Thursday, June 5, 2014

News articles and links from June 5, 2014


From: Jay Lund and Peter Moyle, California WaterBlog

In drought years, California usually reduces "environmental water flows" - the amount of river flows needed to maintain aquatic ecosystems - to make more water available for farms and cities. The current drought has been no exception. Depriving fish of adequate river flows, however, might not be in the interests of urban and agricultural users if it leads to long-term decline of species.

Coalition response...There are a lot of "ifs" in this post but one thing is absolutely certain: the acknowledgment that environmental water is a component of California's dedicated water supply. That may sound silly but for a quarter century or more reporters and water policy activists have tried to convince the public that farmers use 80 percent of California's water supply, which is simply not true. They do this by ignoring environmental water flows. If farms, indeed, use 80 percent of California's water then a tiny bit of conservation would yield enormous benefits for the rest of the water users in the state, right? Wrong. The Center for Irrigation Technology at CSU, Fresno reported in 2011 that only a small percentage of agricultural water is potentially available for increased water use efficiency. Farmers have for a long time been implementing highly efficient irrigation practices to improve water use efficiency and crop production. Additional water transfers from agriculture to other users, such as the environment, can only be accomplished with widespread land fallowing, according to the CIT report.

This post also begs the question: If it's a good idea to leave more water for environmental purposes during a drought, isn't it also a good idea to produce environmental water management plans? That way we would know if the water dedicated to the environment is doing what it's supposed to do. Urban and agricultural water users are required to produce water management plans. It makes sense that taxpayers who foot the bill for public benefits, such as a "healthy" environment, have some idea whether their money is doing what it's supposed to do. So far this year about 2 million acre-feet of water went unused by people and instead flowed to the ocean with no measurable endangered species benefit. It's time to be honest about water policy decisions and agree, as the Department of Water Resources states in the California Water Plan, that fully half, and a growing percentage, of California's dedicated water supply is used for environmental purposes.


From: Staff, Ceres Courier

Three years' into a drought, more than farmers are taking an economic hit in California. That was the summation of bad news shared by Mike Wade, a former Ceres resident who is executive director of California Farm Water Coalition in Sacramento. He spoke at Thursday's Ceres Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Luncheon.

Businesses that depend on trade from those employed by agriculture are seeing a hit. That includes just about all businesses, especially those in areas of already high unemployment.

From: Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle

I haven't written much about the drought, although I have privately become something of a Cassandra about the thing. As you'll recall, Cassandra wandered the walls of Troy saying the Greeks were up to no good, and the wise citizens said, "What nonsense! They've brought us this lovely horse."

But then I read an article in the High Country News. I love HCN without reservation, and anyone interested in water use and land use issues in the West should check it out (, and they also have a print magazine I find useful).

From: Diana Diamond, Chico Enterprise-Record

Let's not keep telling people to conserve more water, take fewer showers or recycle their washing machine with gray water. We need to do something much more dramatic to handle what, most likely, will be continuing droughts in our arid state.

A horrible idea? Consider that California's usable water is divided into three categories -- agriculture, which takes about 80 percent of it a year; industry and commerce, which use 10 percent; and the 38 million of us who together consume 10 percent. So percentage-wise, people don't use as much water. 

From: Staff, Porterville Recorder

Tulare County has been doing its part to save water during California's historic drought by turning off sprinklers, focusing on planting drought resistant plants, and seeking ways to improve irrigation efficiency at its parks and grounds, and since the water reduction measures were implemented in Dec. 2013 by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, more than 125 acre feet, or 40 million gallons, has been saved.

"Tulare County will continue to lead the way when it comes to water conservation measures," said Phil Cox, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "A gallon saved by the county is a gallon that could be used by our agriculture community, which is the lifeblood of our economy."


From: Paul Wenger, AgAlert

Everywhere you turn, the impacts of Drought 2014 are front and center. News reports compete to describe dire circumstances, whether high food prices, water rationing or limited recreation on lakes and reservoirs. Most of the reports fail to focus on why and how California finds itself in this terrible situation.

As the old saying goes, "No one plans to fail, they just fail to plan." What California is experiencing today should be a wake-up call to those who have the responsibility to provide for our state's populace and economy. Droughts are as natural as rain, and not being prepared for the inevitable is a dereliction of responsibility.

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