Monday, July 14, 2014

News articles and links from July 14, 2014


From: Staff, San Jose Mercury News

The California State Water Resources Control Board will decide next week whether to impose mandatory limits on urban water use and slap violators with fines of up to $500 a day. This begs two questions:

1) What took it so long?
2) Why aren't agricultural water users, who gulp 80 percent of California's usable supply, getting the same attention?

Coalition response...According to the State's Department of Water Resources, only 41% of the state's water supply goes to growing food and fiber. 49% goes to environmental uses, while the rest goes to our state's cities and industry. While the food and fiber we enjoy is definitely thirsty this year - it certainly doesn't gulp 80% of the water in the state.

Not only are farmers already implementing conservation measures, they were the first to bear the brunt of surface water shortages. The consequences of these shortages cascade through the rural communities that have grown up to work some of the rarest, most valuable soils in the world, and into the cities that enjoy their produce. While the hardships of the shortages will be felt most severely in the rural communities as surging unemployment, strained civic services, and business downturns - our urban centers will also be reminded at the checkout stand when buying locally grown produce.

It's worth repeating that farmers were encouraged to plant a lot of high value permanent crops prior to the destabilization of surface water supplies. Farmers remember well the criticisms leveled against them only a few short decades ago for raising annual crops on the same land they are now being criticized for growing trees and vines on...

Water Supply

From: P. Gleick, K. Poole, R. Wilkinson, Sacramento Bee

As a solution for California's complex water challenges, conserving water to get more from every drop stands out for its great potential and the misconceptions around it.

A recent op-ed column, "Putting two myths about the state's drought to rest" (Viewpoints, July 6), repeated three misstatements about conservation that are often used to delay implementing strategies for more efficient water use. Until these misunderstandings are corrected, common-sense improvements will continue to be underfunded and inadequately pursued. The failure to use proven and cost-effective efficiency programs can be seen in the limited attention to conservation in the state water bond proposals and only modest efforts of some water agencies.

From: Tom Philpott, Mother Jones

California farmers will reap a record 2.1 billion pounds of almonds this year, the USDA estimates-about three times as much as they did in 2000. That's great news for the world's growing horde of almond eaters, because the state's groves supply 80 percent of the global harvest.

San Joaquin River

From: Tim Palmer, Sacramento Bee

Since 2009, the San Joaquin River has been celebrated as a path-breaking example of restoration. But this year, Central California's largest river has the dubious distinction of being on the conservation group American Rivers' "most endangered" list because it's so overtapped.

A panicked response to the drought could worsen the situation.


From: Staff, Modesto Bee

The board of the Turlock Irrigation District will talk Tuesday evening about supplying some of its Tuolumne River water to a treatment plant proposed for three cities.

The board will consider "certain proposed terms and conditions" that would be attached to any agreement to provide the water to Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto, according to the agenda. The project, which has been discussed off and on since the 1980s, could reduce their reliance on wells.

From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

A federal judge in Fresno on Friday rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction against irrigation water transfers from Northern California to the San Joaquin Valley.

A fishing group and a Northern California environmental advocacy group in June asked the court to stop water transfers, saying federal leaders are jeopardizing the protected delta smelt. The plaintiffs are AquAlliance and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, both nonprofit groups.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: M. Grossi, R. Rodriguez, Fresno Bee  
In drought-scarred farm country, coffee shop talk turns obsessively to water and its cost - which several months ago hit a shocking $1,000 per acre-foot and then climbed to more than $2,000.

But it's far too simple to say drought-buster deals in the San Joaquin Valley are all about making a pile of money. A sale in the last week featured a compassionate offer of San Joaquin River water at only $250 per acre-foot.

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