Brown: 'Some People Have a Right to More Water Than Others'

"Climate change is not a hoax. We're dealing with it and it's damn serious."

Jerry Brown, Democrat governor of drought-stricken California, appeared Sunday on ABC's This Week and defended his executive actions that placed mandatory water restrictions on citizens but not on the agriculture industry.

"There are farmers who have senior water rights," Brown told guest-host Martha Raddatz. "Some people have a right to more water than others."  

Of his own actions, Brown stated:

This executive order is done under emergency power and it has the force of law. Very unusual. And it's requiring action and changes in behavior from the Oregon border all the way to the Mexican border. It affects lawns. It affects people's -- how long they stay in the shower, how businesses use water.

Brown explained that enforcement of these restrictions will come by way of the various water districts who have authorization to level fines of $500 per day to non-compliant offenders. "The enforcement mechanism is powerful in a drought of this magnitude," said Brown. "You have to change that behavior and you have to change it substantially."

Raddatz asked the governor why he didn't place similar demands on the agricultural industry, citing some statistics that show farmers using 80 percent of California's water while contributing revenue for only two percent of the state's economy. Another shows that almond production consumes more water than all of the millions of residents in the combined cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"Is that true?" Raddatz asked.

"Yes, you bet it's true," Brown said. "But by the way, they're not watering their lawn or taking long showers. They're providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America to a significant part of the world."

Brown added:

Now, of course we can shut [the water] off if you don't want to produce any food and import it from some other place. Theoretically, you could do that. But that would displace hundreds of thousands of people and I don't think it's needed.

This would create even more problems, according to Brown, because many low-income workers are out of work and "suffering."

But the beast behind the state's water problem is climate change, at least as far as the governor is concerned.

"I can tell you, from California, climate change is not a hoax," Brown declared. "We're dealing with it and it's damn serious."