Tuesday, March 11, 2014
From: Joel Kotkin, Forbes.com
As all the Californians who celebrated the deluge of rain that fell the week before last know, it did not do much to ameliorate the state's deep drought. We are likely to enter our traditionally dry spring, summer and fall in a crisis likely to exacerbate the ever greater estrangement between the state's squabbling regions and classes.
There are two prevailing views about how to deal with the drought. Farming interests in the Central Valley want the state to fund construction of additional water storage capacity so that the 700,000 acres of some of world's richest farmland now fallowed by steep water cutbacks can be put back into production.
Coalition response... According to the Department of Water Resources California farms use 41 percent of the state's dedicated water supply, not the perpetually misstated 75 percent. Almost half goes to dedicated environmental purposes but rarely does anyone acknowledge the laws and regulations that purposefully set aside water for the environment.
California is also a leading innovator in irrigation technology and techniques. Between 1967 and 2007 California farmers have almost doubled their production on 14 percent LESS water. An investment of almost $3 billion upgrading irrigation systems to high efficiency drip and micro sprinklers on more than 2.4 million acres helps keep California farms competitive in a world market. California-grown products are cheaper, fresher and safer for local consumers than they are anywhere else and that means more of our money can do other things in the economy than just go to put food on the table.
From: Staff, Westside Connect
Farmers in the Central California Irrigation District received noticed over the weekend that a 2014 water allocation already at historic lows is in jeopardy of further cuts.
Chris White, the district's general manager, said an order by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) staff could effectively slash CCID's water allocation for 2014 to 5-15 percent of normal. The district had previously planned for a record-low 50 percent allocation.
"The (SWRCB) staff has formulated a new operations plan for 2014 with the stated purpose of trying to keep enough water in reservoirs to deliver water to municipal health and safety agencies through 2015 even if extremely dry conditions persist," White commented Monday. "It would reduce exchange contractors (such as CCID) to what we estimate at 5 percent to 15 percent. That would be devastating. What do you grow on a 5 percent allocation?".
From: Laura Anthony, KGO-TV
We've had some rain recently, but not enough and now the Contra Costa Water District says the salinity in the Delta is much higher than it should be and that has plenty of planners releasing much more water right now than they would like to.
The Antioch Marina is normally the location where the salt water from the ocean meets the fresh water from the Sierra, but this year that line is pushed much farther east and the Contra Costa Water District says that has far reaching implications.
From: Tim Johnson, NCWA Blog
The full extent of the drought's impact on the number of acres of rice planted this year is unknowable at this time. There are simply too many factors left to play out before our last fields are planted for anyone to know the final outcome.
The things that rice farmers are looking at include: how much surface water is available; can I pump groundwater; are prices going to be enough to offset increased pumping costs? Finally, will it rain more between now and the middle of May? (We certainly hope so!)
From: Jason Kandel, KNBC-4
A timeline look at the key events of the California drought of 2014.
From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee
Starting next month, millions of young California salmon could be migrating to the ocean in tanker trucks instead of swimming downstream in the Sacramento River.
On Monday, state and federal wildlife officials announced a plan to move hatchery-raised salmon by truck in the event the state's ongoing drought makes the Sacramento River and its tributaries inhospitable for the fish. They fear the rivers could become too shallow and warm to sustain salmon trying to migrate to sea on their own.
From: Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee
While not curing a three-year drought, recent rains are allowing irrigation districts to delay the start of irrigation season in hopes of having a bit more water in the fall.
The Modesto Irrigation District board this morning will review a plan to begin delivering water March 30, three weeks later than initially thought. The Oakdale Irrigation District likely will postpone its season's start to Monday, and the South San Joaquin Irrigation District board today will consider doing the same.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Historic water development in California is filled with stories of intrigue, theft, gunfights and dynamite blowing up small dams. The Kings River experienced some of the most violent acts associated with water rights and irrigation supplies as early farmers fought one another for access to the one thing needed to make the Valley bloom: water.
