California Forum

California needs action on water, not more rhetoric

Political rhetoric is often provocative, amusing and entertaining – but it is rarely productive.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., chided Westlands Water District for providing a voice to the Latino residents of the San Joaquin Valley on issues of water, as if it’s improper for farmers to support others who have a common interest in informing the public about the impact of insane water policies on jobs and people (“Westlands’ cynical ploy is anti-environment”; Viewpoints, Feb. 7).

Let’s forget for a moment the fact that he decided to cross state lines and criticize Californians, even though Arizona has challenges of its own to resolve. Perhaps the real reason for his attack against California family farmers and farmworkers is the fact that the policies that he and his allies in Congress have advocated are responsible for the hardship faced by many Californians, but particularly those who live in disadvantaged Latino San Joaquin Valley communities.

Instead of regurgitating the rhetoric of groups that do not really care about fish or farmworkers, but use water policy to advance other agendas, Grijalva should visit Westlands and talk to farmworkers and residents of Valley towns to learn about the impacts of the multiyear water shortages.

Current water policies have caused tens of thousands of farmworkers to lose their jobs, and towns in the Valley are literally drying up and blowing away. Grijalva needs to understand that these impacts on disadvantaged communities are not being caused by a natural disaster, but instead are being caused by federal water policy.

Californians already view the water crisis as a high priority; they want more information from a broad cross-section of stakeholders, not less. Water supply issues would benefit from farmworkers, farmers, businesses and urban and rural local elected officials involved in the fix. With more input, it is more likely that the state can unite around policies that will increase water supply and improve the reliability and security of the state’s water infrastructure.

Water policy is tough business, filled with many competing agendas. But there is consensus around the fact that the status quo is unacceptable and that government policies need to change to make more water available now and in the future. Outside agitators aren’t helpful if they deliver more rhetoric instead of more water.

Johnny Amaral, a lifelong resident of the Central Valley, is the deputy general manager for external affairs for Westlands Water District.