and wasteful thing to do.”

According to the ACWD, the lost water could have supplied 500 homes for a year.

The loss is the latest setback for the state, which is in the midst of a historic four-year drought that has led to Governor Jerry Brown imposing mandatory water cutbacks on urban consumers for the first time ever.

Brown’s order has gotten a lukewarm reception in the state—not for the loss of green lawns, but for its exemption of the agricultural industry, which consumes 80 percent of California’s water.

After weeks of public outcry over the lopsided order, the state water board announced Friday that it had accepted a deal from farmers to cut back their water usage by 25 percent.

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Scores of farmers made the deal to stave off stricter mandatory cuts, which the water board said it would impose if the two sides could not reach a deal. The plan applies only to riparian rights holders—landowners who have direct access to a river or stream.

The LA Times reports:

Since the plan is voluntary, it remains to be seen how many farmers will participate—which, in turn, makes it hard to guess how much water will be saved by the effort. Still, conservationists in the state say it is better than nothing.

“It is a sign that creative solutions to the drought are possible and that everyone must make sacrifices, whether it’s cutting back on watering our yards or laying some crops fallow,” Brian Stranko, director of the Nature Conservancy’s water program, told the LA Times.

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