Hats off to The Times for its June 25 editorial on water conservation and Central Valley agribusiness. As the editorial pointed out, “A staggering 85% of the state’s water is used by agriculture.” Just as staggering is the price the farmers pay for water. The Times does not mention a figure, saying only that it is “far less than its true cost.”
And cheap water provides no incentive for the farmers to conserve water through efficient use. Friends of the Rivers estimates that 50% or more of the water used for agricultural irrigation is wasted, for example, by spraying crops with sprinklers, a process in which most of the water evaporates, or moving it in uncovered troughs and ditches where a similar percentage is lost to leakage and evaporation.
Having called attention to the major source of California’s “water shortage,” The Times then puzzlingly goes on to endorse Mayor Bradley’s proposal for Angelenos to cut our consumption by 10%. If agribusiness is using 85% of the state’s water and wasting half of that amount, then charging farmers the fair, full price for water should obviate the need for us to give up flushing our toilets or taking showers. City dwellers should, of course, eliminate all wasteful use of water. But in my view, lawns and green boulevards, gardens, clean automobiles, and personal hygiene are not wasteful. Again, as you note, agribusiness is wasting more water than all the state’s cities are using now.
LEE WARREN SMITH
West Los Angeles