Areas of Arizona and California produce most of the winter leafy greens and other vegetables consumed in the United States. Farmers depend on water from the Colorado River. But with long-term drought, the Colorado River is in crisis.
It is a powerhouse: a 1,450-mile waterway that stretches from the Rocky Mountains to the Sea of Cortez, serving 40 million people in seven U.S. states, 30 federally recognized tribes and Mexico. It hydrates 5 million acres of agricultural land and provides critical habitat for rare fish, birds and plants.Washington Post – THE COLORADO RIVER IS IN CRISIS, AND IT’S GETTING WORSE EVERY DAY
According to the USA Interior Department, prolonged drought and low runoff conditions accelerated by climate change have led to historically low water levels in Lakes Powell and Mead.
Joanna Allhands writes in azcentral:
We’ve essentially drained the nation’s two largest reservoirs because, despite all our Band-Aids, use remains far greater than what the Colorado River can now produce.
Climate change has produced a megadrought that has reduced water in the Colorado River, which was already overallocated to the seven states in its basin. Cuts in the water allotments were imposed in 2022, and this summer, the federal government increased those cuts. Arizona will lose about one-fifth of its share...
“In the whole Colorado basin, agriculture uses 75% to 80% of the water,” said Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, which is part of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU.
The rest is consumed almost entirely by cities, which cannot reduce their use enough to compensate for the upcoming cuts.
“So it will fall to agriculture just as a numbers issue,” she said.
Meandering 1,450 miles from northern Colorado to the Gulf of California, the Colorado River is the lifeblood of the American West. It provides water to nearly 40 million people across seven states, Mexico, and more than two dozen tribes, and it irrigates millions of acres of land.https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/23310631/colorado-river-drought-arizona-california-farms
Why should Canadians care about drought in western USA? Because more than 75% of Canada’s fresh vegetable market is supplied through imports. Per capita, Canada has one of the world’s highest consumption rates of fresh vegetables and relies mainly on U.S. vegetables for supply.
With food production threatened in southwest USA, British Columbia should pay more attention to the value and potential of its agricultural resources. The present NDP government is in thrall to producers of non-renewable extractive resources. Perhaps the ghost of Dave Barrett could visit the new Dave and remind him that the BC NDP once cared about agriculture, a renewable resource.
In the Forward to a Kwantlen University paper titled Protection is Not Enough, former Chair of BC’s Agricultural Land Commission Richard Bullock writes:
Agricultural land not only feeds us, it is the heart around which stable communities have and will continue to develop and prosper over the long term. In this province, where farmland scarcity is so obvious, a diversity of large and small scale agriculture importantly binds our communities and province together to provide any semblance of control over our food security and food self-reliance.
It is imperative that we keep agricultural land and food production front and center in debates regarding natural resources such as pipelines, LNG, hydro-electricity generation and beyond. We forget, and at our great peril, that the most fundamentally important resource is agricultural land and its ability to produce food for us when put to its only proper use.
…there is lots of agricultural land laying fallow, not being actively farmed. While this is the case, it is not any sort of indication that this land should be used for purposes other than farming- it should not. On the contrary it is indicative of two things: 1) first and foremost that the ALC has effectively prevented the loss of a precious, non-renewable resource- BC’s farmland, and 2) there has been a larger failure to foster wider economic viability and a diversity of opportunities in our food production sector.
The ALC has in fact made sure that these lands were not lost to future generations. As the population of our province grows and new crops and opportunities are developed, society will find a way of getting this resource into the hands of a new generation of farmers who will put it to work, sustainably, and to all our benefit.