California has suffered from a devastating drought for about four years and the situation is worsening.  Water scarcity will continue to have a deleterious effect on residents and businesses, including those in horse racing.

Last Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order mandated (subject to fines for violators) water reductions of 25 percent, commencing in May 2015, for everyone except agriculture, which accounts for 80 percent of water usage.  Thus the 25 percent water reduction applies only to 20 percent of water users.

Though agriculture is exempt, the industry has already been greatly affected by reductions in water allotments from federal and state agencies.  This rationing has led to shortages, uncultivated fields, and escalating prices.

The drought has caused golf courses to take out turf and in some cases to use recycled water (which is very expensive to do).   Similarly, cemeteries, medians on highways, and lawns and landscaping have gotten browner.

The California Public Utilities Commission has ordered water companies under its jurisdiction to take steps such as:  limiting outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf with potable water to no more than two days a week; prohibiting the irrigation of turf or ornamental landscapes during and 48 hours following measurable precipitation; requiring that restaurants only serve water to customers on request; and clearly notifying hotel and motel guests that they have the option of not having towels and linens laundered.

The result of water restrictions is significant to racetracks.  Routine tasks like watering racetrack dirt and turf surfaces, as well as watering ornamental landscaping, come under Governor Brown’s executive order.  Likewise, racetrack restaurants and concessionaires will be constrained in serving water.

Even though agriculture is exempt, the higher prices farmers are paying for water and the increasing number of fields laying fallow will continue to raise the price of commodities like hay, grain, and straw that racehorse trainers need in great quantities.  Horse owners can expect their trainers to pass along the costs.

While people in many parts of the Eastern United States experienced a horrendous winter in 2015, they nonetheless had plenty of water.  Looking at California’s plight, Boston’s winter does not look so bad by comparison.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business


  1. I’d take the bad weather in the east any day over what is going on here on the left coast. As you note, prices for hay etc. are soaring and there is no relief in site. The governor is delusional if he thinks the problem can be addressed by including only 20% of the water users.

  2. What’s your plan Carmen?

  3. There’s a lot of friction between agriculture and urban dwellers. The newspapers and talk shows are pretty heated. Lots of finger pointing toward farmers and vice versa. Typical situation when there is not enough to go around. No end in sight except to hope for rain and lots of it.