While no one is advocating any form of violence, emergency regulations announced by the California State Water Resources Control Board could strip water rights away from farmers and water districts that date back to the 1800s. The proposed amendments could result in the only water exported from the Delta being designated for public “health and safety” purposes for next year. People are still trying to figure out what the Board means by “health and safety” but to be sure, it likely isn't irrigation water for farms. While proclaiming their intent, the State Board would sidestep existing water rights in both the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. Some of these water rights date back to the late 1870s. Here’s hoping that the State Board recognizes the dire implications to farms and rural communities if this progresses further, and backs off of its proposal.
From: George Skelton, L.A.Times
Forget farmers vs. fishermen - or south state vs. north state. California's current water war is being waged most intensely by farmers against fellow farmers. It's a Central Valley civil war. And within that vast food-producing region - Bakersfield to Redding - it's the San Joaquin Valley vs. the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Southern California is a paying participant, siding with the San Joaquin, but in a less combative role. Its goal is to ensure a more reliable flow of delta water over the Tehachapi. Still unanswered, however, is how much more that would cost Southland ratepayers.
Coalition response... George Skelton's article reflects how complex the relationship is between farmers, consumers, the environment and the water necessary for all to thrive. Missing, however is the significantly important element of time.
The State and federal projects move water from upstream storage, like Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, through the Delta far into the summer and fall when Delta users would historically have been sucking salt water, especially in a dry year like this. That benefits farmers like Wendy Buckley-Stokes who is concerned that exporters (who are paying for the system) will use the fresh water she uses on her farm. A project like the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is designed to safely move sufficient quantities of water in the winter and spring when its wet and then put it into storage south of the Delta for use later in the year by the farmers and consumers who paid for it. Delta water quality rules would protect Buckley-Stokes by continuing to keep sufficient fresh water in the Delta later in the year as the projects do now.
Re-operating the Delta, restoring habitat and reducing the decimation from predatory fish will finally help struggling salmon, a species that we have failed to adequately protect. Twenty years of misguided water supply cuts have hurt water users, including almost 4,000 farms and 25 million Californians, and done nothing to restore salmon to sustainable levels. Is it really farmer against farmer? No. It's about long-term investment in our water supply and overcoming the constraints in the system that hurt everyone.
From: Carolyn Lochhead, sfgate.com
Shawn Coburn farms land that holds senior water rights to the giant Central Valley Project, rights that usually assure him water.
Not this year. He already has decided to let his pomegranates die, abandon alfalfa and cut his tomato crop by half. He may not plant any row crops if the state water board follows through on its intention to slash deliveries to "protect human health and safety" from the effects of drought.
Coburn, 45, says his ranch near Dos Palos (Merced County) is no water-guzzler. He uses buried irrigation. Computers tell him how much moisture his plants lose each day.
Coalition response... Peter Gleick's opinion of California agriculture operating in a 19th Century economy is laughably distorted and out of touch with reality. Precision irrigation, laser leveling, ecologically sensitive pest and weed management practices, the list goes on and on... California is a leading innovator in irrigation technology and techniques. Between 1967 and 2007 California farmers have almost doubled their production on 14 percent LESS water. An investment of almost $3 billion upgrading irrigation systems to high efficiency drip and micro sprinklers helps keep California farms competitive in a world market. California-grown products are cheaper, fresher and safer for local consumers than they are anywhere else and that means more of our money can do other things in the economy than just go to put food on the table.
Bay Delta Conservation Plan
From: Tom Barnridge, Contra Costa Times
These are strange times for Gov. Jerry Brown. In an era of term limits, he's favored to win his fourth election to the state's highest office. In a time of disdain for politicians, he enjoys 58 percent job approval, according to a Public Policy Institute of California survey.
The most notable paradox, though, as he rides this crest of popularity, is the palpable outrage at one of his pet projects -- the $67 billion Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
More than 300 residents packed a meeting room at the Lone Tree Golf & Event Center in Antioch on Thursday night for the sole purpose of hearing all that's wrong with his proposal to export Sacramento River water south through two 40-foot-diameter tunnels capable of moving 75,000 gallons per second.
