Friday, February 7, 2014

News articles and links from February 7, 2014

Water Supply

From: Victor Davis Hanson, Modesto Bee

Despite recent sporadic rain, California is still in the worst extended drought in its brief recorded history. If more storms do not arrive, the old canard that California could withstand two droughts - but never three - will be tested for the first time in memory.

There is little snow in the state's towering Sierra Nevada mountains, the source of much of the surface water that supplies the state's populated center and south. The vast Central Valley aquifer is being tapped as never before, as farms and municipalities deepen wells and boost pump size. Too many straws are now competing to suck out the last drops at the bottom of the collective glass.

The vast 4-million-acre farming belt along the west side of the Central Valley is slowly drying up. Unlike valley agriculture to the east that still has a viable aquifer, these huge farms depend entirely on surface water deliveries from the distant and usually wet northern part of the state. So if the drought continues, billions of dollars of Westside orchards and vineyards will die, row cropland will lay fallow, and farm-supported small towns will likewise dry up.

From: Dean Florez, Fresno Bee

This week most of Southern California woke to the news that it's time to conserve water by cutting shower time with a heed from Gov. Jerry Brown that this drought is "real" as he called citizens to voluntarily "avoid flushing toilets unnecessarily and to turn off the tap while shaving."

For farmers in the Central Valley, the nation's top agricultural producers at $44.7 billion, a similar dire warning was issued to begin planning and revising their production. Lost revenue in 2014 from farming and other related businesses such as trucking and processing are expected to be at least $5 billion.

From: Staff, Fresno Bee

There's no doubt that the 68-page, drought-inspired California water bill that blew like a hurricane through the House of Representatives with largely Republican support has no chance of passage in the Senate.

It's equally true that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, lived up to his reputation of being a flamethrower by citing environmentalists' "stupid fish, their little delta smelt."

But getting the bill - which, among many things, would repeal San Joaquin River restoration efforts - signed into law was not the intent of California's GOP delegation.

From: Rose Aguilar, KALW 91.7

On today's Your Call, we'll continue our series of discussions related to California's current drought, by looking at how agriculture uses and manages water.   Nearly half of California's land is devoted to agriculture-- both animal grazing and crops.  And farmers use 80% of the state's developed water. How is agriculture changing in the face of the drought? How can we prepare for a drier future without hurting this critical sector of the California economy?

From: Staff, Redding Record-Searchlight

To hear the Democratic critics, the water bill that the House Republicans passed this week would highhandedly meddle in state water laws and undermine environmental protections. It also pretends government is the problem when California is simply enduring an epochal drought, and is a massive water grab on behalf of San Joaquin Valley irrigators who are last in the water-rights line.

The critics are right about the meddling, the disregard for fish and the weather.

But that water grab? It's more nuanced. Some of the "water grabbing" would be done on behalf of farmers right here in the Sacramento Valley.

From: Julie Schmit, Elizabeth Weise, USA Today

One hundred days. That's about how much time this California community of 3,500 people has until it runs out of water, assuming no rain, local and state officials say.

Last month, the township ordered households to restrict water use to 110 gallons a day.

From: Jennifer Oldham, Michael Marois, Business Week

The drought that's gripping California may soon have the rest of the country seeking relief.

The emergency, which follows the state's driest year on record, is likely to boost the prices of everything from broccoli to cauliflower nationwide. Farmers and truckers stand to lose billions in revenue, weakening an already fragile recovery in the nation's most-populous state. And California and other Western states are seeing a surge in wildfires.

Water Storage

From: Amy Quinton, Capitol Public Radio

The report from UC Irvine's Center for Hydrologic Modeling is an update to a 2011 study which showed the basins lost nearly as much water as the volume of Lake Mead over a seven year period.

The new report finds water storage in the last two years continues to plummet, and the study doesn't even include the most recent dry winter.

Water Bond 

From: Sen. Anthony Cannella, Salinas Californian

Water is, by far, the biggest issue facing California today as we endure the driest year in our state's history. With our archaic water system not designed to sustain a rapidly growing California, it is imperative we act now and not later.

Our water system was built 50 years ago to serve a population half our current size; we are nearing an ecological disaster of great proportions as reservoirs have a fraction of their normal storage, ground water is being overdrafted, farmers have stopped farming, workers are being laid off and communities are facing water rationi

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