Monday, June 30, 2014

News articles and links from June 30, 2014

Water Bond 

From: Staff, Sacramento Bee

Californians must seize the opportunity provided by the worst drought in 30 years to improve the system for delivering water to the state's 38 million residents. With rainfall and snowpack half of normal, lawns are going brown, farmers are getting a fraction of their allocations and food prices are rising.

We're told to cut water use by 20 percent, while people in the foothills town of Outingdale are rationed to 68 gallons of water per person per day. That's a third of what the average Californian uses. It also could be a harbinger, especially if forecasts prove true that this will be a hotter-than-normal summer.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Staff, Associated Press

The California Supreme Court is set to decide if the state must buy thousands of acres of private property to perform preliminary tests for two massive water tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The dispute stems from Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal, which would send river water around the delta system to farms and communities in Central and Southern California.

From: Denny Walsh, Sacramento Bee

The California Supreme Court has agreed to decide an epic battle over whether the state must condemn and acquire parcels on tens of thousands of acres of private property to conduct preliminary testing for Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to construct two large water-conveyance tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Water Supply

From: Staff, New York Times

With water increasingly scarce in the drought-ravaged American West, many states could face drastic rationing without rain. Even with more sustainable practices, the future of water in the West is not secure. Population growth, conflicting demands for resources, and the unpredictable nature of a changing climate will all exacerbate the crisis of an already parched landscape.

What are the best ways to share the water? And how can we ensure it lasts for the foreseeable future?

From: Dennis Taylor, Salinas Californian

If the Salinas Valley moves into a fourth year of drought, issues surrounding water are likely to get very, very complicated, an attorney explained to growers and students Thursday at an agricultural technology "clinic" in Greenfield.

Much to the likely chagrin of growers in the valley, limited water supplies will need to be shared with cities and, based on a new court ruling, the environment, said Aaron Johnson, an attorney with the law firm of L+G LLP in Salinas.


From: Sasha Khokha, NPR

Steve Arthur practically lives out of his truck these days. He runs one of Fresno's busiest well-drilling companies, and hustles up and down the highway to check on drilling rigs that run 24 hours a day. "It's officially getting crazy," Arthur says. "We go and we go but it just seems like we can't go fast enough."

Drilling in California isn't just for oil and gas - it's for water. And during this severe drought, farmers and ranchers are relying heavily on pumping groundwater. Counties in the farm-rich Central Valley are issuing record numbers of permits for new wells. But the drilling frenzy could threaten the state's shrinking underground aquifers.

From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee

Stanislaus County farmers have been granted permission to drill hundreds of new agricultural wells this year, while an increasing number of domestic water wells go dry, a review of permit records shows.

A record-breaking 299 new water well drilling permits were issued in the first six months of 2014. That's nearly as many as were issued during all of 2013, which itself was a banner year for drilling.

Farming News 

From: Staff, Porterville Recorder

Irrigated farmland decreased in California by about 263 square miles from 2008-2010, according to the latest land-use change data from the Department of Conservation (DOC). Although more than 102,000 acres of the highest-quality agricultural soil, known as prime farmland, were included in that decrease, the California Farmland Conversion Report also noted that the amount of urbanization in the state was a record low.

"Urban land increased by 44,504 acres. This was the lowest urbanization rate recorded since our first such report and likely reflected the impact of the recent economic recession," DOC Director Mark Nechodom said. "More than urbanization, long-term land idling was the biggest factor in the decrease of irrigated farmland."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

News articles and links from June 24, 2014

Water Bond 

From: Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

The state Senate deadlocked Monday on a $10.5-billion water bond measure proposed for the November ballot when Republicans opposed it for not providing enough for water storage and to protect water rights.

Supporters of SB 848 could not muster the two-thirds vote needed to put the measure on the November ballot as a replacement for an $11.1-billion water bond that senators believe has too much pork to win voter approval. The vote on the measure was 22-9, with some members abstaining.

