Tuesday, April 22, 2014

News articles and links from April 22, 2014

Delta

From: Staff, San Jose Mercury News

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's willingness to do Big Ag's bidding at the expense of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is increasingly alarming. Last week she released a revised drought bill that has environmentalists up and down the state fuming -- with good reason.

Feinstein stripped out the best part of her original legislation: $300 million for conservation and efficiency measures and aid to low-income farmworkers hurt by the drought. She admits she did it to attract Republican support. It raises the question of how far she is willing to go to maximize the amount of water sent from the Delta to Central Valley farmers, even if it causes catastrophic harm to the estuary.

Coalition response... One thing should be clear, this bill is intended to help real people who struggle to make their home payments, worry about their children's futures and try to make ends meet through agriculture in California.

It is about the almost 4,000 family farms that receive water that flows through the Delta to sustain one of California's most important food-growing regions. It is also about trucking, processing, wholesale, retail and port jobs that all depend on the food produced by hardworking California farmers. It is about the millions of consumers who benefit from the low food costs that investments in efficient agricultural production brings.  

California's almond production supports many thousands of jobs in transportation, processing, retail, wholesale and high-paying port jobs. Years ago people complained that crops like cotton and alfalfa used too much water and that farmers should grow higher value crops. The value of California farm production has risen enormously while applied water on our farms has declined by 14 percent, according to the Department of Water Resources. It is mystifying how anyone can refer to that as a "dirty little secret." The fact is, farmers grow crops that they can sell. It makes little sense to plant a crop to supply a market that doesn't exist. And we still provide roughly half of the nation's fresh fruits and vegetables, much of it from high-producing farms in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Santa Clara Valley's efforts to restore groundwater are to be commended. But the recovery wouldn't have been, or continue to be, possible without  imported water supplies from the Delta to fill the gap in local supplies versus demands.   Like Silicon Valley, much of California relies on imported water to provide a quality of life and vibrant economy that is the envy of the Nation, but when it's not serving those in its backyard, the Mercury calls it a water grab.

Let's stick to the facts, and not promote baseless regional conflict.  This is too important to have a "Beat L.A." bumper sticker mentality. The Mercury needs to recognize that the state is facing many challenges in having to repurpose a system that reallocated water for environmental uses that were simply not part of its original design.  Senator Feinstein should be applauded for her leadership on behalf of the entire state and its environment, rather than being falsely and cynically accused of "pandering".

Drought

From: Kirk Siegler, NPR

On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Grove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gathered on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart.

One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.

If there is no water, there's no work, he says in Spanish.  

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

On a recent afternoon on the main drag of Orange Grove, Calif., about a dozen farm workers gathered on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart.

One man sits on a milk crate sipping a beer. A few others scratch some lotto tickets. Salvador Perez paces back and forth with his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.

If there is no water, there's no work, he says in Spanish.  

Water Supply

From: Thomas Elias, Salinas Californian

The next front in California's long-running water wars has already opened, and the reasons for it will sometimes be hard to see - but not always.

That next fight is over ground water, source of about 35 percent of the state's fresh water in normal years and a much higher percentage in dry ones like 2014. This battle has the potential to become far more bitter than even the quarrels over how to distribute water from the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems.

From: Lisa Lien-Mager, ACWA

The Sierra snowpack is now just 18% of average, down from a seasonal high of 35% on April 7. According to snowpack data tracked by the California Data Exchange Center, some areas - including the Northern Sierra - lost half of the snow water content in a single week, largely due to unusually high temperatures in the West. In California, temperatures were 9-12 degrees above normal, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

From: David Keller, New York Times

"Swim to Sea? These Salmon Are Catching a Lift" (front page, April 19) is one facet of an incredibly sad story.

Over the past 166 years, since California's Gold Rush first destroyed rivers en masse in the quest for gold and silver, we have continued to decimate our rivers and groundwater for our growing population and agriculture, including all the Public Trust resources that had thrived with them.

We have altered our geography, hydrology and geology, frequently depleting our water, soils, air and local economies.

Fisheries

From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee 

Water flows in the American River are scheduled to increase through the Sacramento region starting tonight to help salmon and steelhead.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Folsom and Nimbus dams on the river, will maintain the increased flow for three days to help juvenile steelhead and Chinook salmon migrate downstream, and to help improve in-river conditions for young steelhead.

