After passing a below-normal canal and a dusty field that would normally produce asparagus and melons near Fresno, California, President Barack Obama pledged that within sixty days, the state would receive $100 million in federal aid. “What happens here [in California] matters to every working American right down to the cost of food you put on your table.”
Standing before an outdoor presidential podium with Governor Jerry Brown, local farmer Joe Del Bosque, his wife Maria Gloria, and a green John Deere tractor in the background, President Obama warned that “Water has been seen as a zero sum game: agriculture against urban, north against south. We’re going to have to figure out how to play a different game. We can’t afford years of litigation and no real action.”
He urged officials in the region to address the problems and find a broader solution. The President ordered federal facilities across the state of California to reduce water use and suggested cutting back on landscaping projects that are not deemed essential. “We have to stop looking at disasters as something to wait for, but to prepare for and anticipate.”
The President held a closed-door roundtable meeting inside the San Luis Water District maintenance building on Fresno’s Country’s west side. Among those present for the closed-door meeting were farmers, water officials, politicians, and others to further discuss the drought and what the federal government is doing to help resolve the problem. The President also wanted to assure those present that the state’s water shortage was of national concern. “I wanted to come here to listen,” the president said before the roundtable was closed to reporters. “This is going to be a very challenging situation for some time to come.”
The President recently announced $15 million in aid to help farmers and ranchers implement water conservation practices. One billion dollars of the aid package will assist California ranchers who have lost livestock due to the drought.
California water officials met Friday in Sacramento to address the ongoing drought. Water Resources Secretary John Laird called the problem “a disaster that crosses over into employment and food.” He further added, “We can’t make it rain, but we’re sending water where we need it the most, saving what we can, and asking everyone to conserve.” Seven hundred Caltran signs posted along roadways throughout the state have the reminder for drivers:
HELP SAVE WATER
Matt Conens, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health is taking different measures to help drought-stricken communities in the San Francisco Bay area. Among his short term solutions are digging new wells, having water shipped in, and connecting larger water systems with smaller ones to help alleviate the drought.
California is the biggest U.S. agricultural producer that supplies half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. After one its driest years on record, 91.6 percent of the state’s farmlands have experienced drought conditions. The average annual rainfall where the President spoke is 11.50 inches with the dry months being in July and August. From 2013 to date, only 3.03 inches of rain has fallen in the Fresno area.
By Brian Yates
The Fresno Bee