From: Alex Breitler, Stockton Record
A water district official in south San Joaquin County is sounding the alarm that the county's namesake river could run dry this summer all the way to the edge of the Delta. Not everyone believes such a dire prediction, but the fact that it is being discussed shows the seriousness of the drought.
The San Joaquin River is famous for being dry farther upstream, south of the Merced River. Most of its flow there has historically been diverted to farmers.
From: Jim O'Banion, Sacramento Bee
The negative impacts of the dry water year will be multiplied many times over if a proposal by a state agency becomes reality. It would overturn water rights held by water districts for more than 100 years.
In this water-short year, the state Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation petitioned the State Water Resources Control Board for operational flexibility to move water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to protect fish and the Delta's environment.
San Joaquin River
From: Staff, Fresno Bee
Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for the website Slate, had this to say about the California drought on Friday:
"The present-day Southwest was born from a pendulum swing in climatic fortunes that has no equal in U.S. history. Research at the University of California, Berkeley shows that the 20th century was an abnormally wet era in the West and that a new mega-drought may be starting. With the added pressure of climate change, there's simply no way to count on continued supplies of water at current usage rates."
From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee
Federal leaders again are talking about enlarging the San Joaquin River's biggest reservoir, a conversation that has officially happened five times in the last 60 years.
Long stalled in political, technical and financial bogs, this is an idea most farmers still like and most environmentalists don't. So what's different now?
This time, an unprecedented drought crisis haunts California, and a multibillion-dollar water bond awaits on the November ballot.
From: James McWilliams, New York Times
California is experiencing one of its worst droughts on record. Just two and a half years ago, Folsom Lake, a major reservoir outside Sacramento, was at 83 percent capacity. Today it's down to 36 percent. In January, there was no measurable rain in downtown Los Angeles. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency. President Obama has pledged $183 million in emergency funding. The situation, despite last week's deluge in Southern California, is dire.
With California producing nearly half of the fruit and vegetables grown in the United States, attention has naturally focused on the water required to grow popular foods such as walnuts, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds and grapes. These crops are the ones that a recent report in the magazine Mother Jones highlighted as being unexpectedly water intensive. Who knew, for example, that it took 5.4 gallons to produce a head of broccoli, or 3.3 gallons to grow a single tomato? This information about the water footprint of food products - that is, the amount of water required to produce them - is important to understand, especially for a state that dedicates about 80 percent of its water to agriculture.
From: Staff, California Farm Water Coalition
The California Farm Water Coalition is hosting a regional meeting on groundwater. Presentations include:
Future of Groundwater Management in the Sacramento Valley - What changes are ahead for groundwater use in California?
David Guy, Executive Director, Northern California Water Association
What to Expect from Coming Groundwater Regulations
Bob Reeb, Reeb Governmental Affairs
When: Thursday March 20, 2014 from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM PDT
Where: Fresno Irrigation District
2907 S. Maple Avenue
Fresno, CA 93725
Register to attend by clicking here.
From: Dorothy Doll, Modesto Bee
Your editorial "Some ideas for regulations on groundwater" (Opinions, March 5) was timely and logical. I wish the county's Groundwater Advisory Committee Godspeed on their urgent mission. To a layperson, the massive planting of new orchards in unirrigated grasslands seems ill-judged, to put it kindly. As has been reported, depleted aquifers sink in upon themselves and cannot refill.
There is another consideration here. I have read the comment that a continuing drought will make the Valley a "Dust Bowl." The cautionary history "The Worst Hard Time," by Timothy Egan, shows that the actual Dust Bowl was not initiated by drought. The harsh and windblown high plains were covered with a strong thatch of native grasses, evolved over many thousands of years. A perfectly adapted animal, the buffalo, lived there.
