Experts discuss California drought, politics of water

A California water expert and Fresno farmer spoke with ABC7's Eric Thomas about the state's drought and the politics of water.
February 14, 2014 6:25:05 PM PST
President Barack Obama was in the Central Valley Friday. He met with farmers struggling with the worst drought in California history. The president announced millions of dollars in aid for affected farmers and ranchers.

We caught up with a California water expert and a Fresno farmer on the state's drought and the politics of water.

It sure looked and sounded like a drought-killer. Twenty inches of rain; enough to drench Marin and Sonoma and send the American River rising by two feet in just a couple of days. But to trained eyes, it wasn't nearly enough.

"It was pretty much the latitude of San Francisco north and the driest parts of the state are in the central California these days and they got nothing from it," said UC Davis Professor Jeffrey Mount, Ph.D.

The drought is drawing attention from Washington because California's farms provide the nation with a third of its fruits and vegetables.

Three weeks ago, House Speaker John Boehner visited Bakersfield to push for a bill that would take more water from the Delta and send to farms in the Central Valley; a bill opposed by conservationists who say it would hurt native fish.

"How you can favor fish over people," Boehner asked. "That's something that people in my part of the world would never understand."

The president has vowed to veto that bill. On Friday he'll unveil his own ideas to Central Valley farmers.

"The feds have us all tied in knots," farmer Paul Betancourt said. "And the president's the guy who can untie the knots."

But, Professor Mount says we are all going to suffer until the rainfall totals get back where they should be. And we have tough choices to make since agriculture generates two percent of the state's economy and uses 80 percent of its water. He says whatever the government does will have limited effect.

"They can't make it rain, but they can make it rain money and raining money will help," he said.