Gov. Newsom’s Drought Plan Doesn’t Hold Water

Today, Governor Newsom is expected to release a plan purporting to prepare California for a hotter, drier future fueled by climate change. Yet the steps outlined rely heavily on desalination and controversial tunnel and dam projects. The plan makes no mention of curbing the most intensive water users of the state — Big Ag and Big Oil.

Food & Water Watch research recently found California could save as much as 82 million cubic meters of water every year by switching from fossil fuels to renewables like solar and wind power — that’s a 98 percent reduction from the water currently needed to maintain the state’s fossil fuel reliance. The water used for industrial cultivation of thirsty crops like almonds and pistachios is equally stark. Between 2017 and 2021, Food & Water Watch found almond bearing acres grew by 32 percent and pistachio acres increased by 63 percent. That expansion necessitated the withdrawal of an extra 523 billion gallons of water for irrigation — enough water to supply nearly four million households with enough water for an entire year.

“Newsom’s drought plan to conserve water ironically does nothing to curtail the biggest water abusers who are also the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions fueling the crisis,” said Food & Water Watch California Organizing Manager Tomás Rebecchi. “The toxic cycles of industrial agriculture and fossil fuel extraction use massive amounts of  water that could otherwise go to public uses, kneecapping any attempt at meaningful water conservation. Coupled with his energy plans that include continued reliance on fossil fuel gas plants and his failure to crack down on corporate water abuse, this drought plan heralds an increasingly dry, inequitable California at the mercy of fossil fuel and industrial agricultural companies.

Environmental advocates, scientists and frontline community members have long decried ocean desalination as a wasteful boondoggle that puts marine life at risk and threatens to extend the life of fossil fuels needed for its power. In May, advocates successfully shut down plans for a desalination plant by Poseidon, a client of Newsom’s close adviser, Jason Kinney, and his lobbying firm, Axiom Advisers.  Newsom proposes to “streamline and expedite permitting” for desalination facilities.

“Frontline communities can’t afford desalination and neither can the environment,” continued Rebecchi. “And time after time Californians have fought against these boondoggle projects and won. It’s time Newsom treated water like a human right, not a commodity to be traded for corporate profit.”

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478,