Chuck Dees is an irrigation consultant for Stamoules Produce Co. in the San Joaquin Valley. Stamoules, he says, has prepared for the drought through improved distribution, drip irrigation, and groundwater development. A well behind and to the left of Dees is encircled by a ring a salt, bellying the inferior quality of groundwater. April, 2009

Finding Certainty In An Uncertain World

This is the ninth and final part of the series ‘Reflections On Water

Most every farmer I’ve talked with has, at some point in our conversation, made the comparison between farming and gambling. The decisions of what to plant, where, and how much are a yearly gamble on commodity prices, domestic and international demand, and weather. Growers are experts at hedging their bets, hoping to create as much certainty as possible in their uncertain world.

In what has universally been called a ‘historic proposal’, riparian rights holders in the California Delta have volunteered to slash water consumption by 25%, either by drawing less water or fallowing land. Ostensibly, the unprecedented drought throughout the State is behind this move by the Delta’s most senior water users. As is the norm in California water, however, the proposal is a tightly negotiated deal which farmers hope will protect their rights and secure predictable water deliveries through the dry summer months to come. They still maintain, through their lawyers, that restrictions on their senior riparian rights would not be legal and may result in litigation.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown’s new water restrictions drew criticism for failing to address agriculture. Hopefully this recent deal by Delta growers, representing only 10% of the agricultural land in California, will prompt similar actions up and down the State.

A deal that saves water and protects farmers from some uncertainty is a good deal. Let’s keep the ball rolling.

Editors note: ‘Reflections On Water’ is a weekly series of thoughts and observations about water usage in drought-hit California. Part one was Wasting Water. Part two was California’s Fish Economy. Part three was War Of Ideals. Part four was Digging Tunnels, Mining Votes. Part five was The New Gold Rush. Part six was Farmers As Innovators. Part Seven was Building a Nest For Salmon. Part eight was Blooming Desert.

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