From: Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee

With the state budget behind them, the Capitol's politicians are turning to water, always California's most divisive political issue - but particularly so during a very severe drought, as a state Senate debate and vote demonstrated Monday.

They are trying - some harder than others - to write a new water bond to replace an $11.1 billion proposal placed on the ballot in 2009 but already postponed twice and widely believed to face voter rejection.

From: Jeremy White, Sacramento Bee

With the governor's controversial Delta tunnel project a key part of the debate, lawmakers on Monday failed to advance a leading Senate proposal to put a revised water bond on the November ballot.

From: Sharon Bernstein & Jennifer Chaussee, Reuters

A long-awaited plan to shore up California's drought-parched water supply stalled in the legislature on Monday, amid Republican complaints that the proposal does not do enough to send water to farms and cities in the state's breadbasket.

Water Supply

From: William Palazzini, Sacramento Bee

If California is in such an extreme drought and farmers are not receiving any irrigation water, why is the Bureau of Reclamation emptying Folsom lake at such a rapid rate? Where is the water going other than into the ocean?

From: Philip Karlstad, Sacramento Bee 

Recently an article in The Bee reported that water releases from Folsom Dam would be increased to reduce the water release temperature and prevent salt water intrusion in the Delta. The Bureau of Reclamations is wrong.

From: Richard Mazzucchi, Red Bluff Daily News

As one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, California produces more than 400 different farm products and is the nation's largest agricultural producer. In 2012, California farm output was valued at a record $45 billion, or about one-tenth of the total for the entire nation, and the state is also the nation's largest agricultural exporter, with exports reaching a record $18.2 billion in 2012.

From: Lisa Krieger, San Jose Mercury News

When a single snowflake falls peacefully atop a Sierra peak, it begins a turbulent journey to help quench the thirst of a drought-stricken state.

In most years, Sierra snow provides a third of California's water supply. But it is by far the least reliable portion - and now, after three years of historically low snowfall, tensions are soaring over how we share the shrinking bounty of this great frozen reservoir.


From: Meagan Clark, International Business Journal

A prolonged drought in California that spread to nearly 33 percent of the state this week is expected to dry up thousands of jobs in the state's agricultural sector and could push U.S. food prices higher this year.

The state's "exceptional" drought is the worst recorded in the 14 years that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been collecting such data. The Golden State, the world's eighth-largest economy, produces nearly half of the nation's fruits and vegetables - 95 percent of the country's broccoli, 81 percent of its carrots, and 99 percent of its artichokes, almonds and walnuts - along with cattle and dairy products.

From: Lauren Sommer, KQED 

Farmers who lack water in California are facing a tough summer ahead, but for those who do have water, it can be a windfall.

Water is hitting record prices on the open market, prompting some farmers to pump groundwater and sell it - what some call "groundwater mining." With groundwater already at record-low levels in parts of the state, concerns are rising that these water sales, known as water transfers, may put pressure on California's overtaxed aquifers.

From: Chris Roberts, KNTV

It's a great time to be a seller of water.

As California's drought enters its third summer, some Central Valley farmers and ranchers lucky enough to have groundwater to sell are raking in epic profits, according to KQED. Some 60 billion gallons of groundwater could be sold via the practice that's called "groundwater mining," the news source reported.

From: J.N. Sbranti, Modesto Bee

Few of the 7,910 landowners who were ordered last month to stop diverting water from California's rivers have complied. So the state is proposing to "put some teeth" into its emergency drought regulations.

The State Water Resources Control Board next week will consider imposing hefty fines on farmers and other water users to "ensure timely compliance" with curtailment orders.

Monday, June 23, 2014

News articles and links from June 23, 2014

Farming News

From: Donald Anthrop, Contra Costa Times

Several recent columnists and writers for this paper have argued that cotton and alfalfa are "water-intensive" crops and should not be grown in California.

Let me first dispel the myth about cotton being such a water-intensive crop. The consumptive water use by a crop basically depends upon four factors: the percentage of the field covered by green foliage; the length of the growing season; the temperature during the growing season; and the humidity during the growing season.