Groundwater

From: Craig Miller, KQED

We hear a great deal about California's reliance on its "frozen reservoir," a reference to the (currently anemic) Sierra snowpack. We hear a lot less about the Golden State's invisible reservoir, the water that resides in underground aquifers beneath our feet.

That's about to change. Today, state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) rolls out a trio of water conservation bills, the centerpiece of which (SB 1168) is a frontal assault on the management of California's groundwater, which, compared to other western states, is almost unregulated.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

News articles and links from April 17, 2014


Water Supply

From: Staff, Sacramento Bee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's drought bill, introduced in February, was an improvement over the water grab bill that passed in the House. A big plus in her original bill was $300 million for conservation and efficiency measures, aid to low-income farmworkers harmed by the drought, technological tools to help farmers get through this dry year and emergency projects to address drinking-water quality problems.

That $300 million, however, has been stripped out in order to get Republican support for Feinstein's bill. What remains in the revised version are two troubling provisions that The Bee's editorial board urged her to amend in February.

Coalition response...  One thing should be clear, this bill is intended to help real people who struggle to make their home payments, worry about their children's futures and try to make ends meet through agriculture in California.

It is about the almost 4,000 family farms that receive water that flows through the Delta to sustain one of California's most important food-growing regions. It is also about trucking, processing, wholesale, retail and port jobs that all depend on the food produced by hardworking California farmers. It is about the millions of consumers who benefit from the low food costs that investments in efficient agricultural production brings.  

According to a 2009 CBS News report, California's salmon industry is worth about $82 million in economic activity based on $22 million worth of salmon caught in rivers and the ocean. Environmental activists justify reducing farm water deliveries to prop up an industry that contributes less that $100 million to the state's economy. At the same time, farm water cuts stand to put thousands of people out of work. The cost to California's economy this year from lost farm production, jobs and associated business activity is 60 times ($5 billion) the economic value of salmon. Are salmon important to California? Absolutely. Is commercial salmon fishing comparable to the jobs and economic activity generated by farming? No.

In the last six weeks the amount of Delta outflow has exceeded water exports by more than two to one. It is certain that Senator Feinstein is mindful of the balance needed to continue to protect fisheries. During this period of drought, all water users will be suffering. The commercial salmon industry shouldn't expect special treatment.

Water Supply

From: Bettina Boxall, L.A. Times

A decision by a federal appeals court Wednesday could allow for changes in water deliveries to irrigation districts that hold senior rights to Sacramento River supplies.

The unanimous opinion by an 11-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned two previous rulings that found the federal government lacked discretion to alter water contracts with senior irrigators in the Sacramento Valley. The new decision sends the matter back to a district court for further consideration, leaving both sides in the nearly decade-old case unsure of the ultimate outcome.  

From: Staff, AP

An appeals court said Wednesday that federal officials should have consulted wildlife agencies about potential harm to a tiny, threatened fish before issuing contracts for water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in renewing 41 contracts a decade ago. The appeals court sent the case back to a trial judge for further proceedings.

From: Karen Gullo, Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Long-term water supply contracts in California, which had its driest year on record last year, must be revised to protect smelt in the California River Delta, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The San Francisco-based court ruled for the Natural Resources Defense Council and other conservation groups, saying they had legal standing to challenge the contracts and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages a series of dams and reservoirs that draws water from the delta, had some discretion to help the smelt, which are small, bony fish.

From: John Michelena, Modesto Bee

I have mixed feelings when I see those blue "Pray for Rain" signs along our country roads. Though I thank the Almighty for sending rain, I think our state and federal governments have been lying to us about California's drought and water.

Through early February, Northern California was on course to receiving its worst rainfall since the 17.1 inches it got in 1923-24, according to the Northern Sierra Precipitation: 8-Station Index. The second-driest period on record was 1976-77 with 19.0 inches. Then in February and March, we had a convincing answer to our prayers, when late rains brought 26.6 inches by April 4 - which typically ends the rainy season. The average from 1922-98 was 50.0 inches.

Fisheries

From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

Biologists this week helped 54,000 Northern California salmon become San Joaquin River inhabitants - launching the river's largest experiment to rejuvenate a long-dead salmon run.

