By Christopher Matthews
The severe drought in California is making not only headlines, but also for some tough, long-term choices.
Perhaps this is only a nasty — and lengthy — cyclical drought, and the rains will return, as they have in the past. But that’s not currently evident, and the longer historical record (across millenia) gives little comfort — drought has always been part, in greater or lesser measure, of California’s drama. Accordingly, Governor Jerry Brown has just ordered an overall 25% cut in state water consumption. The New York Times’ recent feature, “California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth”, puts this creeping disaster into stark relief, with indelible images of a verdant suburbia bordered by an encroaching desert reality.
But if California is really going to get serious about conserving water, it must tackle usage in the agricultural arena, where 80% of the state’s water is consumed. Just a small example cited by the New York Times speaks volumes: more water was used to grow California almonds in 2013 than was consumed by all homes and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles combined.
Agriculture naturally includes Cali’s wine industry, by far the largest in the US, and (if it were a country) the fifth largest producer in the world. But here, the story is far from dire. In fact, California has been a leader and driver in sustainable winegrowing, not least through the efforts and programs of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. To showcase some of the leading Cali wineries and vineyards committed to sustainability, which includes water conservation (among many other factors), the Alliance, together with partner organizations (California Association of Winegrape Growers, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Napa Valley Vintners, Vineyard Team and Wine Institute), has developed The California Green Medal: Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Awards. And on April 13, 2015, the first annual award winners were announced… Continue reading