He speaks of two knobs that valley water users can turn. One controls supply, and the other demand.
In past years, Averett says he figuratively had his hand slapped by his Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District board whenever he tried to adjust the knob that affected the supply of water to growers. But as droughts, surface water cutbacks and groundwater overdrafts confront districts throughout the Central Valley, all solutions are now on the table.
“Throughout the valley, we’re going to end up turning both knobs in the future,” Averett said during a recent panel discussion on the valley’s water future.
In short, experts believe the only way to bring the valley’s overburdened water supplies into balance will be to increase supply, mainly by making the most of available water, and reduce demand. And part of reducing demand may well be the voluntary fallowing of agricultural land.
“For some of our hardest-hit areas, the idling of agricultural land is going to be a reality,” says Abbey Hart, the agriculture project director for The Nature Conservancy. She adds that growers may see an economic benefit for converting land into wildlife habitat, but the process will have to be well planned. A checkerboard approach to creating habitat won’t work, she says.
“A lot of these species won’t be able to use tiny patches of land,” Hart told about 200 growers and others at the water forum in early May, sponsored by the Almond Board of California.
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