As part of the nearly 5-year-old San Joaquin restoration project, half of the juvenile fish will be released today for a long, dangerous swim to the Pacific Ocean. The other half will be released Friday.

Delta 

From: Joe Matthews, Sacramento Bee

When you're faced with two different thorny problems, sometimes the best way to make progress is by combining them. I'm talking to you, Jerry Brown.

Your first problem involves water. Residents of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta - California's most vital estuary and source of water - fiercely oppose Brown's plan to build tunnels that will divert water from north of the Delta to provide more reliable supplies to San Joaquin Valley farmers and Southern California. Their opposition is based on fear.

Meetings 

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

A hard-fought battle over California's next water bond comes today to Modesto, the last stop in a series of state Assembly hearings on seven proposals vying for a single place on the November ballot.

Drought has raised awareness of a dire need for water projects, but differing interests among political parties and regions, including the San Joaquin Valley, have produced the many proposals, and lawmakers face a June 26 deadline for reaching a compromise.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

News articles and links from April 16, 2014


Fisheries

From: Carolyn Lochhead, SFGate.com

Sen. Dianne Feinstein's revised drought bill is coming under increasing attack from the left even as the California Democrat tries to woo Republicans to speed the bill's passage through the Senate without committee consideration.

More than a dozen environmental groups, including Sierra Club California, Audubon California, Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued a letter late Monday demanding changes to the revised bill, S.2198.

Coalition response... Isn't it disingenuous for environmental organizations to defend commercial salmon fishing while at the same time demand farm water pumping restrictions because of the impact it might have on salmon?

On the other hand, if it's an economic argument let's look at the numbers.

According to a 2009 CBS News report, California's salmon industry is worth about $82 million in economic activity based on $22 million worth of salmon caught in rivers and the ocean. Environmental activists justify reducing farm water deliveries to prop up an industry that contributes less that $100 million to the state's economy. At the same time, farm water cuts stand to put almost 30,000 people out of work, based on farm-related employment estimates in a 2004 report by the Pacific Institute. The cost to California's economy this year from lost farm production, jobs and associated business activity is 60 times ($5 billion) the economic value of salmon.

Are salmon important to California? Absolutely. Is commercial salmon fishing comparable to the jobs and economic activity generated by farming? No.

Water Use

From: Tom Pfingsten, San Diego Union-Tribune  

The size of the trees was probably the first thing Kurt and Jennifer Bantle noticed about the grove that would all but consume their weekends and most of their waking thoughts after they decided to become avocado farmers.

"The trees were 40, 50, 60 feet tall," Kurt Bantle said on a recent afternoon. "Best I can tell, they were put in during the early '80s."

Coalition response... California's growers have long sought to address the water problems the Bantle's are facing in their grove.  Scientific irrigation, used in most modern production agriculture seeks to optimize not only the quantity of water applied through the use of laser leveled fields, drip emitters and buried irrigation tape, but also the timing of the irrigation. The Bantle's will undoubtedly be looking into the different soil moisture monitoring equipment being used by growers to ensure that water is being used as efficiently as possible.  Water too much, and you risk not just wasted water, but promoting plant diseases; water too little, and the crop is a bust.  The best of luck to the Bantle's as they pursue a bountiful crop.

Drought

From: Eric Morath, Wall Street Journal

Grocery shoppers may soon need more green in their wallets to afford their next salad. The cost of fresh produce is poised to jump in the coming months as a three-year drought in California shows few signs of abating, according to an Arizona State University study set to be released Wednesday.

The study found a head of lettuce could increase in price as much as 62 cents to $2.44; avocado prices could rise 35 cents to $1.60 each; and tomatoes could cost 45 cents more at $2.84 per pound. (The run-up in produce prices is in line with other projections showing that overall food cost gains are expected to accelerate this year.)

From: Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News

Nearly nine out of 10 Californians say the state is suffering from a "serious water shortage," according to a new poll that confirms widespread concern over the lack of rain, diminished Sierra snowpack and low reservoir levels after three years of drought.

But deep, decades-old divisions remain across the state on how to solve the dilemma, the statewide Field Poll of 1,000 registered voters found - with the biggest differences being between the Bay Area and the Central Valley.

From: Tom Vacar, KTVU

A clearer picture is emerging about how much more nagging drought is going to cost consumer shopping for produce this spring and summer. It will take more of your green to get greens at the market. California is the nation's produce basket.

