Friday, February 28, 2014

News articles and links from February 28, 2014

Water Use

From: Jay Lund, U.C. Davis California WaterBlog

There has been considerable kvetching during this drought about California exporting agricultural products overseas, with some saying that this implies we are virtually exporting water that we should be using in California.

Those concerned should take comfort with California's major imports of virtual water. Much of the food consumed here comes from other states and countries, and their production, of course, requires water.

Coalition response... Jay Lund deserves the water industry's "Nobel Prize" for this concise explanation on the fallacy of exporting water in California farm products. We live in a global economy. California's place near the top of the economic heap would not be possible if we tried to produce everything here that we consume. We have the ability to grow farm products more efficiently and in quantities greater than anywhere else. That helps keep American food costs the lowest in the developed world (as a percentage of disposable income) and leaves money left over for that iPhone.


From: Mike Wade, Modesto Bee

George Skelton's affinity for salmon is obvious (" It's farmers vs. fishermen," Feb. 23). He takes great pains to paint a picture that water diversions in the Delta are the sole cause of the salmon decline, but nothing in life is that simple.

Salmon are impacted by numerous factors, not the least of which are predatory species such as non-native bass. Recent studies show that fewer than 10 percent of salmon hatched upstream make it alive to the sea because they get eaten on their journey through the Delta.

From: David Silva, Modesto Bee

According to " It's farmers vs. fishermen" (Opinions, Feb. 23), the environmentalists want the Delta and salmon fishing to be the same as it was 200 years ago. They seem to forget that there is now 75 times more population.

There was a time when most families had cows, pigs, chickens and vegetable gardens. Now, they depend on dairies, beef cattle and farmers for their food. It is time for environmentalists to realize that change is inevitable.

Water Supply

From: Staff, Sacramento Bee

In a concerted effort to aid California's drought-stricken communities, the Legislature on Thursday sped a $687 million relief package to Gov. Jerry Brown.

One week after Brown and legislative leaders unveiled the emergency legislation, both houses of the Legislature approved the bill with little resistance. The Assembly passed the bill 65-0, and the Senate sent it to Brown's desk with only three dissenting votes.

From: Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times

A $687.4-million emergency drought relief package is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk after easily clearing the Legislature on Thursday.
Brown and legislative leaders unveiled the proposal last week to free up the state's water supplies and aid residents who face hardship due to the drought.

From: Staff, KOVR 13

A $687 million drought relief plan is heading for the governor's desk, promising plenty of money for public projects, but leaving farmers feeling left out of the relief.
Farms are getting a good soaking with this latest storm, but the threat of the drought still lingers.

Danny Merkley with the California Farm Bureau says this drought bill may save cities' water, but farmers still come up on the short end, because of how the drought relief is allocated.

From: Jim Johnson, Monterey Herald

With a crucial deadline months away, two influential farm industry groups are concerned about Monterey County's ability to retain a prized Salinas River water-diversion permit.

In letters to county Water Resources Agency directors, the Monterey County Farm Bureau and Salinas Valley Water Coalition criticized county actions with regard to the permit and the work of a permit advisory committee.

From: Don Curlee, Hanford Sentinel

If California farmers needed an "ah-ha moment" to reveal the evils of environmentalism the current drought has surely provided it.

Years of decisions by politicians and bureaucrats to send millions of acre feet of water through the Delta and out to the ocean in a foolish effort to protect worthless fish has wasted water that could have been stored and later used to ease the disastrous drought.

From: Derek Moore, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat

Organic dairy farmers greeted proposed legislation to use treated wastewater for livestock consumption with skepticism Thursday, saying it risks the health of their animals and could jeopardize their businesses.

"I'm not going to risk our animals or our customers to an idea that's not tested," said Albert Straus, president of Straus Family Creamery in Marshall.

From: P.J. Kershaw, Sacramento Bee

Re "In record drought, state leaders can't ignore agriculture to save water" (Editorials, Feb. 21): The editorial board accurately stated that household use of water is scant compared to farm use of water.

