I took a trip to the Valley this past weekend to see my daughter and the property her agricultural friends just purchased. I loved the visit and am so excited for the happy couple who are proud owners of their first acreage, right in the middle of a drought. They are being smart about the property. The garden area is half the size it was in past years and the irrigation is on drip. Livestock has been kept to a minimum and air conditioning means opening the house up at 5:00 a.m. and closing it up again at 7:30 a.m. I’ve been told it means a 10 degree difference in the temperature of the house. My hostess was charming and we drove all around getting to know the town and the spots she knew I would love.
What continues to haunt me from my trip is the situation the farmers and ranchers find themselves in. The drive down Highway 99 is peppered with political signs that have sayings like No Water = No Jobs or No Water = No Food and many more. I am naturally curious and tried not to step into a proverbial cow pie and asked about the water situation. What I learned was heartbreaking. It seems the farmers and ranchers must pay in advance for their water. Even if they have paid 100%, the government is only going to release 5% to them and keep the difference of the 95% payment. No refunds.
So what are the land owners doing? They are bulldozing their trees, planting cover crops to let the fields go fallow and buckling down to try and do anything to hang on to their property for the future. Major corporations are just waiting to scoop any defaulted properties. I’m not a conspiracy theory person, but it sounds like the makings of an excellent Sci Fi book doesn’t it?
A picture truly does say a thousand words so I snapped a few for you. These photos show an existing field struggling from lack of adequate water and the trees in their prime that were pulled out. It is the California Valley region and burning is not allowed so the dead trees will just lay there. I drove past at least 20 destroyed fields, all orange trees, without going off my route there or home. The California Aqueduct sending water to Los Angeles could be clearly viewed when standing in at least two separate fields that were destroyed. The Aqueduct is full. Now that is heartbreaking!
I’m thinking Southern California needs to start thinking more about desalinization plants and less on dependence on the Aqueduct. This will not be the last drought year, it is the third in my lifetime and my parents remember that many in their lifetimes. My beloved is either a sixth or seventh generation Californian (depending on which side you count from) and remembers his grandfather talking about droughts. It is a cycle and they will come again and go again. What seems to be wrong is when you take water away from food producers to fill swimming pools in Southern California. Don’t believe me, try Google Maps and check out the pools.
I don’t want oranges from Brazil; I want home grown ones that are fresh and not irradiated to kill pests. The cost of those killed trees will be seen shortly in your grocery store. Oh, and the motel in the Valley town I stayed in had drained their swimming pool and had no plans to fill it any time soon.