On May 22, an announcement was made that farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta of California will give up a quarter of their water this season. This will require leaving land unplanted or finding other ways to reduce water use such as switching to lower-use water crops or adding new technology irrigation.

In return for agreeing to use less water, the state has assured farmers who sign the agreement that it will not seek further water-supply reductions for the growing season. The deal is seen as an important concession but from a relatively small number of growers. The State Water Resources Control Board in working on drought mitigation announced it hopes this agreement will prompt similar agreements throughout the state with other farmers.

Agreements allow farmers to plan based on known water allotment as well as water boards to know more about water that might be available for other uses than agriculture. The loud complaint in California has been that agriculture uses from 70 percent to 80 percent of the water in the state when supply is not a concern. And the public has refused to accept that farmers have been punished with previous water cuts during this multi-year drought.  

Under the agreement, farmers who want to take part in the agreement will have until June 1 to submit a plan to the state for how they intend to achieve the water-use cutbacks, according to Jennifer Medina, writing for The New York Times. The state officials are threatening farmers who do not sign with almost assured bigger cuts later in the year. There are specifics of which farmers are subject to cuts or being pressured into signing the agreement.

Those who negotiated the agreement feel a big majority of the delta’s roughly 4,000 farmers will sign onto the agreement. The total number of growers is only about 5 percent of the state’s growers; therefore, it is unlikely the state’s overall water supply will be positively affected to a major degree.

To read the extensive New York Times article click here.