Despite the fact that only about 4 percent of California's fresh water is consumed by households, and the remaining 96 percent is consumed by farm and industrial and commercial users, our government agencies and utilities are pushing for a 20 percent reduction in household water use and for imposition of penalties for failure to abide.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

News articles and links from February 27, 2014


From: Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle

The celebrated king salmon of the West Coast won't be as abundant as last year, but ocean fishermen can still expect to reel them in by the score despite a third year of drought and potentially dire conditions in California rivers, fisheries biologists said Wednesday.

The National Marine Fisheries Service predicted Wednesday that 634,650 fall-run chinook salmon from the Sacramento river system would be out in the ocean this year, a good sign for local commercial and recreational fishermen and women whose livelihoods aren't likely to be threatened by major restrictions.

Water Supply

From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

The strain on water supplies in this serious drought year was evident this week, as major landowners in the Sacramento Valley protested the federal government's forecast that it will deliver only 40 percent of usual water supplies.

That 40 percent allotment for the so-called Sacramento River settlement contractors is only a forecast by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, based on drought conditions that are expected to deplete snowmelt. Such a low allocation has never been made before, and it is well below the 75 percent that the settlement contractors say is the minimum they should receive under any conditions.

From: Ramona Giwargis, Merced Sun-Star

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will come to Merced next week to meet with the governor's Drought Task Force and local leaders to discuss the drought's impact on agriculture, the agency announced Wednesday.

Members of the task force are traveling around the state to meet with local officials to learn how communities are coping with drought effects.

From: Daniel Wood, Christian Science Monitor

Conventional water wisdom in California boils down to this: Eighty percent of the water is allocated to farmers, 20 percent to cities. But 36 months into the state's worst-ever drought - 12 months of the driest on record, following 24 below normal - cattle are going without food on mud-cracked rangelands yet fountains flow freely in Los Angeles water parks.


From: Staff, Modesto Bee

There were several positives in the first meeting of the Stanislaus County Water Advisory Committee, which is tasked with developing recommendations on the equitable management and regulation of groundwater in Stanislaus County.

First, the county gave the 19-member committee a June 11 deadline to report back to the Board of Supervisors. That creates a sense of urgency, which is desperately needed during a drought that has reached crisis dimension. Some farmers have drilled huge wells, which threaten to lower water tables in several parts of the county.

From: B.K. Brooks, Chico Enterprise-Record

Droughts come and go. It's history folks, whether you call it normal weather cycles that do include dramatic extremes, or global warming, err, cooling, err, change or whatever. But what really gets me is when the greens claim that even more reservoirs are not the answer.

Put simply most statistics suggest we are nearing twice the population that our reservoirs were meant to handle. Smug greenies say even if you build you would still have only 38 percent of normal reservoirs. Personally I would rather have 10 more reservoirs at 38 percent full than just a few we have due to the moratorium we have had inflicted on us for almost 50 years now.

Water Bond

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

Drought worries are prompting state lawmakers from this area to pitch bills competing with the California water bond up for a statewide vote in November.

Sen. Cathleen Galgiani on Tuesday joined a parade of legislators, including Sen. Anthony Cannella and Assemblyman Adam Gray, who are advocating differing responses to a third dry winter and dwindling water sources.

Food News

From: Jeanne Fratello, Jolly Tomato

If your city is covered in snow and ice, where are you going to get your fresh fruits and vegetables? In many cases, they'll be grown in the low desert of California's Imperial and Coachella Valleys. On the first leg of our farm tour with the California Farm Water Coalition we learned about growing spinach and lettuce in Imperial Valley; today's portion included a lesson on citrus, date, and pepper farming in Coachella Valley.

From: Christine Souza, AgAlert

Faced with severe water shortages, growers of nut crops such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios are making tough decisions that include removing orchards, using just enough irrigation to keep their trees alive, or taking their chances with growing a crop.

An almond farmer in the Westlands Water District who expects no surface water, Barry Baker, said he is destroying 1,000 acres of almond trees and has earmarked another 1,000 acres for removal.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

News articles and links from February 26, 2014

Water Transfers 

From: Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee

The prospect of irrigation water hawked on Craigslist became a possibility Tuesday with a landmark vote allowing Modesto Irrigation District customers to buy and sell to other farmers within MID's boundary at any price they want.

The 3-2 decision overshadowed a competing proposal to establish a pool system managed by district staff in which growers would buy and sell water for $400 an acre-foot. That idea also passed, on a 4-1 vote, but supporters acknowledged it might not get traction because sellers are likely to fetch higher offers on the open market.