Melanie Snell, who took her kids to the Alameda Farmers Market Tuesday, was aware the drought would soon affect produce prices.

From: Jeremy White, Sacramento Bee

Californians agree their state is parched, but they diverge by region on how supplies dried up and what should be done about the drought.

"There's clearly a consensus that the state has a serious water shortage," Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said of a survey on the subject released Tuesday. "There, however, is no consensus to what got us into this situation."

Groundwater

From: Randy Record & David Orth, Sacramento Bee

It's the height of the spring planting season in the San Joaquin Valley. But this year, the sight of well-digging rigs is adding a new dimension to a problem quietly unfolding beneath large swaths of this fertile land.

Faced with the prospect of receiving little or no surface water due to drought, growers are relying on groundwater like never before to stay afloat this year. It's a symptom of a problem that is sparking new levels of concern among the state's water managers."

Water Supply

From: Dennis Wyatt, Manteca Bulletin

Water Manteca residents send down the drain could one day help irrigate South County crops. Manteca Councilman Steve DeBrum convinced his colleagues Tuesday to have staff explore working with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to see if 7 million gallons of treated wastewater the city releases back into the San Joaquin River could instead be diverted for local farm use.

Mayor Willie Weatherford believes 100 acres designated for open space as part of the 1,471-home Trails of Manteca neighborhood  being pursued south of Woodward Avenue  and west of McKinley Avenue could be used to create a large holding lake for treated wastewater. From there, the SSJID could pump it into its delivery system serving  farmland south of the city. At the same time, the manmade lake could also help recharge underground water tables that ultimately are tapped by Lathrop and Manteca municipal well systems.

From: Rob Parsons, Merced Sun-Star

Irrigation district officials on Tuesday formally requested more water from state authorities as part of a complex proposal that would extend the drought-shortened growing season, help migrating fish and possibly provide the cash-strapped district with an extra $5 million.

After Tuesday's vote by the Merced Irrigation District board of directors, irrigation officials will pursue a request with the state Water Resources Control Board to relax the so-called minimum pool requirement at Lake McClure.

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

Farmers in the Modesto Irrigation District got a 10 percent increase in their basic water rate Tuesday, along with a temporary drought surcharge that's much bigger.

The board also capped 2014 water deliveries at 24 vertical inches per acre - better than the 18 inches that had been planned, but still far less than the average of 42 inches since 1989. Even with the increases, MID has some of the cheapest water in the San Joaquin Valley, and this year's allotment is much better than what some farmers in the region face.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

News stories and links from April 15, 2014


Water Supply

From: Staff, Merced Sun-Star

Growers on the west side of the Valley got a little good news late last week: They're going to get more water than they had feared. That's not to say they're going to get all the water they need, far from it. But the specter of drought is lifting ever so slightly.

"The mood is better and hopeful," said Chris White, general manager of the Central California Irrigation District, which covers 145,000 acres from Crows Landing to Mendota.

Drought

From: Hudson Sangree, Modesto Bee

At two treatment plants in El Dorado Hills, millions of gallons of brown wastewater pour in every week, and millions of gallons of clean water pour out through purple pipes that irrigate the lawns of 4,000 homes. Proponents call it water recycling. Critics call it "toilet-to-tap." But as the drought has taken hold in California, opposition to the idea has been drying up, and recycled water is winning acceptance. It's expected to be a significant source for many Californians in years to come.

Two irrigation districts are arguing over which should get treated sewer water from Turlock. The city in January was closing in on a deal to sell some of its supply to the Del Puerto Water District, which serves farmers along Interstate 5 between Vernalis and Santa Nella. The sale is on hold while officials discuss a competing claim from the Turlock Irrigation District.

From: Hannah Furfaro, Fresno Bee

On her way to visit the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier on Monday, University of California President Janet Napolitano got a bird's eye view of California cropland and rivers dry from the drought -- a sight she hopes the universities can help fix through continued research and outreach.

Flying from Oakland to first see the Sacramento River and then the San Joaquin River, Napolitano did an aerial tour of California's heartland before making a stop to meet with her top agricultural advisers about a food security and sustainability initiative she's due to unveil this spring. The university leader was mum on the details, but said all 10 UC campuses -- and its research centers -- will be part of the plan.