Water Bond

From: Staff, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles has begun a historic drive to decrease its dependence on imported water. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the state's precarious water switching station and the key to the survival not only of salmon and other threatened species but of the state's agriculture industry, is in crisis. California is in the midst of a continuing drought. It is hard to fathom a higher priority than safeguarding the state's precious water resources, or a more crucial time to do it. That means an investment in the form of a carefully crafted water bond.

From: Staff, NBC- LA

[VIDEO] A major policy decision hearing in the California legislature next's all about water or lack of. NBC4's Conan Nolan talks with senate leader Darrell Steinberg about why the senator no longer supports the the water bond that is on the November ballot..a ballot measure that was innitiated by then-Governor Arnold Scwarzenegger. A lot has changed in five years, says the Steinberg. He tells us why.

From: Michael Gardner, San Diego Union-Tribune

Even while mired in a drought, Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers have been unable to strike a compromise on a new water bond that will have far-reaching implications for the San Diego region in the decades to come.

The latest in a string of bond proposals also reflects the sharp disagreements between the region's primary players seeking to influence how much money is spent where.


From: Sharon Bernstein, Reuters

As California enters summer with a below-normal mountain snowpack to feed its streams and reservoirs, the portion of the parched state experiencing exceptionally severe drought conditions is growing, experts said.

The most populous U.S. state is in the third year of a crippling drought that has forced ranchers to sell cattle for lack of grazing land, and farmers to let an estimated 400,000 acres normally devoted to crops go fallow. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday that while all of the state remains in a severe drought, the portion of the state in what is considered an "exceptional drought" increased in the past week from about 25 percent to about 33 percent.

From: Laura Anthony, KGO 7

Saturday is the first day of summer and it's expected to be long hot dry one.

California is in the third year of a devastating drought and farmers near Brentwood are getting some pretty bad news -- they might be getting far less water than they had counted on.


From: Staff, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences

As California strains under a third straight year of drought, Gov. Jerry Brown and many legislators have shown strong interest in modernizing management of groundwater - the state's most important drought reserves. At the same time, a group of nearly 40 leading water professionals and scholars has been exploring ways California can move forward with more effective groundwater management.

Colorado River

From: Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times

Once upon a time, California and Arizona went to war over water..

The year was 1934, and Arizona was convinced that the construction of Parker Dam on the lower Colorado River was merely a plot to enable California to steal its water rights. Its governor, Benjamin Moeur, dispatched a squad of National Guardsmen up the river to secure the eastern bank from the decks of the ferryboat Julia B. - derisively dubbed "Arizona's navy" by a Times war correspondent assigned to cover the skirmish. After the federal government imposed a truce, the guardsmen returned home as "conquering heroes."

Bay Delta Conservation Plan 

From: Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times

A bold, $25-billion plan to ship more water to Southern California could create tens of thousands of new jobs a year for decades, a Brown administration study says. And even though the plan is at least two years from possible final approval, it is generating plenty of controversy..

The proposal, which still needs to be endorsed by federal and state wildlife agencies, calls for two enormous tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that would deliver water to Central Valley farmers, Los Angeles and other cities.

From: Gary Polakovic, Los Angeles Times

It's been 40 years since the June 20, 1974, opening of "Chinatown," the fictionalized drama about power, corruption and what is arguably L.A.'s most crucial resource: water. The iconic film was Hollywood's make-believe version of an undying reality: In L.A., you have to follow the water..

Water in the West has been something of a fantasy since the first wagon trains. It's a drink mixed from equal parts Manifest Destiny, hubris and engineering derring-do. Aspiration would find a way to trump aridity; water would inevitably flow to our will, not nature's. Now the make-believe at the heart of Western water is withering, as the reality of drought and global warming take hold.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

News, Articles, and Links from June 17, 2014

Water Supply
Stealing the Sacramento River- California agro-barons' last huge water grab
From: Will Parrish, The Ecologist 
California's watersheds have been altered more than any other place in the world. The state first achieved this dubious distinction in the early-mid-20th century. The Hoover Dam (on the Colorado River), which began operation in 1936, was the largest dam in the world at the time of its completion.

