California drought pits farmers vs. cities. But neither is the biggest water victim.
It was August 2014, and the drought was starting to hurt big-city water supplies.
After a long, hot summer, the big water users — cities like New York City, which uses half of the water supply in New York City, for example — were using more than ever before. But because the drought had dried up some water supplies, the water supply was decreasing.
A group of farmers in Northern New York were facing the same issue. With their land irrigated, they had to pump up to 10 times more water than normal for irrigation since they didn’t have to worry about droughts.
“Everyone said the farmers would be out of water,” said James Dworkin, the director of the Niagara-on-the-Lake area Chamber of Commerce.
But not this year. The farm that Dworkin works for, the Niagara Peninsula Land and Farm Alliance, was able to keep most of its members from going out of business this past spring after their neighbor, the Niagara Peninsula Water Commission, agreed to build a new water distribution center and pump up to four times the water the farmers would normally use to irrigate their farms.
The farmer’s group didn’t have money to build the new water pumping facility, but it still had to sell its land to build it.
This year, farmers all over the state will be facing the same choice: pump the extra water out of the ground or sell their land.
“There is a lot at stake here,” said Dworkin. “They are losing their land.”
The biggest water loser, though, is the city of Niagara Falls, which, like Dworkin, depends on the water supply the area farmers and ranchers depend on.
The farmers, like the farmers in the