Water supplies dedicated to fish should be subject to the same efficiency standards as those affecting California farmers and homeowners, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation, which criticized a proposal released today to require significant new amounts of water to be directed to the ocean.
CFBF President Paul Wenger said the proposal by the State Water Resources Control Board could idle as much as 240,000 acres of Central California farmland—with no guarantee the redirection of water will help the fish it’s intended to benefit.
“For years, regulators have been requiring increasingly more water in the name of environmental protection, but fish populations have continued to decline,” Wenger said. “Regulators have no idea how many more fish—if any—would result from dedicating even more water to environmental purposes. But we do know one thing: This will hurt people.”
Wenger described the basis for the board’s approach as untested, unproven and unpromising, given past results.
“Turning our regional economy, our local communities and our livelihoods into a regulatory experiment is not a responsible way to manage our precious water resources,” he said.
“Farmers have consistently improved the efficiency with which they use water to grow food and farm crops,” he said. “It’s time to apply the same standards to water dedicated to environmental flows. Those flows must be reasonable, useful and most of all, effective.”
Wenger said Farm Bureau will urge the water board to revise the proposal and work with local water managers and communities to create “a balanced plan to help the environment without causing needless suffering” to people in the affected areas. He said the plan must also comply with the state’s longstanding system of water resource allocation, must afford operational flexibility and must emphasize other factors affecting fish populations, such as predation and habitat.
“Forcing farmland to be fallowed—as this proposal would surely do—degrades the unique environmental resource represented by California farmland, and will hurt people and the economy throughout the region and state,” he said. “It would create another area of chronic water shortage and economic distress, without any proven environmental benefit.”
The California Farm Bureau Federation works to protect family farms and ranches on behalf of more than 53,000 members statewide and as part of a nationwide network of more than 6.2 million Farm Bureau members.