Wednesday, February 19, 2014

News articles and links from February 19, 2014


From: Alastair Leithead, BBC News - L.A.

While historic winter storms have battered much of the US, California is suffering its worst drought on record. So why is America's most valuable farming state using billions of gallons of water to grow hay - specifically alfalfa - which is then shipped to China?

The reservoirs of California are just a fraction of capacity amid the worst drought in the state's history. "This should be like Eden right now," farmer John Dofflemyer says, looking out over a brutally dry, brown valley as his remaining cows feed on the hay he's had to buy in to keep them healthy.

Coalition response... An important factor that escapes Professor Glennon of Arizona College of Law who is concerned about California water used to grow exported farm products is that every consumer product that comes to the U.S. is "importing" water that was used to produce it somewhere else in the world. Whether crops go to Asia or shoes come to the U.S., the idea that we are importing or exporting water is essentially a meaningless argument. We live in a world that depends on dynamic trade to fuel the economies that feed, clothe and employ all of us...including Professor Glennon.

From: Robert Balthasar, Long Beach Press-Telegram

People quoted in the article lay all the responsibility of water conservation on the gullible homeowners. Notice how many previously paved medians in Long Beach are now planted (such as those on Lakewood Boulevard, Carson Street and Atherton Street). And many people may have missed that California wine growers had a record harvest this year. Farming in an arid state siphons off 80 percent of the available water."

Coalition response... It is important to remember that California is one state and farmers that use water to grow food are adding to its economy in significant ways. The water farmers use, which is actually 41 percent (not 80 percent) of our dedicated water supply, isn't used at anyone else's "expense," as the writer alleges. Water is a public resource with rights administered by the State Water Resources Control Board through a system that has stood the test of time for more than 150 years. Farmers are constantly improving water use efficiency and have reduced applied water by over 14 percent in recent decades. At the same time production efficiency has increased the volume of crops grown in the state by 85 percent. That benefits consumers who pay just 6.2 percent of their disposable incomes on food and non-alcoholic beverages. That's compared to 28 other high-income countries where food costs are 10.2 percent of the family budget. At the same rate, American consumers would pay an additional $3,820 per year to feed their families. That is a huge benefit that California farmers help bring to the table.

Water Supply

From: Staff, KCRA 3

Gov. Jerry Brown and other state leaders will announce emergency drought legislation on Wednesday. It was not immediately known what legislation the governor will introduce.

Last month, with the state facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Brown declared a drought State of Emergency while asking residents to voluntarily cut back on water use.

Just last week, Brown met with President Barack Obama about much needed federal support during the ongoing drought.

From: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

Consensus may have reached a crescendo regarding California's epic drought, but political partisanship raises concern over whether short-term and long-term fixes needed can ever be achieved.

Fifteen people participated in two panel discussions at the World Ag Expo Water Summit in Tulare, Calif. Their opinions on the impacts to California growers and communities ranged from "dire" to "catastrophic."

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

Officials are calling on California residents to conserve water as the state adjusts to what may be the worst drought in history. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January and asked residents to cut water use by 20 percent.

Fourteen consecutive years of drought along the Colorado River have squeezed water supplies even as urban areas continue to grow.

From: Staff, Chico Enterprise Record

Our view: We hope President Barack Obama's visit to drought ground zero last week made people realize we need to work together.

Firebaugh is off the beaten track, but the Central Valley community outside Fresno was in the national spotlight last week when President Barack Obama chose the city as the place to see the state's drought.


From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee Blog

A west San Joaquin Valley farmer told me he would pay $1,000 an acre-foot for as much water as he could get. But he can't find any.

In Kern County, a water auction last week attracted a top price of $1,350 per acre-foot. In many places, that's 10 times the usual cost. It's desperation time in this historic drought.

Salton Sea

From: Ker Than, National Geographic News

Standing atop a rocky outcrop on the southeastern edge of the Salton Sea in southern California, Bruce Wilcox pointed to the wooden ruins of a boat dock that dates back to the 1960s, when the region was a marina that attracted sport fishermen and celebrities. On a sunny day last December, the dock sat hundreds of feet from the water, rendered obsolete by the shoreline's steady withdrawal. No boats were visible anywhere on the shimmering blue water.

"The marina's been dry for the last five or six years," said Wilcox, 60, the environmental manager for the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), which manages water and energy in California's Imperial Valley and has energy customers in the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: John Holland, Modesto Bee

The federal government plans sharp water cutbacks for four West Side irrigation districts that until now had not suffered major effects from the drought.

The districts, which stretch across about 225,000 acres from Crows Landing to Mendota, are projected to get just 40 percent of their contracted amounts from the federal Central Valley Project this year.

The allocation is better than the zero water some federal contractors on the West Side face, but it nonetheless is a blow to farmers who have enjoyed some of the most secure water supplies in the region.

Water Pricing

From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee

Oakdale farmers soon will have to start paying for their water based on how much they use, not just how much land they irrigate.

That's not currently the case, but state regulations will force the Oakdale Irrigation District to replace its flat-rate pricing with a volume-based structure. The goal is to give farmers a financial incentive to save water. The OID is among the last irrigation districts in the region to make the switch.

Regional Storage

From: Staff, KSEE 24

All eyes are on the Central Valley's water crisis after President Obama flew in to see the drought impact firsthand. Plans for the construction of a new $12 million reservoir near Woodlake would prevent excess water from flowing downstream. An artist rendering of the proposed McKay Point Reservoir shows the area that would have to first be dug up.

"The general tax payers if you will, would not be financially exposed to this project whatsoever," said Tulare Irrigation District Manager Paul Hendrix. The property owners Tulare Irrigation District, Consolidated Peoples Ditch Company, and the Visalia and Kaweah Water Company would pay for construction by selling the dirt and rocks that are mined out of the basin.

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