Friday, February 21, 2014

News articles and links from February 21, 2014

Water Supply: Comments

EDITORIAL: In record drought, state leaders can't ignore agriculture to save water
From: Staff, Sacramento Bee 

Securing emergency drinking water supplies for the worst-hit communities is absolutely necessary. With no end in sight to California's record drought, state leaders are right to focus most of the $687 million relief package they announced Wednesday on longer-term efforts to conserve and recycle water.

But if we're really all in this together, leaders must pay far more attention to the biggest user - agriculture, which sucks up as much as three-fourths of available water in a given year.

Coalition response... Agricultural water users weren't asked by the State to voluntarily reduce water use during this drought, instead they were notified that no water would be coming out of their "faucets." The thing is, instead of these faucets washing cars, doing laundry, or showering people- they provide the food and fiber that millions of people the world over, but particularly those here at home, have come to rely on. Locally, beyond the loss of fresh, California-grown produce (With all the accompanying benefits of reduced pesticides, better working conditions, etc.) on our market shelves and in our kitchens- that dry faucet means a potential for a loss of 15,000 jobs, real people who will experience a seasonal and/or full-time job loss, if the water shortages in 2009 are any indication what is will happen this year.  

Suggesting that the state somehow discourage the production of certain crops because they are perceived to contribute less to the state economy isn't a solution to the drought, in fact it ignores the very fundamentals of economics. It's important to remember that many agricultural products serve as inputs for other higher value economic activities (think alfalfa to feed cows, that produce milk to drink and to make cheeses.)

State Leaders haven't overlooked farmers during this drought, they asked them to shoulder it first. Dry faucets, whether for farmers or families are disastrous for us all. It's time now to not merely survive, but to prepare for the future, to invest in the kind of water infrastructure California needs to meet current and future demands. We had the will to make those investments 50 years ago and we can do it again. 

From: Peter Jacobsen, Sacramento Bee
Re "Water contractors get a financial jolt (P A10, Feb 20): I encourage The Bee to dig a little deeper beyond the Standard and Poors report.

Who really will pay for the proposed twin tunnels? The federal contractors have yet to pay off the federal Central Valley Project, and hence they won't pay off the tunnels. Reclamation law allows them to pay the debt without interest, and based on their ability to pay. For us, this will be similar to living in your grandfather's house, and paying $30 a month in mortgage payments.

Coalition response... Public water agencies and the farmers that receive water from the federal Central Valley Project can't repay their cost obligations if the project isn't delivering any water to grow the crops they sell to make the money they need to repay the cost. Fixing the delivery mechanism will dramatically improve the ability to pay the bills. 

Other News

Water Storage

Water experts pitch for Temperance Flat Dam  
From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

 The historic drought this year has pushed California's twice-delayed water bond to the top of the public agenda, water experts told lawmakers Thursday.

Now is the time for a ballot measure to fix the state's aging water system, nurture the ecosystem and help rural communities get healthy drinking water, the experts said. A new dam on the San Joaquin River must be part of the equation, most said.

Water Supply

EDITORIAL: Is Brown's drought response something new or just spending?  
From: Staff, San Francisco Chronicle 

With the drought deepening, Sacramento is taking the first steps to soften the damage. A $687 million package boosts conservation and provides aid for those left jobless in farm country. But the moves will take months to take effect and barely touch the state's long-term water woes.

The package was unveiled by the state's top Democratic leaders, including Gov. Jerry Brown, indicating it will likely pass the Legislature within weeks. The hurry-up plan largely takes money from past bond measures and directs funds to ready-to-go projects that use the state's shrinking water supplies more thriftily.

California farmers brace for little or no water
From: Scott Smith, AP 

 Federal officials plan to announce Friday how much water they can release this year through a vast system of rivers, canals and reservoirs, but Central Valley farmers on the front lines of California's historic drought expect to get little, if anything.

This time of year the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation carefully measures the mountain snow pack, rainfall and reservoir levels all over California to determine the water available for farmers, fish migrations and communities.

Private water bank eases drought concerns  
From: Dale Yurong, KFSN 30

Severe drought conditions don't seem to worry one Valley grower. His foresight has not only protected his own farm but an entire water district as well.

Marvin Meyers has the state's only privately owned water banking facility. Water gushes out 24 hours a day seven days a week from the water bank near Mendota. Three ponding basins can hold 35,000 acre feet of water - enough for Meyers to farm for three years.

OPINION: Water under the bridge? Not on our watch  
From: Mike Hornick, The Packer

Bogart and Bergman will always have Paris, while in California it seems we'll always have that 800,000 acre-feet of water that flowed into the ocean - not storage - in late 2012.

Have it, that is, as a political point to score in debates over the causes and cures of the state's water shortage. We'd rather have the water than the talking point, but will make do.

OPINION: Days of Desiccation  
From: Tim Egan, New York Times 

The bathtub rings in the reservoirs that hold California's liquid life have never been more exposed. Shorelines are bare, brown and bony. Much of the Sierra Nevada is naked of snow. And fields in the Central Valley may soon take to the sky. A Dust Bowl? Not yet. Though this drought will surely go down as the worst in the state's recorded history. Until next year.

OPINION: Desalinization would be cheaper than tunnels  
From: Steve Spangler, Sacramento Bee 

Re "$687 million tagged for drought aid" (Page A1, Feb. 20): Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is joined at the shoulders with both Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker John A. Perez in beginning the legislative push towards trying to find enough water to satisfy the unquenchable thirst of the southern part of the state.

Brown has ignored desalination. If this can be done, why is Brown pushing the twin tunnels to suck water from the Delta to go to Southern California? The latest estimate of the cost of the tunnels was pegged at $40 Billion.

Food News

Food bloggers visit Imperial Valley
From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press       

Call it agriculture-to-urban diplomacy. A farm tour for urban food-bloggers organized by the 
California Farm Water Coalition passed through Imperial Valley on Thursday. The goal was to promote a better understanding of the complexities of agricultural food production as it relates to water use, said Mike Wade, executive director.

The visit began in El Centro at LaBrucherie Produce, where Vice President J.P. LaBrucherie gave the group a brief overview of irrigation techniques employed locally and answered questions about his company's production.

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