California’s Drought Worsens as Farmers Sue the State and the State Fines Farmers

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In the latest installment of Drought Drama faced by nine major Californian cities, politicians have been frantically trying to privatize and optimize water supplies by means of imposing legal regulations and fines — all while farmers are ignoring the regulations and big corporations are passively accepting the fees that are now result from excess water consumption.

In other words, the state of California appears to be a hot mess, from inside legislative assembly rooms to outside in the fields.

The Sacramento Bee reported last week that Senate Bill 88 passed through the state’s legislative body, getting a vote of 24-14 in the Senate and 52-28 in the Assembly, “with all Republicans opposed.”

Senate Bill 88 requires that anyone diverting 10 acre-feet or more of water will have to report the diversion, and anyone who violates water conservation efforts could be fined up to $10,000.

The goal is to help Californians (particularly low-income residents) access clean drinking water, and as USA Today reported, activities such as watering lawns and washing cars have been banned or restricted entirely in the affected nine cities.

After the 2007-2009 Californian drought, the California Department of Water Resources declared a state of emergency, and officials again decided to declare another emergency during the 2012-2014 drought, which was reportedly the driest three-year period (on record) the state has ever seen.

However, as USA Today also noted, the state is drying up yet again, and this time it’s expected to have some major economic consequences. Businesses that can afford to pay fees for excess water consumption may very well use up more than their fair share, while other businesses that rely on water could end up shutting down indefinitely.

And if large factories and office buildings shut down, there could be a completely different set of problems. A large industrial factory, for example, could require up to 80,000 cubic meters of water per hour for a cooling tower system; if this water isn’t available, the factory can’t operate at safe temperatures. Ultimately, this would end with widespread layoffs and staff reductions — which, according to researchers from the University of California at Davis, happened during 2014 and resulted in 17,000 lost jobs.

For farmers, the situation is even more dire. CBS News reported recently that only 31% of farms and irrigation districts have complied with state mandates to stop taking water from nearby Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

Farmers have begun suing the state for cutting off their water supply, while state authorities have made it a point to tell the farmers that they’ll be fined $1,000 per day that they violate the restrictions.

At this point, there’s just one main question that people are asking: If this current drought has been building up for the past four years, why didn’t authorities try to prevent this disaster before it happened?

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