Countdown: 3 Days to Drought

hourglass with dripping water close-up

On Wednesday, the State Water Board will vote to redirect enough water in the system to irrigate over 200,000 acres of farmland or meet the annual domestic needs of 2 million people every year. If approved, this action will lead to one of the most preventable droughts California has ever faced.

Is This Just Fish vs Farms?

Absolutely not. The negative impacts of this policy are broad and deep. Education officials are concerned about water supplies for schools, water experts worry this will stall groundwater replenishment, health officials are troubled by potential impacts on sanitation, cities large and small don’t know how they will replace the lost supply, Bay Area experts are alarmed by potential cuts to water supply, lost jobs and lost economic activity, and the list goes on and on, including some unexpected consequences. In a recent article from Breitbart News, Joel Pollak writes, “Leslie McGowan, the CEO of Livingston Community Health, said local hospitals saw the impact of water shortages — in the rising number of indigent patients, and in the rise of opioid use and other forms of substance abuse.”

Read about additional consequences in the words of those impacted:

“Let us be clear. The detrimental impacts of the Board’s plan will be felt strongly by the children that we serve. . . it is unclear why you have not taken the time to study the financial implications to school districts that would be forced to provide bottled water and portable toilets, or relocate schools entirely, as wells go dry. . . Access to drinking water and water for sanitation is a basic requirement for us to fulfill our mandate to provide quality education to the children of our districts.”

Steven Gomes, Merced County Superintendent of Schools
Tom Changnon, Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools

 “Many communities in the Merced area are already experiencing well production problems and drinking water quality issues . . . Over 800,000 people live in the two counties [Stanislaus and Merced]. Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for the majority of the local population. The plan sorely understates the devastation this recommendation will cause. As an Interim Director of Environmental Health, I am required to ensure that safe, adequate, and dependable water supplies are available for domestic use.”

Vicki Jones, Interim Director of Environmental Health
Merced County Department of Public Health

“The consequences of these cutbacks potentially could cripple our Bay Area economy. Our initial economic analysis of the first iteration of this plan forecast up to 51 percent rationing, resulting in 140,000 to 188,000 jobs lost in the Bay Area.”

Harlan L. Kelly Jr., General Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
Nicole Sandkulla, CEO and General Manager, Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency. 


There’s still time to adopt compromise plans supported by water districts, scientists, education officials, health departments, farmers, farm workers, cities, economic development officials and others ready to implement solutions that science tells us will help.

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