There are fictionalized stories about what would happen without somebody or something’s influence. Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life” comes to mind. In 2004 there was a movie released, “A Day Without a Mexican” in which a magical fog covers California and all the folks from Mexico disappear from the state wreaking havoc as the economy collapses from the lack of workers. Imagine a non-fiction scenario – a day without farmers. Or try a month or a year or forever – without farmers in the San Joaquin Valley.
Perhaps it would be better stated to say a time without from a fifth to a third of the farmers in the Valley. Surface water deliveries have been cutback for decades and ag has become more efficient in its use of water, but increased imports to offset the drawdown of the region’s aquifers is needed. There was a time when the conjunctive use of local water supplies met our needs. Runoff from snow would provide surface deliveries for flood irrigation which would recharge the aquifer for pumping during dry spells. There was also a time when there weren’t 40 million people living in California. Most of our large scale water infrastructure was completed when 16 million people were living here. It’s time to reinvest and the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint is ready.
Recently a gentleman reminded me that making the claim of how important I am is a losing strategy when it comes to persuading others. Here in the Valley, we know how important the ag sector is to our economy. The Economic Impact Report authored by Dr. David Sunding shows a million acres of farmland would likely be taken out of production if we can’t secure more water. If ag contracts the rest of the economy contracts and pulls down our quality of life. Ag has major impacts on our tax base, health care, education, environment, and opportunity in general. And the area hardest hit would be the most vulnerable, the disadvantaged communities.
As we can see, it is important for farmers to get the water they need to keep farming. But that brings us back to the strategy of trying to persuade others we need water because of how important we are.
Water is a very foundational force but unfortunately not a unifying force. But it could be. The Blueprint team has connections in the Governor’s Office and those elected officials and top bureaucrats in Sacramento are paying attention. They’ve made connections to the highest levels but what about the lowest, or at least the lower levels of government?
Every leader in the Valley needs to be well briefed on what’s at stake and their input and support sought. State Assembly and Senate members should already be very aware of the Blueprint and its mission; so also County Supervisors, that’s the low hanging fruit as they have the largest profile. But has anyone contacted every mayor, city council member, special district official, chamber of commerce director, church leader, lending institutions, health care associations, employment training, school board, trade or labor organizations (the list goes on)? Are they aware of the challenge we face? Has their support been solicited?
Here is the opportunity for water to become a unifying force for everyone in the San Joaquin Valley. When it’s time to ask our friends in Sacramento to give the Blueprint their buy-in, wouldn’t it be better to have thousands of signatures on letters of support from all the Valley’s leaders? I know most of the people on the Blueprint Committee and they are, as you and I, busy. For the Blueprint to succeed it can’t be a few well-intentioned folks being led by even fewer well-intentioned folks. We all have to get out and do our part. How? Get educated on the situation and then start spreading the news. Barbershops and Rotary Clubs and similar opportunities are out there. Speakers and information are available – we just have to get in the game and help create outreach.
Don A. Wright publishes agricultural irrigation reports at www.WaterWrights.net He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org