With regard to the world's biggest concrete river plugs, Shasta Dam (upper Sacramento River) rated second only behind Hoover when finished in 1945.

Water Storage
From: Jim Brobeck, Chico Enterprise-Record 
The majority of developed water in California goes to irrigate agriculture acres. Expanding surface storage creates unrealistic expectations of reliable annual supplies by private property managers and encourages expansion of irrigated acres into previously unirrigated grazing/wildland acres. Inevitable dry periods force investors to exploit groundwater to keep permanent crops hydrated when reservoirs fail to fill.

OPINION: California's water woes can't be solved by conservation alone
From: Paul Wenger, Modesto Bee 
The severe drought of 2014 has unleashed a flood of responses, including calls for draconian legislative action to prevent things from "getting worse" and wide-ranging discussions about a water bond intended to address some of our water infrastructure shortfalls, accompanied by the predictable studies from environmental organizations purporting to show that California can meet all its water needs through conservation alone.

Dried up: poverty in America's drought lands  
From: Amy McDonald, Imperial Valley Press
In more than two decades working at a Central California food bank, Sandy Beals has never seen anything like this spring.

Last month alone, FoodLink of Tulare County served 22,000 people who came in for food - 5,000 more than it usually serves each month and a 12 percent increase from the same month last year. For Beals, who runs the food bank, the spike in hunger traces back to one thing: drought.

Thirsty West: The No-Water Way
From: Eric Holthouse, Slate  

In a year with (practically) no water, here's something that was inevitable: farming without any water at all.

Small farms around the Bay Area are reviving an ancient technique that is just what it sounds like. Add "dry farming" to the list of ideas that could get this dry state through the worst dry spell in half a millennium.

Water Transfers
Redding proposes water transfer to Bella Vista
From: Jenny Espino, Redding Record-Searchlight

A proposal to provide up to 1,200 acre-feet over the summer makes its way to the Redding City Council Tuesday night. The tentative agreement between the city and water district has been in the works for about a month and a half. That means the two sides got to work only two weeks after the city took a public-opinion beating over its April 15 decision to broker a water sale between the McConnell Foundation and the Kanawha and Glide water districts in Glenn County, while doing little to help neighboring Bella Vista, of whom a third of its customers are Redding residents.

Fish evacuated from American River hatcheries due to drought
From: Matt Weiser, Sacramento Bee

The drought is forcing state officials to evacuate rainbow trout and steelhead fish from two hatcheries on the American River amid concern the water will become warm enough to kill the fish in coming weeks.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Tuesday will use tanker trucks to remove about 1 million trout from the American River Hatchery. From there, they will be planted throughout the state as usual - mostly in Sierra Nevada lakes - but at a much younger age and smaller size.

Monday, June 16, 2014

News articles and links from June 16, 2014


From: Mark Koba, NBC News

The severe drought parching states in the Southwest and West is undoubtedly causing hardships: The list includes higher prices for food and water, water-use restrictions, blazing wildfires and billions of dollars in lost productivity.

But most people seem to be taking it in stride-even within drought states. A recent poll by the Los Angeles Times indicated that only 16 percent of those surveyed in California say it has personally affected them in a measurable way. That's despite the Golden State being in its third year of drought and in a state of emergency since January.  

From: Staff, Imperial Valley Press

An aggressive water management and conservation report by academics and environmental think tanks claims that 14 million acre-feet of water can be recycled, reclaimed or conserved a year, a figure that is more than double the water deficit California finds itself in at the moment, if large-scale efficiency projects are put in place across all sectors.

It's a bold report, that leaves no area of the water-using public - and private users - unaffected by potential conservation measures in its best-case scenario, paying particular attention to farming, which the report states takes up 80 percent of the water used in the state.

Water Supply

From: Jay Ziegler, Sacramento Bee

The drought is our wake-up call that California's water supply system is out of balance. Even in the face of this drought, conservation efforts have not taken hold. We are talking about it, but we are failing to act.

