As drought drives prices higher, millions of Californians struggle to pay for water. With the drought spreading to every corner of America, we’ll hear how local governments are struggling too.
A drought is never good for agriculture — or for farm workers.
It’s no surprise that a major water crisis exists in California, where two-thirds of the state is already grappling with drought. But how California is responding — and how our federal government is helping — is a story of economic and environmental injustice.
And as California is forced to make hard choices, the impact on workers, especially in agricultural areas, could be enormous.
When the federal government and state water agencies cut back water use, this is what happens: In the fields, farmers are forced to cut the hours of their workday. In many parts of the state, including San Joaquin Valley, where the valley’s agriculture and water have historically produced more than most other agriculture and water areas in the state combined, the number of hours a day workers work has fallen sharply.
Today, with the drought intensifying, California’s water supply is expected to drop another 9% in the next several years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The federal government is also cutting back on water supplies from the Western River Project, which brings water from a mountain to the Central Valley from the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada.
The drought situation in California has been made worse by decisions made by the Obama administration and a handful of Democratic lawmakers.
When the drought intensified, we learned that the Obama administration had issued guidelines for the Western River Project that would have reduced the project’s water supply by 80%. But the White House ignored calls to take an emergency step to provide drought relief, and Republican Gov. Jerry Brown chose to ignore the recommendations of California’s top experts. The administration also ignored a recommendation by the California Department of Water Resources to take emergency measures to ease the water shortage.
Congress is now investigating water regulations that the Obama administration is trying to push through, including a water bill that would give the Agriculture Department the power to reduce the flow of water to the Western River Project.
And the administration is