Sacramento River

From: Jim Robbins, New York Times

The Central Valley was once one of North America's most productive wildlife habitats, a 450-mile-long expanse marbled with meandering streams and lush wetlands that provided an ideal stop for migratory shorebirds on their annual journeys from South America and Mexico to the Arctic and back.

Farmers and engineers have long since tamed the valley. Of the wetlands that existed before the valley was settled, about 95 percent are gone, and the number of migratory birds has declined drastically. But now an unusual alliance of conservationists, bird watchers and farmers have joined in an innovative plan to restore essential habitat for the migrating birds.

Monday, April 14, 2014

News articles and links from April 14, 2014


Drought

From: Nick Bertell, Eureka Times-Standard

If you've been down south lately, I'm sure you've seen the electronic road signs telling you California is in an extreme drought. We're three years into it, and University of California professors are saying that this could be the driest year in the last 500. Precipitation in Humboldt County is at 50 percent of normal, and we should feel lucky. The state average is 20 percent. I can't imagine we'll get by without some rationing, which millions of people already are. But even if we have enough water to get by, life may get more expensive.

The Wall Street Journal ran a lead article recently decrying surging prices for food staples from meat to coffee to vegetables. Forecasts are for food prices to rise 3.5 percent in 2014 as the western U.S. and other major food producers such as Brazil and Australia are deep in drought.

Coalition response... Investment advisor Nick Bertell talks about the importance of California agriculture and food production for the world. Some of his facts, however, miss the mark when it comes to water use and subsidies. According to the recently released California Water Plan by the State Department of Water Resources, agricultural water use in California accounts for 41 percent of the state's dedicated water supply, not the 80 percent Bertell contends. And agricultural water users are not subsidized either, with the exception of the forgiveness of interest on the construction of the federal Central Valley Project by Congress in 1935. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the CVP, "This multi-purpose project plays a key role in California`s powerful economy, providing water for 6 of the top 10 agricultural counties in the nation`s leading farm state. It has been estimated that the value of crops and related service industries has returned 100 times Congress`s $3 billion investment in the CVP."  That's a great investment in anyone's book.

From: Kathleen Stricklin, Sacramento Bee

Re "California water plan unveils hardships to come as drought persists" (Our Region, April 10): In 2007 Ford began the process of retooling their plants to make smaller cars. Better late than never, they were thinking ahead to the future.

Good company planning is what makes or breaks an industry. The same can be said about our current water crisis. As complicated as the state delivery system is, an even more complicated system was busy preparing for the worst. In the last two years, I have noticed the native plants in the creeks nearby are taller than in years past. They sent their roots deeper in an effort to find more water. Farmers in California have been gulping water from every mud puddle and creek they could find for hundreds of years, and the current drought is leaving them high and dry.

Coalition response... Kathleen Stricklin is right when she says we should have been planning for the next drought. But she misses the point when she calls for farmers to be installing drip irrigation systems as the solution. They have already been doing that and in great numbers. In the last 10 years California farmers have invested almost $3 billion upgrading irrigation systems on more than 2.4 million acres. Preparing for a drought takes broader actions. As a state we should have also been investing in additional storage projects to provide a "bank account" of water that would have helped supply our needs when Mother Nature takes a break. "Saving for a rainy (or rather dry) day" is a time tested solution of resource management.

From: Robert Dugan, Sacramento Bee

Re "California water plan unveils hardships to come as drought persists" (Our Region, April 10): As California continues to face a drought, state and federal water and fisheries managers should be commended for working to get our state back onto a firm foundation of reliable water supplies for people, the environment and the economy with their proposed Drought Operations Plan.

For too long, we risked disaster from a drought we all knew would come. We've yielded to drain northern reservoirs to dangerously low levels in order to increase exports and provide marginally higher environmental benefits.

Coalition response... Managing California's water supply is a statewide challenge because water is a public resource for all Californians, not the supply of one region over another. Public water agencies from the Oregon border to the Imperial Valley have invested in infrastructure that serves the farms, homes and businesses of California's 38 million people. The current drought has helped identify weaknesses in the system, such as inadequate storage and a conveyance system that needs upgrading. In the future we have to be able to protect our environmental resources while still being able to deliver water to people who have a legal right to use it.

