Monday, August 4, 2014

News articles and links from August 4, 2014


From: Alison Vekshin, Bloomberg

Rod Cardella, a Mendota, California, grower of wine grapes, onions and almonds, had to wait a year to have a fourth water well dug on his property as the record drought gripping the most populous U.S. state increased demand for groundwater.

Cardella, 66, who founded Cardella Ranch with his father in 1970 and produces grapes for E&J Gallo Winery, the largest exporter of California wines, paid $500,000 to add the well in June after the federal government said it wouldn't supply his area with its usual water allocation. The drought forced Cardella to leave half his ranch, including onion and cotton fields, unplanted this year.

From: Staff, Modesto Bee

Who owns the water? That's the essential issue in a controversial plan to pump 26,000 acre-feet of groundwater over two years and sell it to a water district that runs from western Merced County into San Joaquin County.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation approved using the Delta-Mendota Canal to transfer water pumped from beneath 4-S Ranch Partners LLC and SHS Family LP to the Del Puerto Water District. Valued conservatively at $600 an acre-foot, the transaction could net ranch owners Steve Sloan and Stephen Smith and their partners $15 million or more.

From: Staff, Sacramento Bee 

Groundwater is a key component to California's complicated water system, and the Legislature needs to act to manage and protect this vital resource.

In the quest for water during a drought of historic proportions, water districts and farmers are drilling more wells and pumping record amounts of groundwater.

From: Robert Weimer, Merced Sun-Star 

We have a defined aquifer in eastern Merced County, which the majority of the population in the county utilizes for its water source. Agriculture uses this same aquifer for irrigation. Irrigators in the Merced Irrigation District have spent millions of dollars in recent years on incentive programs to help growers develop highly efficient irrigation systems. Local land owners paid for this through annual stand-by fees.

Water Bond 

From: Jeremy White, Sacramento Bee

Looking ahead to the crush of down-to-the-wire bills that will consume their August, California lawmakers have a unified message: It's all about the water bond.

Legislators return from summer recess today to a mountain of unfinished business. They have until the end of the month to decide whether to pass bills and send them to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Water Supply

From: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee

People in pickups cruise through the quiet flatlands around here almost oblivious to a $22 million roadside experiment that turns dirty water into a chance for survival for west San Joaquin Valley farming.

Inside a buzzing complex, Jeff Moore talks of membranes and clarifiers as he explains the process of scavenging salt, boron and the infamous natural trace element called selenium.

From: Staff, NPR: On Point with Tom Ashbrook

A NASA study says the water problem in the American is deeper than we thought. We'll look at the West's deep water challenge.

If you've been to Lake Mead you've seen it. Prolonged drought in the West has driven the country's largest reservoir to its lowest level in memory. But the true crisis lies below the Colorado Basin bedrock. More than 75% of the water lost in the last nine years came from groundwater supplies. And it may never come back. That's water for 40 million Americans. Water for 4 million acres of farmland. Without drastic action, the water crisis may permanently change the Western way of life.

From: Kevin Freking, KERO 23

Prospects for a drought relief bill to help California farmers appear as likely as the state being deluged by three straight days of rain. Key federal lawmakers and staff are working behind the scenes to settle differences in two bills that separately passed the House and Senate earlier this year.

The lawmakers won't say where progress has occurred or what roadblocks remain, but time is running out for the current congressional session. Congress will be out for the rest of August and for virtually all of October. In all, House members are scheduled to be in Washington for votes for only about 25 more days this year.

From: Elaine Corn, Sacramento Bee

Who are you going to believe, a recent wonk report that says the third straight year of California drought won't have much impact on food prices? Or your own grocery bill?

Make that two droughts, one here and another in the Midwest affecting the price of beef. Throughout the Plains states, ranchers have been slaughtering their starving cattle. Add to that a virus that so far has killed 7 million baby pigs, causing the price of bacon to spike 32 percent since 2008 with more than half that occurring in a surge the last two years.

From: Staff, KCBS

The current drought is covering all of California in extreme ways. It's the third driest year in 106 years of record keeping according to Jay Lund of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

Lund stressed that the demand for environmental, agricultural and urban water use have never come at a greater time. At the recent UC Drought Summit in Sacramento, the general consensus was that we cannot treat this historic drought as a one-off event since there are sure to be more.


From: Tom Campbell, Orange County Register

The 1972 Clean Water Act requires anyone putting anything into a navigable or interstate watercourse or wetland to get a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. Tributaries to such watercourses are covered, but the word "tributary" was not defined. Now, for the first time, in pending regulations, the EPA proposes to do so.

A ditch can be a tributary. They are mentioned explicitly in the rule. They are excluded only if they "do not contribute flow, either directly or through another water, to" a watercourse already reached by the EPA's jurisdiction. They don't have to carry water continuously. "Intermittently" or "ephemerally" is sufficient.

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