Wednesday, March 12, 2014

News articles and links from March 12, 2014


From: Mark Bittman, New York Times

The San Joaquin Valley in California can be stunningly beautiful: On a visit two weeks ago, I saw billions of pink almond blossoms peaking, with the Sierra Nevada towering over all. It can also be a hideous place, the air choked with microparticles of unpleasant origins (dried cow dung, sprayed chemicals, blowing over-fertilized soil), its cities like Fresno and Bakersfield sprawling incoherently and its small towns suffering from poverty, populated by immigrants from places as near as Baja, Mexico, and as far as Punjab, India.

This year, much of its land is a dull, dusty brown rather than the bright green that's "normal" here, even if "normal" is more desire than reality. With water, this is the best agricultural land in the world. Without it, not so much.

Coalition response...  Mark Bittman's effort to paint California agriculture as an arcane and antiquated business is simply wrong. Farmers have invested almost $3 billion installing upgraded irrigation systems on 2.4 million acres over the last 10 years. The amount people pay for water isn't some arbitrary structure either. In California ALL water, is a public resource and is free. The cost everyone pays for water - farms or city users - is tied to the cost of delivery. An older irrigation district without any debt and gravity delivery can deliver water very inexpensively. By the same token water provided for human consumption must be treated to meet drinking water standards, stored, pressurized and delivered to every tap 24 hours a day. Simply put, that costs more.

Suggesting that there be a way for the government or conservation advocates to determine what crops farmers grow didn't work for the Soviets and it won't work in the United States. Farmers make crop choices based on what people buy at the store. If there is a market for artichokes a farmer will grow them. If people are buying strawberries or broccoli you can be sure they'll be planted to supply the demand. And maintaining peak production requires farmers to grow sustainably. Bittman's suggestion that farmers rotate crops comes about 100 years late. It's a common practice because today's farmers understand and practice wise soil management.

From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

In yet another sign of the severe drought facing California, state water officials are planning to temporarily dam three channels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to control salinity intrusion from San Francisco Bay.

The California Department of Water Resources is working to place the barriers as soon as May 1, if the drought persists. The agency is scrambling to obtain the necessary permits and notify property owners who could be affected.

From: Staff, San Jose Mercury News

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell toured a federal water storage and pumping plant in Byron today to get a firsthand look at a key piece of California's water infrastructure as the state grapples with a historic drought.

Jewell was accompanied by California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley during the afternoon tour of the C.W. "Bill" Jones Pumping Plant.

From: Alex Breitler, Stockton Record

President Barack Obama's lead adviser on water and wildlife toured the enormous south Delta export pumps Tuesday, examining the roaring, 22,500-horsepower pumps before cautioning that no one would receive all the water they need this year.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell told reporters that state and federal governments will have to be flexible to make the best use of a limited amount of water.

From: Dana Hull, San Jose Mercury News

With 2013 the driest year on record and 2014 possibly worse, the devastation of California's drought is trickling down to crops, fields, farmers markets, grocery stores -- and the kitchen table.

While it's too early to tell precisely how much the drought will push up household grocery bills, economists say consumers can expect to pay more for food later this year because fewer acres of land are being planted and crop yields are shrinking.

Large grocery chains have distribution networks and can import produce from around the world to keep customers in everything from cantaloupe to cauliflower, but experts say California's smaller yields will inevitably lead to higher consumer prices here and elsewhere. Some consumers already are plotting ways to keep their food budgets under control if there is a big spike in prices.

From: Rich Matteis, CFBF AgAlert

In the middle of a potential catastrophe, it's hard to know just how bad the outcome is going to be. It's like falling out of a plane: If the parachute opens, you're OK. If not ...

Right now, many California farmers and ranchers feel like they're falling out of that plane and the parachute isn't going to open. The severe California drought and the draconian water shortages that have followed may portend disaster for many farmers and those whose jobs directly or indirectly depend on agricultural production.


From: Amy Quinton, Capital Public Radio

The Legislative Analyst's Office told lawmakers that without comprehensive statewide regulation of groundwater, management of the state's water supply will be increasingly difficult. The LAO suggests the state require local water districts to phase in groundwater permitting and keep track of how much water is extracted from all groundwater wells.

Hydrologist Jay Famiglietti with UC Irvine says in some places water will disappear in a matter of decades.

From: Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee

A legislative committee kicked around California's water dilemma the other day - not only its current drought but its longer-term demand/supply imbalance.

At one point, Sen. Fran Pavley, who chairs the Senate's water committee, raised a point that she's attempted to bring into the perennial debate before, with little success - whether underground water extraction should be closely regulated to curb overdrafting and stave off collapse of land above depleted aquifers.

From: Ron Nixon, New York Times

Water rarely flows in one of the streambeds - it really seems to be little more than a small ditch - that Dean Lemeke points out to a visitor on his 800-acre farm in Dows, Iowa.

"I wouldn't even call it a stream," he said. "There is only water flow in it when it rains."

Mr. Lemeke is a former Iowa state government official who supervised water quality programs. He is also a fifth-generation farmer who grows corn and soybeans on his acreage, about 75 miles north of Des Moines, and he has never worried that the government would be concerned about that small ditch.

Water Supply

From: Damon Arthur, Redding Record-Searchlight

The Anderson-Cottonwood Irrigation District is meeting Thursday to begin trying to figure out how to serve its customers with 60 percent less water.

District Manager Stan Wangberg said he expects a large crowd at the first meeting of the board of directors since the district found out it is only getting 40 percent of its water allocation from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Water Storage

From: Tom McClintock, Fresno Bee

President Barack Obama visited the drought-stricken Central Valley of California in February to announce his solution: another billion dollars to study "climate change."

Here's a bulletin for those who missed the Holocene Epoch: the planet has been warming - on and off - since the last ice age, when glaciers covered much of North America. The climate has been changing since the planet formed, often much more abruptly than it has in recent centuries.

Until the Earth begins moving into its next ice age, we can reasonably expect it will continue to gently warm. That means less water can be stored in snowpacks and therefore more will need to be stored behind dams.

No comments:

Post a Comment