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.

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