From: Staff, Marysville Appeal-Democrat
We're getting there, but there should still be extra consideration for farms and agriculture infrastructure in floodplains. The 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act was supposed to be about making federal flood insurance rates comparable to the commercial market ... so that the Federal Emergency Management Agency wouldn't go bankrupt with the next big disaster. The devastation of the New Orleans area and some East Coast destruction brings FEMA dangerously close to the edge.
The problem we all have is that Biggert-Waters, in fine federal fashion, treated everything about the same ... low-elevation urban areas and low-elevation agricultural plains.
Friday, March 7, 2014
From: Peter Waldman, Bloomberg BusinessWeek
California is parched. The state's worst drought in decades has left its reservoirs half-naked, if not skeletal. Officials say 17 communities could run out of drinking water this summer; some are considering mandatory rationing; and 500,000 acres in the state may be left fallow. For the first time in its 54-year history, the California State Water Project-the world's biggest plumbing network and the way millions of state residents get hundreds of billions of gallons of water-is essentially shutting down. In 2012 the project moved 815 billion gallons of fresh water from Northern California's rivers to 25 million people and a million acres of farmland in the arid central and southern parts of the state. Last year, the driest on record, the system delivered 490 billion gallons, down 40 percent. This year, the planned water distribution is zero.
From: Staff, KSEE24
There is a chance Valley farmers could get surface water from the state soon. That's according to Felicia Marcus, a state water official. During a speech at the Citrus Showcase in Visalia, she said state and federal water managers are trying to work around obstacles to free up water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for allocations. Many Farmers are currently relying on groundwater but levels are dropping fast. Others, in places like Terra Bella are in danger of losing trees if something doesn't change soon.
From: Lewis Griswold, Fresno Bee
A state water official said Thursday that despite the "horrifying" drought gripping the state, there's still a chance that farmers will get San Joaquin River water this summer instead of the "zero allocation" announced.
"I'm hoping that it's not going to be zero," Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, said at a speech to citrus growers.
The determining factor will be the freshwater needs of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, she said.
From: Jim Verboon, Visalia Times-Delta
After years of ignoring California's water woes, Senator Dianne Feinstein has finally introduced legislation regarding water deliveries. Unfortunately, the legislation does not address the federal laws that have caused the problem to begin with. The Senator's legislation simply requests the administration to take into account all options to deliver water under the current existing law. I repeat! The current federal flawed laws are the problem.
From: Dale Yurong, KFSN-30
Valley farmers aren't the only ones impacted by the California drought. The drought and the state's ongoing struggle over water was the focus of a business roundtable.
Recent storms have not changed this summer's outlook. Hundreds of thousands of acres will go unplanted in the Valley because of severe cutbacks in water deliveries.
Farmers already feel the pain, but Westlands Water District general manager Tom Birmingham brought the message to local business leaders gathered at the exhibit hall in Downtown Fresno.
From: Ian James, Desert Sun
President Barack Obama has reauthorized spending on the National Integrated Drought Information System, enabling the government to continue providing drought warning forecasts and other support as the extreme dry spell persists across California and much of the West.
The bill that Obama signed into law on Thursday will provide funding until 2018 for the federal drought information system.
From: Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record
By now, many of us have noticed impacts of the drought - a dry countryside, fewer grazing cows and water only upon request at restaurants.
Farmers, however, have been waiting, and in many cases worrying through the winter.
Northern California crops are dominated by orchards and rice, which make up the bulk of farm income.
From: Staff, Visalia Times-Delta
No matter how you look at it, citrus growers in Tulare County are between a rock and a hard place.
Or more specifically, between and a drought and a pest. It's not a comfortable spot to be.
Hundreds of growers from Tulare County and the surrounding area gathered on Thursday morning at California Citrus Mutual's Annual Showcase, however, to share their concerns and opinions, and to bolster each other as they fight to save the industry.
