The California state government announced last week that federal and state water management agencies had agreed on a new plan for managing the state’s water needs over the next several months, in the midst of one of the most severe droughts ever experienced. However, the plan does not discuss proposals for long-term solutions to the crisis, including disputes over irrigation and the need for greater water storage facilities.
The plan largely focuses on managing storm runoff, continuing earlier efforts that still prioritized water delivery to the fisheries of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta over delivery to farms in the Central Valley. In recent years, farmers have not received their agreed-upon allocation, thanks in large part to environmental policy and a federal court ruling protecting the delta smelt. Farmers are turning to groundwater, or letting fields lay fallow.
A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California indicated that 15% of adults in California now view water and the drought as the state’s most important issue, behind jobs and the economy (32%) and well ahead of “education (7%), immigration (7%), health care (5%), crime (4%), and the state budget (4%).” Only 2% said that water and the drought were the most important issue in 2013, before the drought’s severity was known.