A focused water bond is key to any solution. The billions of dollars that would be raised by a bond could give California greater flexibility for managing water, and provide a sustainable path to meet future needs for people and nature.

From: Dan Bacher, Sacramento Bee

Re "Brown's steady march to an alternative energy future (Forum, June 1): Tom Hayden is right that nobody calls Gov. Jerry Brown "Moonbeam" now. He has instead transformed himself into Big Oil Brown, one of the worst governors for fish, water and the environment in California history.

Brown signed Senate Bill 4, the green light for fracking bill that clears the path for the expansion of fracking in California.


From: Terence Chea, Associated Press 

In drought-stricken California, young Chinook salmon are hitting the road, not the river, to get to the Pacific Ocean.Millions of six-month-old smolts are hitching rides in tanker trucks because California's historic drought has depleted rivers and streams, making the annual migration to the ocean too dangerous for juvenile salmon.

Friday, June 13, 2014

News, Articles, and Links from June 13, 2014

Lawsuit targets Delta water shipments

From: Alex Breitler, Stockton Record
Environmentalists sued Wednesday to block proposed water transfers from Northern California to the drought-plagued south San Joaquin Valley, arguing that the plan fails to protect the fragile Delta.

Under the federal government's plan, willing sellers in the north would allow water to flow down the Sacramento River into the Delta, where the giant export pumps near Tracy would deliver it to southland farms, where very little water is available this summer.
Coalition response... The State Water Resources Control Board, in typical deliberate fashion, consulted with experts at the US Fish and Wildlife Service when making it's decision to rebalance Delta flow standards this year.  The experts at USFWS acknowledged that water transfers would occur this year and that they posed no threat to Delta smelt.
   Other News

Can California Conserve Its Way Through Drought?
From: Brian Howard, National Geographic    

From: Alex Breitler, Stockton RecordEnvironmentalists sued Wednesday to block proposed water transfers from Northern California to the drought-plagued south San Joaquin Valley, arguing that the plan fails to protect the fragile Delta.

Under the federal government's plan, willing sellers in the north would allow water to flow down the Sacramento River into the Delta, where the giant export pumps near Tracy would deliver it to southland farms, where very little water is available this summer.
Coalition response... The State Water Resources Control Board, in typical deliberate fashion, consulted with experts at the US Fish and Wildlife Service when making it's decision to rebalance Delta flow standards this year.  The experts at USFWS acknowledged that water transfers would occur this year and that they posed no threat to Delta smelt.
As California enters the hottest months of the summer in the midst of a devastating drought, the state appears to be falling short of Governor Jerry Brown's calls for sweeping cuts in water use.

In January, Brown declared a state of drought emergency and called on Californians to slash water consumption by 20 percent this year. Three months later, he stressed that "the driest months are still to come in California and extreme drought conditions will get worse."

Report: California's water savings untapped
From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press 

California can come up with more than enough water to fulfill its cities' needs by implementing municipal and agricultural efficiency measures, recycling wastewater and capturing storm runoff, according to a report published recently.

Some 14 million acre-feet of water - more than twice the water deficit that the state runs every year - can be saved if agencies statewide implement aggressive water management and conservation measures, according to the Pacific Institute and the natural Resources Defense Council.

Valley Drought 2014: Citrus Trees Being Yanked Out
From: Rich Rodriguez, KMPHThousands of acres of almond trees have been dozed over on the Valley's Westside due to the drought and now the same thing is happening to citrus groves on the Eastside.  Thursday grower Lee Bailey watched as a bulldozer pushed over 12 acres of orange trees near Orange Cove.

Bailey farms the grove for two nieces.  He says they pulled them out for a number of reasons.  "We've had to pick some lots with low production and this is some of them and we're pushing out two different blocks." Bailey says they spent 100-thousand dollars for extra water and the gamble didn't pay off.  To make matters worse the oranges on the trees pushed out were frozen in October and the fruit wasn't good enough to be salvaged for juice