Water Supply 

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

The board of the Turlock Irrigation District voted 5-0 Tuesday to cut water deliveries to about half of what its farmers usually get.

Directors set a cap of 20 inches of water over the 2014 irrigation season in an effort to keep at least some carryover in Don Pedro Reservoir for 2015. Farmers could get up to 4 extra inches to complete their final round of watering, at a higher price that will be considered later.

Water Bond

From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, and state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, are the latest to propose a new bill tweaking the California water bond scheduled for November.

There are seven versions now, if you include the twice-delayed $11. 2 billion version on the ballot now. It's a crowded, confusing field at a time when President Barack Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown have drawn attention to an intense drought.


From: Dan Errotabere, East Bay Express

Imagine riding in a bicycle race through the streets of San Francisco, and after completing half the course, you are told that the rules have changed and every third rider must abandon pedaling and instead carry his bicycle the rest of the way. You would not be very pleased if you were that third rider.

Well, that is what happened to farmers like me along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley after we planted almond trees years ago but were later told that part of that water needed by the trees was going to be taken away. Combine years of surviving under these new rules with a devastating drought that is now gripping our state and the result is farmers must make difficult decisions this year whether to keep their trees alive.

From: Julian Suhr, East Bay Express

Brilliant cover story. Mr. Palomino does a splendid job chronicling the history and evolution of this crazy desert farming cash cow we've stuck ourselves with in the western San Joaquin Valley. Seems to me that we need to start thinking about not just whether our foods are "local" or "organic," but whether the growing practices make sense on a basic level, and then vote with our dollars in the same way Michael Pollan asked us all to vote with our dollars about industrial food so many years ago.

Food News  

From: Staff,

Today, February 26, is National Pistachio Day!  To help celebrate, we've brought together some fun facts, while some of California's food bloggers and Setton Farms have teamed up to bring us some very special recipes.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Californians eat healthy... and save money too!

When you live in California you have the benefit of buying fresh, locally grown produce at a nearby farmers market or in your favorite grocery store. Being so close to the fields where broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach, cantaloupes and hundreds of other crops are grown makes all the difference in the quality and freshness in the food we provide our families. But there’s another big benefit to buying California produce right here in California and that’s price.

Romaine lettuce field in Imperial Valley, CA
On February 9 in Los Angeles the price of one bunch of broccoli was $1.24. In New York that same bunch was $2.33. Romaine lettuce is an even better deal. The Los Angeles price was $1.07 while in New York you would have to shell out the same $2.33 that the broccoli would have cost. Prices in Chicago and Atlanta, although not as high as those in the Empire State are still significantly more than they are in sunny SoCal. Prices for most other fresh fruits and vegetables reflect the same disparity between east and west coast.

Broccoli ready to be harvested in CA's San Joaquin Valley
So take heart, eat healthy and enjoy the fact that California produce is not only good for you, its good for your wallet, too!

News articles and links from February 25, 2014

Bay Delta Conservation Plan 

From: Cathy Lazarus, San Jose Mercury News

California is a thirsty state. The 20th-century water delivery infrastructure is inadequate, deteriorating and unreliable.

We now recognize that historical water delivery and management strategies have caused serious harm to the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta ecosystem, the source of much of California's water supply, including Santa Clara County's.

Sacramento River

From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

A Bay Area water agency may use its water contracts on the Sacramento River for the first time to help its customers survive the ongoing drought.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District anticipates it will need to divert water this year from the Freeport Regional Water Project on the Sacramento River, which it helped build in partnership with Sacramento County at a cost of nearly $1 billion. The district has not used the diversion since it was completed in 2010, but its board will vote in April whether to activate it.


From: Staff, Western Farm Press

Parts of California could receive significant amounts of rainfall late this week. Most observers do not see the moisture ending the state's worst drought in decades, instead teasing them with what might have been if rainfall had been near normal for the winter.

Participants in the World Ag Expo 2014 Water Forum in Tulare, Calif., heard members of two panels discuss the current situation with the drought and the outlook for legislation and regulatory changes to the water delivery system to the nation's leading agricultural production area.

