California water districts are facing a billion-dollar loss from water conservation as drought threatens the state.
With water usage being cut down by 25 percent, people are paying less on their water bill, which translates to less revenue for water districts that depend on money for systems operation. The State Water Resources Control Board opened a discussion on Wednesday on how to maintain water conservation while keeping the districts "above water" at the same time.
CBS reported that some water districts have been slow in encouraging water conservation according to board chair Felicia Marcus. She said that they're also worried that their money will also dry up. She also added that in some cases you may pay less if you use more which sends the wrong signal for conservation.
Among the ideas proposed is encouraging tiered pricing for districts to leave users paying higher rates as they use more water, or raising the rates or creating a drought emergency fee.
The tiered pricing however, has been called into question after an appellate court in Orange County ruled it as unconstitutional. California's proposition 218 prevents government agencies from charging more than the cost of service. But with districts pressed for time against the drought, this issue could be overlooked.
Fox News reported that 2015 Drought Economic Impact Study out of UC Davis estimates that about 564,000 acres will be fallowed because of the drought, resulting in a statewide reduction in gross crop farm revenue of about $856 million. If we throw in the livestock and dairy losses as well as job losses, they estimate a total economic hit to agriculture of $2.7 billion.
Despite these given figures, farmers are being blamed for using 80 percent of the state's available water, but this percentage is a figure they contest. A California Department of Water Resources said that of water designated for human use, farmers do use about 80%. But of all water in the state, farmers use roughly 40% and 50% is classified as designated for environmental purposes.
These farmers also argued that little goes to waste of the water they are using because they use drip irrigation where tubes run through their farms with some above ground and some just below the surface, trickling water slowly over time.
Humans are draining so much water from Earth's largest groundwater basins based on two new studies according to Live Science. Researchers however, lack the exact data say how much water remains in one-third of Earth's water reservoirs.