As a second-generation Stanislaus County walnut grower, I can tell you that there are a few things I can count on and a whole lot of things I can’t. For example, I can count on the sun shining about 260 days a year here in the Central Valley. And I can still count on my 83-year-old father to put in a harder day’s work than I do most of the time. Both of those things help our trees grow and our business flourish. I just wish the rain was as reliable.
I don’t have to tell you how bad this drought is. You see it in the news and in the Governor’s latest executive order. I see it in the Tuolumne River that runs north of my property, and in the faces of my friends, neighbors and employees. We all count on water to make a living, and to help feed the world. And we are all worried about not having enough water to do either one.
Here in this fourth year of drought, lakes and rivers are seriously depleted and the snowpack is practically non-existent. The groundwater we have relied on is also seriously diminished. We can’t pump our way out of the drought because in some places, too much pumping has led to a collapse of the aquifer. This can damage above-ground infrastructure and reduce the aquifer’s ability to hold water in the long run.
So I am gratified to see the Governor taking the drought as seriously as he is, and taking action that matches his words. We have to prioritize our water use. People can argue over which is more important: agriculture, residential or commercial and industrial uses—but personally I’m not that concerned about who comes in one-two-three. I am more interested in finding common ground. When we are fallowing more and more acres of food crops, there is no excuse to continue watering landscaping at public buildings or median strips on roads and highways. These are just a couple of the ways we can work together to conserve water.
So as a farmer, I applaud the Governor’s recent executive order. It’s a common-sense approach to curtailing the ornamental use of water—a luxury we can no longer afford. Like a lot of my fellow growers, I pledge to continue reducing water use as much as I can.
As a Stanislaus County Supervisor and the President of CSAC, I hope my fellow county leaders will take this as a call to action. Unwatered landscaping and unwashed county vehicles might not look too good, but by curtailing unnecessary water use at our own facilities, our constituents will be able to see first-hand that they can count on counties to help mitigate the effects of this drought!
Vito Chiesa is a Stanislaus County Supervisor.