From: Staff, Sacramento Bee Blog

Saying Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal "includes little to address the effects of the current drought," a new report by the Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst suggests anti-drought and conservation steps that lawmakers could take.

Friday's review of the resources portion of Brown's January spending plan came two days after Brown and legislative unveiled a $687.4 million package of drought relief measures, some of which seem to mirror parts of what the LAO suggests.

From: Lon Allan, San Luis Obispo Tribune

I've always known that the availability of water was not absolute. My dad perpetually had a small "farm" while he worked other jobs, and I recall his admonition to me to make sure we didn't waste water when we irrigated our grapes.

In those days (1950s) we plowed three furrows between the vines and simply flooded them with water. You had to be vigilant to make sure the water didn't break out of the furrow and run - wasted - onto the nearby roads and elsewhere. At his direction you simply continued to walk the vineyard on the day you were running water.

From: Kim Stemler, Salinas Californian

Local hills are greener, thanks to the recent rains, and we are still in a drought that has exceeded historic dry records. Monterey County vineyards are "dusty in the middle of January," said Andy Mitchell, director of vineyard operations at 400,000-case Hahn Family Wines. "Last year was bad, but this year is much worse."

This at the same time we are celebrating last year's record wine grape harvest in California - up 7 percent from the previous record high of 2012's crush, as reported by the California Department of Food and Agriculture in the Preliminary Grape Crush Report published earlier this month.

Food News 

From: Jeanne Fratello, Jolly Tomato

Where do the country's families, grocery stores, restaurants, and food services get their leafy greens in the dead of winter? And where do those warm and dry regions get their water to be able to grow those crops? We got the answers to those questions and more last week while on a farm tour last week to California's "Low Desert" region (Imperial and Coachella Valleys) with the California Farm Water Coalition - along with blogger friends Priscilla from She's Cookin, Kim from Liv Life, and Barbara from Barbara Cooks.

Monday, February 24, 2014

News articles and links from February 24, 2014

Water Management 

From: Andrew Revkin, New York Times

Forecasters predict heavy rains will sweep in from the Pacific Ocean over much of California late next week. The state's extreme drought will be far from over, but the shift from parched days to downpours illustrates on a short time scale one factor explaining why it's hard to change deeply ingrained and wasteful approaches to water policy.

Coalition response... Managing California's water resources responsibly has never been more important than it is today, yet 48% of California's available water, that water hich is dedicated to environmental purposes by specific laws, regulations and court decisions, is insufficiently managed. Almost 41 million acre-feet of environmental water is set aside by the people of California during a typical year, but is often so poorly managed that we have a difficult time identifying any specific environmental benefits. Urban and agricultural water users are mandated by the State to submit water management plans that identify areas of success and areas that need improvement. In today's era of water shortages it's long past time for environmental water managers to do the same. 

Water Policy 

From: George Skelton, Los Angeles Times

If a product doesn't sell, try repackaging and renaming. That's a proven strategy, whatever you're peddling. Good timing also helps.

Thus, when the governor's California Water Action Plan sits on a shelf unnoticed for a while - and outside it is very dry - reshape and rewrap the contents as Emergency Drought Legislation.

From: Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee

It's not that California politicians haven't talked about the state's uncertain water supply.

They have - constantly, for decades. It's that they haven't done much but talk.

California is beset by the worst drought in its recorded history, and its politicians, from its governor and U.S. senators down, are publicly wringing their hands about its effects and doing what they can, which is precious little, to mitigate them.

From: Fenit Nirappil, AP

Drought and water issues will play a prominent role in this year's legislative session as most of California is dealing with the consequences of one of the driest periods on record.

Since the Legislature reconvened in January, 1,929 bills were introduced in advance of Friday's deadline.

From: Dennis Taylor, Salinas Californian

To butcher an old adage, if you want to muck things up, form a committee - particularly one where the members don't get along.

While farmers in the Salinas Valley are increasingly worried about future irrigation water, the federal Bureau of Reclamation told farmers in the Central Valley on Friday that they will have a zero allocation of water from the Central Valley Water Project.


From: Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times

The skinny rings of ancient giant sequoias and foxtail pines hold a lesson that Californians are learning once again this winter: It can get very dry, sometimes for a single parched year, sometimes for withering decades.

