Low prices, pandemic, supply chain issues, rising costs to produce citrus, and now one of the worst water years we’ve ever experienced. This business isn’t for the faint of heart!
The extremely wet December gave us a temporary sigh of relief, only to be followed by one of the driest January through March ever recorded. Will an extremely wet April come and be the savior? I’m not betting on it.
At the same time Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) are gearing up to implement pumping caps and fees associated with pumping. Attempts to drill new or replacement wells are being delayed unnecessarily due to the Governor’s ill-advised Executive Order.
There is no denying how complex the water system is, and we must acknowledge the significant challenge some in government have in delicately balancing water rights, environmental restrictions, salinity management, and the myriad of court precedent and legal filings. I don’t envy them, but we also cannot accept the status quo and the impacts we are faced with because of it.
The system that has been created isn’t working. Some will say that there isn’t enough water. That’s partially true, but it is also a scapegoat for inaction on tackling the bigger needs. Of course, there isn’t enough water available in dry years to satisfy all users. But it is also true that we also don’t have the infrastructure nor the regulatory flexibility to properly manage the wet years. Zero allocations and bottled water delivery are not an acceptable response for citrus growers, or the rural communities that surround us.
We must also recognize that we didn’t get here overnight, and expectations must be managed so that the absolute win doesn’t get in the way of near-term improvements. For years, growers and organizations have fought with each other over water and that isn’t going away. District versus district, North versus South, East versus West, and now surface water versus white areas. These divisions have merit in certain instances but have been a welcome present for those who seek to take away our water. Just ask your local Congressional representative about the challenges of representing the diversity of agricultural water interests versus the combined strength today of those who seek to take our water away.
At stake today is a 15% allocation to eastside growers. As you’ve heard from water leaders, this allocation is likely to be reduced due to the exchange contract that was entered into years ago but is also a subject of legal and regulatory interpretation that all parties are deeply engaged in at this very moment. We must focus our attention on understanding these dynamics and putting all our energy towards preserving as much of the allocation as possible. This is not the time for blame. It diverts focus from the crisis in front of us. There will be plenty of time for it later.
We must also keep up the pressure to bring needed infrastructure funding to all our citrus growing regions. Unfortunately, this crisis creates that opportunity. Our potential for success can be greatly increased when we let go of our egos and combine the collective strengths of water districts, GSA’s, growers, agricultural groups, and the communities at large.
Its why we are a founding member of the Water Blueprint, a place where these same diverse water interests can make collective efforts to better our water future. Frankly, it’s frustrating that this took agricultural water interests this long to get into one room. It’s not perfect and significant differences of opinion remain. But that’s why we meet, not an excuse not to!
Wherever the conflicts are, and there are many of them, we must stop isolating ourselves and thinking that’s a pathway to progress. It’s time to resolve the conflicts and do it in a way that allow us to move forward with a stronger voice. We shouldn’t care how it happens or where it happens, but that it happens. It surely won’t magically make our water issues disappear, but the consequences of not doing so will be fatal.
For more information about CCM’s involvement on this issue and the overall drought relief efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact Casey Creamer by phone at (559) 592-3790 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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