Cal­i­for­nia’s Gov. Brown crit­i­cized over drought or­der ex­empt­ing farm­ers

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sun­day de­fended his or­der re­quir­ing Cal­i­for­ni­ans statewide to cut back on their wa­ter use in a his­toric man­date that spares those who con­sume the most — farm­ers.

As Cal­i­for­nia en­dures a fourth year of drought, Brown’s or­der this week re­quires towns and cities statewide to draw down wa­ter use by 25 per­cent com­pared with 2013 lev­els. While past re­duc­tions were vol­un­tary, Brown said he is us­ing his emer­gency pow­ers to make the cuts manda­tory.

Martha Rad­datz, host of ABC’s “This Week” public af­fairs pro­gram, asked Brown why the or­der doesn’t ex­tend to Cal­i­for­nia farm­ers, who con­sume 80 per­cent of the state’s wa­ter sup­ply but make up less than 2 per­cent of the state’s econ­omy. Brown said farm­ers aren’t us­ing wa­ter frivolously on their lawns or tak­ing long showers.

“They’re pro­vid­ing most of the fruits and veg­eta­bles of Amer­ica to a sig­nif­i­cant part of the world,” he said.

Brown said that be­fore the cut­backs, some Cal­i­for­nia farm­ers had al­ready been de­nied ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter from fed­eral sur­face sup­plies, forc­ing them to leave hun­dreds of thou­sands of acres un­planted. Many vul­ner­a­ble farm la­bor­ers are with­out work, he said. Farm­ers who don’t have ac­cess to sur­face wa­ter have in­creased the amount of wa­ter pumped from limited ground­wa­ter sup­plies.

Brown an­nounced the man­date on April 1 stand­ing in the Sierra Ne­vada, where the snow­pack mea­sures at 5 per­cent of his­tor­i­cal av­er­age, the low­est in 65 years of record-keep­ing.

Ad­dress­ing agri­cul­ture, Brown said on the broad­cast that farm­ers as­sert­ing cen­tury-old wa­ter rights deeply rooted in state law that al­lows them ac­cess to more wa­ter than oth­ers “are prob­a­bly go­ing to be ex­am­ined.”

Af­ter declar­ing a drought emer­gency in Jan­uary 2014, Brown urged Cal­i­for­ni­ans to vol­un­tar­ily cut their wa­ter use by 20 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year. That re­sulted in great vari­a­tions among com­mu­ni­ties and an over­all re­duc­tion of about 10 per­cent statewide. Brown did the same as gover­nor in 1977, dur­ing an­other se­vere drought, ask­ing for a vol­un­tary re­duc­tion of 25 per­cent.

The manda­tory or­der will also re­quire cam­puses, golf cour­ses, ceme­ter­ies and other large land­scapes to curb their wa­ter use.

“It is a wakeup call,” Brown said. “It’s re­quir­ing ac­tion and changes in be­hav­ior from the Ore­gon bor­der all the way to the Mex­i­can bor­der. It af­fects lawns. It af­fects peo­ple’s — how long they stay in the shower, how busi­nesses use wa­ter.”

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