The April 15 groundwater forum at California State University, Stanislaus, was informative, but the lack of a larger context was odd. Dorene D’Adamo from the State Water Resources Control Board tried to put water use into a larger state context, but other panelists discussed the county as if it were entirely isolated. Aside from D’Adamo, the only reference to California was a throwaway line about Los Angeles stealing “our” water and talk of snowpack, which appeared to be located somewhere in the eastern part of the county.
The social and economic consequences of the drought in the southwestern U.S. cannot be adequately addressed if we ignore the ways we are interconnected. We have to think not only of the balance between Stanislaus County farmers and residents, but of the balance between northern and southern California, between the Central Valley and the coast, between Los Angeles and Denair.
Agriculture accounts for 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product and uses 90 percent of the water. We need to consider the water needs of the people who generate 98 percent of the state economy. The strategies developed for dealing with the drought are dependent on who counts as “us” and who counts as “them.”