Crisis, Opportunity and Climate Austerity in Drought-Stricken California
In the midst of a severe drought, California Gov. Jerry Brown has enacted the state’s first mandatory water cuts. The restrictions are aimed at curbing municipal water consumption by 25 percent from 2013 levels, acting on 400 local water-supply agencies. Noticeably exempt, however, is the state’s largely corporate-controlled agricultural industry, which uses 40 percent of the state’s water and makes up just 2 percent of its economy. Fossil fuel companies, which used 70 million gallons of water for fracking last year and an estimated 2 million gallons each day, won’t face any restrictions either.
In an op-ed calling for Brown to include agribusiness in the cuts, Ted Rall asked, “Isn’t it easier and cheaper to regulate the water consumption habits of a few thousand huge farms than of millions of individual households?” Growing almonds alone, in fact, requires more water than the metro areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco combined over the same time period.
Unsurprisingly, it’s wealthy Californians who tend to consume more water than their lower-income counterparts, according to a recent UCLA study. As one Los Angeles-based community organizer told theLos Angeles Times, “South L.A. and East L.A.,” two poorer areas of the city, “have done their part. Now the affluent communities need to ante up.” While class-based differences in water consumption are important to point out, there’s a bigger issue at hand.