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Tensions Appear Amidst Dwindling Water Supply

There are more than 400 local water agencies In California. There are also agriculture, business and environmental interests. And as the drought continues they are all competing for a dwindling resource. Representatives from those interest groups gathered in Sacramento today for a drought conference put on by the Association of California Water Agencies.

Felicia Marcus is chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. The board has been criticized for not demanding conservation sooner. But Marcus says urban water has traditionally been managed at a local level.

"There’s been some unbridled optimism or collective hope that folks won’t have to communicate dramatically with their customers and say, look this state’s in a world of hurt," she says.

Tim Quinn is ACWA’s Executive Director. He says local agencies might have done things differently.

"On the other hand it could have rained like heck this winter. I mean that was always a possibility," he says. "But the fact is we are where we are today and where we are today is kind of scary."

Governor Jerry Brown’s administration is continuing to emphasize the ways California agriculture industry has been affected by the drought. At the conference state Natural Resources Secretary John Laird listed measures farmers have already had to take.

"They have fallowed 400,000 acres. They have laid off 17,000 seasonal or part-time farm workers. There are economic losses of $1.5 billion," he says. "Last year UC Davis in a study said that it was the greatest absolute reduction in water availability to agriculture ever seen."

Paul Wenger is with the California Farm Bureau. He says agriculture has a ripple effect on California’s economy. He grows almonds and walnuts.

"Once that product leaves my farm, there’s a lot of people that are going to work creating new and different things," he says. "The local chefs that taking the products we have, as we talk about buy local and buy fresh, you can’t buy local and fresh from China."

Brown has called for a 25 percent reduction in urban water use through February of next year. Large agriculture water suppliers must provide drought management plans to the state.