California produces nearly half of the nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and leads the nation in dairy production. The scale of agriculture operations coupled with the lack of regulations protecting water quality and waters supplies take a heavy toll on California waters. More than 200 million pounds of pesticide and synthetic fertilizers are applied to California farms every year. Excess chemicals wash from the crops and fields and into our groundwater, waterways, and ocean where the chemicals harm people and wildlife. Over 100,000 square miles of groundwater is unsafe to drink because of nitrate contamination. Nitrate runoff creates the conditions for toxic algae blooms along our coastlines, which make swimming unsafe, poison sea lions and make crab and other shellfish toxic to eat.
Agriculture operations use 80% of the state’s limited water supplies. Rampant over-pumping of groundwater and diversions from rivers and streams by agriculture diminish instream flows throughout the state, particularly in the Ventura River, Central Valley, Salinas, Oxnard Plain, Klamath Basin, and North Coast. A recent Pacific Institute report shows record agricultural profits in California despite concerted lobbying and public relations efforts highlighting drought impacts to agriculture.