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For Immediate Release


Jessica Gable,

Press Release

Advocates Urge Crackdown on Big Ag and Big Oil's Water Abuse as Bureau of Reclamation Slashes Western Water Allotments

Arizona required to cut water use by nearly one quarter.

After releasing dismal projected reservoir levels in the Colorado River, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation declared a Tier 2 water shortage and is requiring steep allotment cuts for Arizona (21 percent) and Nevada (8 percent). While California was exempted from current cuts, environmental advocates are urging immediate crackdowns on the state’s heaviest water abusers—Big Ag and Big Oil.

In response, Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck released the following statement:

“The massive cuts Arizona is facing to its water allotments could easily be a foreshadowing for California. We must stop treating water like it’s a commodity to be traded, sold or squeezed from everyday people for the highest bidder. Governor Newsom has pinned California’s hopes on desalination, but ignored the elephant in the room: the massive water use of Big Ag and Big Oil. By switching to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, California could save 98 percent of the water currently needed for its fossil fuel production. And by transitioning away from industrial mega-dairies, thirsty crops like almonds and pistachios, and engaging in regenerative farming, California will gain enormous water savings that could serve small farmers and domestic households. Today’s Colorado River projections are undoubtedly a dire warning for the American West to eliminate rampant corporate water abuse before it’s too late.”

Both Arizona and Southern California have become centers for water-intensive crops like alfalfa, currently banned in water stressed countries like Saudi Arabia. California’s water rights system has historically favored big agribusiness, while oil and gas extraction have devoured hundreds of millions of gallons of freshwater annually in the state.

Only days ago, Governor Newsom released a plan purporting to prepare California for a hotter, drier future fueled by climate change. Yet the steps outlined rely heavily on desalination and controversial tunnel and dam projects, doing nothing to curb the state’s most intensive water users: industrial agriculture and fossil fuel extraction. 


Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

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