By Naty Barak, Chief Sustainability Officer, Netafim
Continuing where I left off in my last post, reminiscing about the good old days, the 80s in California, and the new challenges and opportunities for water management in California today. I was happy to visit the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, chaired by Assembly member Marc Levine, in Sacramento. Marc is a keen promoter of environmental stewardship in the region. I asked him a few questions:
What is the top challenge you believe the Water Sector is coping with in California?
“One of the most important and controversial issues affecting water right now is how to prepare for cycles of intense drought followed by heavy rain years. Due to the effects of climate change, this scenario is expected to be the new normal for California. The legislature is considering establishing new standards for water conservation. These bills reflect the need for water agencies to plan for water use in both wet and dry years. There have been numerous stakeholder meetings discussing the methodology of how these targets will be created and applied to water agencies.
Another major challenge facing the water sector is that as urban/suburban water efficiency goes up and consumption goes down, industry costs do not change. This means industry must raise prices right at the time consumers are doing what they’re told to do, use less water and become more efficient. Just last week, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), which serves east San Francisco bay area raised prices ~20%. The Utility is already seeing significant push-back from ratepayers. This is a long term challenge facing the industry as it must invest in water efficiency programs to increase the water supply due to climate change and also push water users to use less water.”
What do you think the solution is for achieving the right balance between agriculture and urban water use?
“The fight between urban and agricultural water users has always been at the forefront of water politics in California. While agricultural water use makes up 80% of the consumption in the state, it also provides jobs, adds to our economy, and feeds the world. Water conservation cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach for urban and agricultural uses. In addition to the urban water conservation standards, the legislature is currently considering a bill to require agricultural water management plans to increase water use efficiency, create an annual water budget, and prepare a drought preparedness plan.
In the long term, California is likely to gain much more economic value from non-agricultural uses of water. According to a Pacific Institute report, agriculture is one of the least efficient uses of water per gallon used, so agricultural water rights are likely to be sold to higher value users over time. This will make efficiency even more important as the agriculture industry adapts to this economic possibility.”
At Netafim, we have a role to play in helping the farming sector remain a viable source of food and contributor to the local economy. Drip irrigation can make a significant difference and Netafim USA looks forward to increasing collaboration with the California Legislative Jewish Caucus to provide necessary support.
Stay tuned for my next Water Perspectives post with insights from Norman Groot, Executive Director of the Farm Bureau, Monterey.