Drought has settled over the state like a dusty blanket, leaving much of the landscape a dreary brown. Receding reservoirs have exposed the ruins of long-forgotten towns. Some cities are rationing supplies and banning outdoor watering. Many growers are expecting no irrigation deliveries from the big government water projects that turned the state's belly into the nation's produce market.

From: John Roach, NBC News

As California and other western states face what some scientists fear could be a prolonged drought amplified by global warming, water experts say there's simply no way to predict how long the dry spell will last.

The best thing to do, they said, is to prepare for the worst and hope for rain. It wouldn't be the first time California soil went parched for a long stretch. Tree growth rings in the region show evidence of prolonged periods of aridity in the past.

From: Suzanne Phan, KXTV 10

The California drought is hitting many people hard and its impact will be felt from farm to fork.

Federal officials said many farmers caught in California's drought will receive no irrigation water this year from a vast system of rivers, canals and reservoirs interlacing the state. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday it will continue to monitor rain and snowfall, but at this point there's not enough water in the Central Valley Project to give water to farmers.

Water Supply

From: Staff, AP

Without a lot more rain and snow, many farmers caught in California's drought can expect to receive no irrigation water this year from a vast federally controlled system of rivers, canals and reservoirs interlacing the state, federal officials say.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation released its first outlook of the year on Friday, saying the agency would continue to monitor rain and snowfall, but current levels confirmed that the state was in one of its driest periods in recorded history. The state's snowpack is at 29 percent of the average for this time of year, the report said."

From: Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times

Central Valley growers Friday got the grim news they have been expecting for months. Most of them will get no water from the big federal irrigation project that supplies 3 million acres of California farm land.

Citing the state's severe drought, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced an initial water allocation of zero for most contractors of the sprawling Central Valley Project.

That could change. There is a month of winter left and storms on the Northern California horizon could boost reservoir levels, allowing reclamation to deliver more water. But the agency has never before predicted zero deliveries for such a sweeping set of contractors in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.

From: Andrea Menniti, KOVR 13

Farmers relying on the Central Valley Project will be getting no federal water this year in the latest blow to agriculture from this year's drought. Cities will also feel the impact of the lack of rainfall, getting 50 percent of their normal allowance while wildlife areas will get 40 percent.

We caught up with a fourth-generation farmer who is making drastic changes to cope with the loss of water.

From: Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News

In a crushing reminder of the state's parched plight, federal officials announced Friday that the Central Valley Project -- California's largest water delivery system -- will provide no water this year to Central Valley farmers and only 50 percent of the contracted amount to urban areas such as Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties.

Farmers had been bracing for the bad news because California received less rain in 2013 than any year since it became a state in 1850. Despite some storms this month, the state is still grappling with low reservoirs and a Sierra Nevada snowpack that's 25 percent of normal.

From: Scott Smith, AP

With California's agricultural heartland entrenched in drought, almond farmers are letting orchards dry up and in some cases making the tough call to have their trees torn out of the ground, leaving behind empty fields.

In California's Central Valley, Barry Baker is one of many who hired a crew that brought in large rumbling equipment to perform the grim task in a cloud of dust.

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

Tuesday morning, boards meeting 14 miles apart will look to a common goal - keeping their Don Pedro Reservoir supply from running out this year.

Directors of the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts will consider water allotments that are roughly half of what farmers enjoy in years of adequate rain and snow.


From: Gene Haagenson, KFSN 30

With water in short supply, Valley growers and cities are looking for ways to get the most of what they have.

With the cutoff of state and federal water supplies, growers who can are pumping well water to irrigate their crops, or drilling new wells to get more water. But the deeper they go, the saltier the water gets, and most crops can't take it.

Aaron Mandell thinks he has a solution. It's a big, shiny contraption being built in western Fresno County.

Water Storage 

From: Mike Dunbar, Modesto Bee

Have you wondered, during this year of unprecedented statewide drought, why you haven't heard cries of thirsty dismay rising from Southern California and cascading over the Tehachapis? Why the people offering astronomical sums for water are mostly south-valley farmers and not the gargantuan SoCal urban water districts that supply water to 22 million people?

That's because Southern California is managing its water better than we are ours. Having gotten only modest encouragement to conserve, many Southern Californians don't even know we're in a drought. That's because they have enough water to get through this dry year and most likely another.