Ojai farmers have always complained about water! We either have too much or too little…..
Agriculture uses lots of water.
State-wide farms use about 40% of the water (or 80% of domestic water sources).
“Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban”. “Agricultural water use is falling, while the economic value of farm production is growing. Approximately nine million acres of farmland in California are irrigated, representing roughly 80% of all water used for businesses and homes. Higher revenue perennial crops—nuts, grapes, and other fruit—have increased as a share of irrigated crop acreage (from 27% in 1998 to 32% in 2010 statewide, and from 33% to 40% in the southern Central Valley). This shift, plus rising crop yields, has increased the value of agricultural water used. Farm production generated 60% more gross state product in 2014 than in 1980, even though farm water use was about 15% lower. But even as the agricultural economy is growing, the rest of the economy is growing faster. Today, farm production and food processing generate about 2% of California’s gross state product,
down from about 5% in the early 1960s.” (Public Policy Institute of California)
Farmers and farm workers know and care a lot about our water system.
Locally in Ventura County water boards have seats held by farmers as the
water sources were created by and for agricultural and domestic use.
Lake Casitas was built using interest-free federal agricultural bonds with
the understanding that more than 50% of the water would be used for
farming. Until this drought the average agriculture has use has been
roughly 42% of the annual water sold from CMWD. As farmers use a lot
of water, we have a strong vested interest in water supply, delivery and
quality. Farmers also serve as a steady source of income (water sales).
Agriculture helped build much of California’s water infrastructure.
Since the Spaniards arrived and built farms at their missions, farmers have been busy
building the most efficient water delivery systems we can. As water prices rise and
availability tightens farmers upgrade their equipment and use water more efficiently.
Ojai’s water use is far more efficient than it was 10, 30 or 80 years ago.
Farms are good for the local economy:
Farms in the Ojai Valley are one of the few local industries that create
goods from our land. Citrus growers employ about one full-time person per 70 acres plus the needed labor for pruning, harvesting as well as specific jobs such as well work, machinery, packing, trucking, etc. Ojai Pixie tangerines are planted on a tenth of Ojai’s farm acreage and bring in 3 to 6 million dollars annually to the local economy. Ojai’s farms are all owned by family farmers which is unique in this rapidly industrialized world.
Acreage under irrigation in the Ojai Valley
Total acreage of irrigated agriculture in the Ventura Watershed is approx 6,000 acres
1932; 1,721 acres of citrus and avocados the Ojai Valley proper
2013: 3,428 acres of citrus and avocados in the Ojai Valley proper
Over the same period the population of Ventura county increased more than 9 times!
Myth: Farmers waste water.
Fact: As water rates rise, farmers use less water. In 2008 when
Casitas Municipal Water District drastically increased agricultural
water rates Ojai’s farmers invested in re-working their water use;
from refurbishing wells and main pipelines to replacing hundreds
of miles of hoses and microsprinklers. We have become as
efficient as we can with the water allocated to us.
Myth: Ojai farmers should grow less water intensive crops
Fact: We’d love to find economically viable crops that use less water
and labor. The trend for California agriculture has always been to
move towards more valuable crops, which tend to be those that use
more labor and/or water. Local farmers are testing new crops such
as grapes, hops and cactus. New crops require new markets as well
as the infrastructure to harvest and process. Our soil (very rocky, and
difficult to plow) and climate (big fluctuations in daily temperature)
limit what can be grown in the Ojai Valley.
Myth: Ojai’s citrus is all exported, so why not grow it elsewhere?
Fact: About 15% of the citrus grown in Ojai is exported out of the United States. Ojai farmers are growing some of the best flavored citrus in the world and the bulk of it is consumed in our country. Most farmers believe it is important for a nation to feed it’s people. National security should include feeding the populace. Folks want to eat locally and Ojai farmers are doing their best to provide local fruit.
Myth: Ojai citrus growers should stop watering until the drought breaks.
Fact: Citrus trees are evergreen and cannot live without water. There are millions of dollars of infrastructure in Ojai’s citrus groves– the initial cost of planting, piping, hoses, windmachines, trucking companies, packinghouses, etc. Investment in farms runs $15,000-$20,000 per acre. Ventura county has a reputation for excellent agricultural products and there is simply too much invested from the actual groves to transport, packing, processing to toss out in the short term. If citrus were to disappear so would many, many jobs. What crops would replace the orchards?
If you have specific drought-related questions concerning citrus in the Ojai Valley feel free to e-mail Ojai growers and we will do our best to answer your questions or concerns. We are all in this drought together!