SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Today's Why Guy question comes from Tina French Medlin, who asks, "Why do we raise meat and dairy when we are having more and more droughts?"
Tina, why put Why Guy on the spot with this one?
Farmers feel one way and water conservationists feel another. Here’s the business side of it. California has a $50 billion-per-year reliance on the farm economy. That’s a lot of jobs.
Why is there such a need for California commodities? Because Americans love beef and poultry. According to the Water Footprint Calculator, we eat over 200 pounds of it each year.
Every one of us.
One way to help save water, according to the Water Footprint Calculator, is to get your protein from other more water friendly sources, like leafy greens, fish, grains and nuts.
However, the bigger issue remains. Eighty percent of water usage in California is dedicated to agriculture. In times of drought, how is the water we have fairly divided? Do you cut water way back for farmers? If so, that's messing with the state's biggest money maker.
Agriculture is the engine that drives California’s economy and water is the fuel. Many farmers have switched to less water-dependent commodities while also irrigating their land and creating water storage. One UC Davis professor has a possible solution.
"Establish a fair and efficient water market where farmers pay for their water needs out-of-pocket and at market rates," U.C. Davis professor David Zetland said. "We'd have meat and we'd have dairy and we'd have almonds, but a lot less of it. It would cost more and people would be more careful about what they ate."
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