Groundwater

From: Scott Smith, San Diego Union-Tribune

The scarcity of irrigation water in drought-stricken California has created such a demand for well drilling services that Central Valley farmer Bob Smittcamp is taking matters into his own hands.

He's buying a drilling rig for $1 million to make certain he has enough water this summer for thousands of acres of fruit and vegetable crops. "It's like an insurance policy," said Smittcamp, who knows two other farmers doing the same thing. "You have to do something to protect your investment.

From: Staff, Sacramento Bee

California's century-old groundwater problem no longer is underground and invisible. Last Sunday's report by The Bee's Tom Knudson was an eye-opener.

Taking more water out of groundwater basins than goes in pits neighbor against neighbor in the San Joaquin Valley and in some coastal and Southern California areas. Farmers and residents see their wells going dry and, with land subsidence, some canals running backwards."

From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee

Turlock resident Dorene "DeeDee" D'Adamo, one of five members of the State Water Resources Control Board, will participate in Tuesday's "Groundwater Challenges" forum at California State University, Stanislaus.

D'Adamo has lived in the San Joaquin Valley for more than 20 years. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to the water board last year, after she had served 14 years on the California Air Resources Board.

Drought

From: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

California's drought: if you live and farm in the state there's little else you could be told to illustrate just how bad it is for the state's agriculture industry. One of those impacts stretches off the farm and onto the test plots of the state's Land Grant institution, which this year celebrates its centennial of cooperative work with California agriculture.

The University of California Cooperative Extension is not an unlikely victim of the drought, though theirs is not an impact that will cause them to lose the farm. Still, they see and feel it. Many growers in California will receive no surface water allocation this year because of the drought. Neither will the University of California's Westside Research and Extension Center (WSREC) near Five Points, which gets its surface water from Westlands Water District.

From: Jessica Peres, KFSN 30

In the South Valley, the lack of water from the current drought is forcing some growers to abandon their citrus trees. Farmers in Terra Bella have been dealt a 1-2-3 punch. Right now, they're really seeing the effects from the freeze all while dealing with zero water allocation.

Young citrus trees that sit on the foothills of Terra Bella have shriveled up and turned brown. They're a sad sight for growers there. The trees were hit hard during this past winter's freeze and now it's clear there's nothing left to salvage.

From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

Q: What are the authorities asking and/or requiring farmers and agricultural interests to do immediately to reduce their water use, and by how much? Will there be significant penalties for non-compliance? - Jim Purvis, Gold River

A: Farms represent a very different regulatory environment than urban areas. In short, farms are not officially required to do anything to conserve water.

"Farmers, as far as required conservation, I'm not aware of anything in particular," said Mike Henry, assistant executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. When former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a major water conservation bill in 2009, it required urban areas to reduce water use 20 percent by 2020 or risk losing access to state grants for water projects. No similar requirement was imposed on farms or irrigation districts. This year, additional drought-specific conservation orders have been imposed on urban residents, but not farmers.

Water Supply

From: Rob Parsons, Merced Sun-Star

Irrigation officials will consider a potential deal with state water officials that could give Merced growers a little more water for their crops this year and help the irrigation district partially close a projected $10 million budget gap.

The Merced Irrigation District has been negotiating to lower the so-called minimum pool requirement at Lake McClure, which would give farmers more water - about 15,000 to 25,000 acre-feet, depending on runoff - for the drought-plagued growing season. An acre-foot is the amount of water it would take to cover an acre of land a foot deep, or about 325,900 gallons.

From: Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record

Where water will flow this spring and summer is still up in the air, but it is looking likely that "senior water rights" holders in the Sacramento Valley will have their contracts honored.

More certainty will be worked out in the next few weeks. Agencies with junior water rights will still be scrambling, and some water users are still scheduled to receive zero.

Food News

From: David Karp, Los Angeles Times

Bagged rice may look like a mundane commodity, a bit incongruous at a local farmers market. But one taste of the variety grown by Koda Farms - with attractive, uniform kernels, alluring fragrance, soft texture and a rich, sweet flavor - makes clear that rice can be a delicacy well worth pursuing.
"Their brown rice is different from what is produced in Japan, but has its own unique, nutty flavor," said Sonoko Sakai, a locally based cooking teacher who frequently travels to Japan and represents traditional Japanese rice growers in the United States.