In drought-stricken Central Valley, Obama calls for cooperation

In drought-stricken Central Valley, Obama calls for cooperation
President Obama speaks to reporters in Los Baños as part of his visit to California's drought-stricken Central Valley. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

FRESNO—President Obama on Friday warned against thinking of water as a “zero-sum game” and urged regional players to push beyond politics in solving supply problems.

On a dusty afternoon spent with politicians and farmers, Obama argued against pitting agricultural interests against urban ones, or north against south.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to play a different game,” Obama told participants in a round table Friday afternoon. “We can’t afford years of litigation and no real action.”

Still, he said, he had no intent of wading into water politics, joking that he wanted to “get out alive.”

While in town, Obama promised more than $200 million in aid to those affected by the drought.

He also ordered federal facilities in California to curb their water use, partly by cutting out landscaping projects that aren’t essential.

But the main purpose of his trip was to view damage from the air and at a local farm, and to meet with farmers hard-hit by the crisis.

Joe and Marie Gloria Del Bosque led the president on a tour of one of their fields, which they plan to leave fallow this season. Dressed in a denim shirt and white straw hat, Joe Del Bosque walked with Obama through fields that usually would be planted with melons and asparagus.

As they walked, the farmer patted the president on the arm.

At a podium with the couple standing near him, Obama said policymakers must be more proactive in dealing with problems related to climate change.

“We have to stop looking at disasters as something to wait for,” Obama said, “but to prepare for and anticipate.”

After his visit to the Central Valley, Obama was headed south to Rancho Mirage, near Palm Springs, where he was to meet Friday night with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the Sunnylands compound.