(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — After California failed to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of 25 percent reductions outlined in a historic April 1 executive order, the state’s Water Resources Control Board adopted even more stringent water restrictions Tuesday that, despite criticism from water experts and environmentalists, continue to exempt agricultural water use.
Cumulative water savings since last summer have totaled only 8.6 percent, far below the governor’s reduction goal, according to the State Water Resources Control Board. Under the new rules, cities have been ordered to cut water use by as much as 36 percent compared with 2013. Agriculture, which consumes 80 percent of the state’s water and accounts for only 2 percent of the state economy, has remained exempt from the new regulations.
“Nobody has addressed the agriculture issue,” William Patzert, a NASA Oceanography Research Scientist, told ABC News. “They’re trying to get through this drought without going head to head with farmers that have senior water rights.”
He added that growing water-intensive but high-profit crops such as almonds and walnuts for export was “living beyond your means.”
Connor Everts, facilitator of the Environmental Water Caucus, an organization that promotes sustainable water management, told ABC News, “The discussion no one wants to have is what crops we should grow.”
Everts added that agriculture was “the missing link” in addressing California’s historic drought.
The California Farm Bureau Federation, which has argued that state farmers have done more to address water conservation than the government by pointing to a 43 percent increase in crop production per acre-foot of water in the past 40 years, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“They’re providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America to significant parts of the world,” Gov. Brown told George Stephanopoulos last month on ABC News’ This Week, where he defended the measures.
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