Tuesday, March 25, 2014

News articles and links from March 25, 2014

Water Use 

From: Carolee Krieger, Ventura County Star

The recent deluge notwithstanding, California remains gripped by the worst drought in decades. Farms and some cities already are feeling the impact.

But while drought is a natural phenomenon, the state's water crisis is a fabricated event. We have enough water in California to serve our urban populations and support sustainable farming. But we have no water to waste and we certainly can't allow the privatization of our most essential public resource.

Coalition response... Ms. Krieger's column is more fiction than fact. While California farmers produce food and fiber enjoyed locally and internationally, they cannot do it without water. Honest, open conversations about how water is used and managed in California are far more productive than repeating myths and propaganda.

                It is a commonly repeated myth that California's water rights permits are many times the actual available water in California. The reality is that California's water rights include provisions for the reuse of water. Permitted and unused or underused water often returns to the supply where another water user with a permit may divert it for use.
                The re-institution of urban preference for water rights over others users including the environment and agriculture may threaten endangered species, wild and scenic rivers, and agricultural open spaces that produce locally grown food and fiber. Urban water users are the best-protected water users in the state, as State regulators are attuned to the needs of health and safety uses.
                The Kern Water Bank was developed by local public agencies after the State of California was unable to get the project beyond an initial pilot project. The Kern Water Bank has become an indispensable regional water resource as a direct result of local water agencies working cooperatively to build a modern water management tool. The Kern Water Bank is controlled by local, public water agencies through the Kern Water Bank Authority, not by individuals.
                Estimates on the supply yield from other sources such as marine desalination vary greatly, but California agriculture has already stepped up on conservation and improved efficiency. In the last 10 years farmers have spent almost $3 billion upgrading irrigation systems on more than 2.4 million acres. These and other improvements have nearly doubled production while applied water use has declined by 14.5 percent. Investments in efficiency have resulted in leading irrigation researchers at the Center for Irrigation Technology and CSU Fresno to determine the actual amount of conservation potential from California agriculture is about 300,000 acre feet, or about 1 percent of typical applied water.
                Drainage contamination issues began to be resolved over 20 years ago. Today the San Joaquin Valley Drainage Program is working to improve not only the farmland in the area but also prevent the drainage problems associated with the environment in the 1980s. Modern projects to reduce salinity in agricultural discharge, such as the Panoche Water District's solar desalination stills, promise opportunities to reduce discharge and reuse and recycle water.
                Agricultural economists say this year's idling of 800,000 acres or more of farmland in California will cost 20,000 jobs and roughly a $7.5 billion hit to the economy.

Water Supply

From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee

Numerous billion-dollar proposals to create more water storage in California are competing for attention and funding during this third year of drought.

But there may be a less-expensive way to increase water flows into the Central Valley: Start thinning out the overgrown Sierra Nevada forests.

Coalition response... California's forestry management practices may indeed have had an impact on runoff and water supply in the preceding decades. It will be interesting to see the results of the UC Merced study and whether sensible thinning of forestland will improve conditions in our rivers and streams.

Another factor that has likely had an effect on runoff is the urbanization of California's foothill counties. Since 1960 the population of the eight counties from Plumas to Mariposa increased 580 percent from about 114,500 to almost 694,000. El Dorado County's population is up over nine times its 1960 level.

This information is vitally important as the State Water Resources Control Board undertakes a process to require a 35 percent unimpaired flow mandate for the Merced, Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers. Other waterways will undoubtedly follow. Once again it will be farmers that bear the brunt of a majority of the water supply cuts when in reality many other factors need to be considered.


From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided it will no longer force local levee agencies to choose between keeping trees on their levees and losing federal money for disaster assistance.

On Monday, the Army Corps announced in a new "interim" policy that it will not disqualify levees that fail to meet its maintenance criteria from receiving disaster relief funding, essentially granting a reprieve to thousands of miles of California riverside habitat. The move appears to resolve, for now, a long-running policy dispute that pitted the state of California against the powerful federal flood-control agency.


From: Cary Blake, Western Farm Press

California's epic drought - its rainless skies and snow covered-less mountains - continues to block a rainbow from appearing over agriculture's horizon. Growers continue to fallow prime farm land - possibly up to 800,000 acres this year - and make very difficult decisions for their businesses.

Growers of permanent crops - tree nuts, vines, and others - are feeling the heat from the lack of surface water. Some tree nut growers in especially water-short areas are focused primarily on keeping orchards alive; much less producing a crop.

From: Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News 

In the latest sign that California's historic drought is having a worsening impact on Silicon Valley, the region's largest water provider is putting in place unprecedented cutbacks this spring on cities, farmers and its own efforts to recharge groundwater supplies.

Because of the lack of rain, the Santa Clara Valley Water District last week alerted seven cities and companies that provide water to about 1.5 million people that it will provide only 80 percent of the treated drinking water they have requested through the rest of the year.

Water Use 

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

The Imperial Irrigation District's board of Directors has called a special meeting for this afternoon. A guideline modification to the district's on-farm water conservation program is at the top of the agenda.

Some farmers feared that their historical water-use baseline could be compromised by participating in the IID's voluntary program and installing water conservation measures in their fields.

From: Jane Wells, NBC News

The Golden State's current drought could be one for the history books, as farmers in the Central Valley drill deeper wells and deal with a complete cutoff in contracted water from the state.

But at the southeastern corner of California, farmers have plenty of water.

"We are very blessed with the water we have," said Linsey Dale of the Imperial County Farm Bureau. She estimates the value of all the winter vegetables and alfalfa hay grown in this area north of the Mexican border are worth about $2 billion.


From: Damon Arthur, Redding Record-Searchlight

Three tanker trucks were loaded this morning with more than 400,000 fingerling Chinook salmon to haul to the Bay Area from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Anderson.

The fall-run salmon usually swim the nearly 300 mile trek down Sacramento River from Anderson to the Pacific Ocean, but this year the drought forced wildlife officials to give the fish a ride.

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