From: Staff, Barbara Cooks
A couple of weeks ago I had an amazing opportunity to tour three different farms, meet the farmers who run them and learn about how they grow their produce and use water efficiently. The California Farm Water Coalition took me and three other wonderful bloggers through the farming areas of Imperial Valley and Coachella to learn about where our produce comes from and share all this knowledge with you, our readers! I had a fabulous time getting to know Kim from LivLife, Priscilla from She's Cookin' and Jeanne from The Jolly Tomato. I gained a wealth of information that I will share with you in three posts, the first being this one: "Winters Salad Bowl".
Thursday, March 6, 2014
From: Carolyn Lochhead, sfgate.com
Four California Democrats, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, sent an urgent appeal Wednesday to the state Water Resources Control Board pleading for two-week delay in a decision that was expected Friday to slash water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to farmers.
The letter was also signed by Reps. Jim Costa of Fresno and John Garamendi of Walnut Grove (Sacramento County). Garamendi is a fierce protector of delta water and fisheries, which frequently puts him in conflict with San Joaquin Valley farmers over water.
From: Michael Doyle, McClatchy
California's two Democratic senators, joined by two House Democrats, urged the State Water Resources Control Board on Wedneseday to think twice, or maybe thrice, before issuing a proposed order that could cut Delta water pumping.
In a three-page letter, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer along with Reps. Jim Costa of Fresno and John Garamendi of Walnut Grove asked the water board to put off until at least March 21 the proposed "prioritizing" of statewide water deliveries.
From: Carol Lawrence, Ventura County Star (Subscription required)
Water shortages, dwindling labor and onerous regulations are largely political issues that need solutions soon, a panel of agriculture producers said Wednesday morning in Camarillo.
From: Staff, Santa Maria Times
The irony is inescapable, and you have to appreciate it. At about the same time state lawmakers were delivering drought relief legislation to the governor last week, California got the biggest drenching it has seen in more than a year.
Irony is one thing, but reality is something quite different. In this case, we've still got a drought situation, despite those downpours last week. And we all still need to think about water supplies, now and in the future, despite the aforementioned rain episodes.
From: Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times
A court ruling issued Wednesday could throw up obstacles to operation of a Kern County groundwater bank that has helped billionaire Stewart Resnick build a nut empire in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
In the latest development in a two-decade legal fight, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge found that the state Department of Water Resources didn't properly analyze the environmental impacts of the Kern Water Bank, which is partly controlled by Resnick's Paramount Farms enterprise.
From: Garance Burke, Associated Press
A state judge ruled Wednesday that California water managers failed to consider the environmental impacts of running one of the nation's largest water banks.
The Department of Water Resources never looked at the ecological effects of running the Kern Water Bank when the state transferred the bank to private hands in 1997, Judge Timothy Frawley ruled.
From: Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio
The Assembly Democratic leadership has now added an extra $1 billion for storage projects like dams and reservoirs to its bond proposal in hopes of winning support of Republicans and Central Valley Democrats. "These will all be open and competitive grants," says Asm. Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), the proposal's author. "The whole point of this water bond package, from the outset, has been to stay away from specific earmarks."
Asm. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) says that's a good start - "I'm interested in creating wet water, and that means we have to do ground water storage, surface water storage, investment in the watersheds" - but he's still concerned there's no guarantee that future Democratic-controlled legislatures won't spend the storage money elsewhere.
From: Jessica Peres, KFSN 30
As farmers in the Central Valley battle zero water allocation from the Friant Dam, some are now worried the value of their land will go down. Farmers in the driest areas of the county are now worried. With no certainty of water coming in, will their precious farmland be worth less than what they paid for it?
For the last few months citrus growers in Terra Bella have seen their share of hurdles. First, a potentially deadly citrus bug was found in the area, then orange groves here were wiped out from the December freeze, and now, no water.
From: Dennis Taylor, Salinas Californian
A one-two punch by Mother Nature is afflicting Monterey County strawberry growers' crops in their Oxnard-area operations and could have an impact on the Central Coast crop.
During a drought, salts that would normally be leached out by rainfall stay on the surface of the soil surrounding the strawberry plants.