ARVIN, Calif. — On Aug. 3, the State Water Resources Control Board completely eliminated 2021’s surface water supplies for farms in much of the state. It has impacted farmers like John Moore III, who grows pistachios at Moore Farms in Arvin.
“We’ve got about 100 acres of pistachios, 200 of almonds and everything else goes to open farmland, carrots, potatoes and we have a small block of citrus as well that goes to both domestic and export buyers," said Moore.
His family has been farming on a ranch outside of Bakersfield since 1922. Next to the ranch is a water banking facility that captures runoff, filling the district’s groundwater basins below. This year’s runoff has been dry.
“In California it’s feast or famine. On wet years, we use these facilities to bank that water. We’re still paying for it on the dry years," said Moore.
While California is prone to drought, the last reservoir in the state was completed in the 1980s. The state’s population has grown tremendously since then.
Moore says the state wouldn’t be in this situation if more infrastructure was built.
“You’ve got farmers who just want to provide a safe and stable food supply because that’s what we do, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so," said Moore.
In 2014, voters passed Prop 1 overwhelmingly. That bill dedicated more than $2 billion for new water storage projects. Seven years later, none have been built.
California Farm Water Coalition’s Executive Director Mike Wade says it’s a disappointment and that priorities in Sacramento need to change.
“We’re not delivering water to farms, to grow the crops that American consumers buy, that need to have good solid labor support on the farm and in associated businesses to help bring them to market," said Wade.
Much of the nation's fresh fruits and vegetables come from California. Advocates argue that if new water infrastructure is perpetually delayed, America’s safe and dependable food supply could be at stake.
“Unless we have the water supplies to grow them, and get them delivered to market, consumers are going to have to find those products somewhere else," said Wade.
Agriculture supports many small rural communities in the Central Valley. Those communities too could be at risk if water continues to run dry.
Moore says voters have spoken with Prop 1 and that now, the state’s leadership needs to honor that and get to work.
“We’re at a point now, this year showed it, we need to build some infrastructure or else ag[riculture] isn’t going to be the only one who suffers. It’s going to be all of our communities and all of our employees as well," said Moore.
With the recall election approaching, for Moore and farmers like him, Tuesday could be the day that determines their future and the future of farming in California.