It can be depressing to hear story after story of water woes – and some of them are horrifying. For example, I have heard of growers in San Luis Obispo trucking in water to keep their groves alive when their wells went dry. Ventura County is taking a hard look at their supplies of groundwater and devising the steps they may have to take if the situation deteriorates further. The central valley will not be planting thousands of acres because water will not be available this season, and the growers of tree crops are facing extremely difficult decisions.
In San Diego County we are told that the availability of water will be “normal” this year. The Metropolitan Water District developed the water storage capacity that is proving invaluable in this time of drought. Here in the southern growing areas, the difficulty is the cost of water. The wholesale cost of imported water may be the same, but each water district supplying water to avocado growers has their own costs of infrastructure and delivery, as well as access to additional sources of water.
The avocado growers in Escondido have been facing a particularly difficult set of problems. Theirs is a municipal water district governed by the City Council of Escondido.
Understandably, the city council is primarily concerned with municipal and industrial water use; agriculture is a distant afterthought. Some dedicated growers set out to change that.
They formed EGAP – Escondido Growers for Agricultural Preservation. The core group has been John Burr, Ed and Karen Grangetto, Phil Henry, Burnet Wohlford, and many others. They did their homework and set about changing how the “city fathers” perceive agriculture in Escondido.
For example, they engaged in coalition building. Groups that are engaged in ecology were enlisted as active allies. Business groups, able to see the value of agriculture to the business community, were enlisted to the cause. Other agricultural groups were consulted for strategy, planning, and assistance.
Indeed, it is fortunate that the San Diego County Farm Bureau has its headquarters in Escondido. This group is already well known to the Escondido political community, and its board of directors and members were a valuable network.
EGAP also engaged the academic community. They commission an agricultural economic study authored by UC Davis economists to report on the value and realities of agriculture in San Diego County and in Escondido specifically.
The results have be impressive. Earlier this month, the Escondido City Council approved the first steps that will build the infrastructure to supply re-cycled water to agricultural areas of the city. In addition, the water will be roughly the same quality as imported water – meaning the water will receive reverse osmosis treatment to reduce the salt content.
The success of EGAP may be a special case, but it clearly demonstrates the possibilities when growers organize effectively to solve local problems.
October 14, 2012
Escondido Growers for Agricultural Preservation, or EGAP, succeeded in getting some breaks, including relief from a 12 percent increase this year.
Meanwhile, the relationship between EGAP and the city evolved into a collaboration that officials and growers hope will yield a sustainable, long-lasting solution to water concerns on both sides, as well as reinforce agriculture’s role in the city’s economy. Read the entire article at UT San Diego