Topic List: Agriculture

Overview

Agriculture

California has been the nation’s leading agricultural and dairy state for the past 50 years. The state’s 80,500 farms and ranches produce more than 400 different agricultural products. These products generated a record $44.7 billion in sales value in 2012, accounting for 11.3 percent of the US total.

Breaking down the state’s agricultural role in the country, California produces 21 percent of the nation’s milk supply, 23 percent of its cheese and 92 percent of all grapes. The state also produces half of all domestically-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables, including some products, such as almonds, walnuts, artichokes, persimmons and pomegranates, of which 99 percent are grown in California.

Overall, about 3 percent of employment in the state is directly or indirectly related to agriculture.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Water transfers helped farmers survive this year. Now, all eyes are on the coming water year

Water transfers, trades and sales doubled this year as drought left San Joaquin Valley farmers scrambling for supplies. … [Sam Boland-Brien, program manager at the State Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Water Rights] said he’s seen about twice the amount of transfers this year compared to an average water year. 

Aquafornia news Foothills Sun-Gazette

Assembly ends SB 559 hopes this year

The Valley’s best hope to renovate its water infrastructure has been put on the shelf for now. Senate Bill (SB) 559, the State Water Resiliency Act of 2021, was moved to the state Assembly’s “inactive file” on Sept. 8. … As written SB 559 offered a holisitic, statewide approach to help restore the conveyance capacity by created a fund to provide up to $785 million to repair key parts of the state’s water infrastructure.

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Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Downsized almond industry proceeds with harvest

Almonds in California are no longer sustainable at current levels. That’s the consensus of recent headlines describing the prolonged historic drought — and increasing restrictions on water use — currently impacting the state’s $6 billion industry and its efforts to produce 80 percent of the world’s almonds.  The U.S. Drought Monitor is showing California to be slowly approaching 90% of the state categorized as being in ‘extreme’ drought —especially in the Central Valley.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Bay Area winemakers are feeling climate change more acutely than ever this harvest season

This year’s wine harvest is well underway throughout California, and vintners in some parts of the state say they’re feeling the effects of climate change more acutely than ever.   The drought has left grapevines parched. Fruit yields are dramatically low. Vines look visibly stressed. In some vineyards, all of the grapes seem to be ripening all at once, presenting winemakers with a logistical impossibility. And the threat of wildfire — which, by this time last year, had ruined grapes up and down the state with pernicious smoke — remains on everyone’s mind.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: New opportunities for trading surface water in the Sacramento Valley under SGMA

New groundwater agencies in the Sacramento Valley are currently finalizing plans to manage their groundwater basins for long-term balance, as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Successful stewardship demands good information not only about groundwater conditions, but also about surface water availability. To help build shared understanding of surface water for agriculture—the valley’s main water-using sector—we produced a new dataset showing how access to this vital resource varies across irrigated farmland in the Sacramento Valley and the Delta. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Farmland repurposing program awaits Gov. Newsom’s OK

A bill that would have created a program to help farmers find new life for farmland idled by coming groundwater restrictions had its own phoenix moment last week in the Legislature when it was simultaneously killed and reborn — this time with money. AB 252, authored by Assemblymembers Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), died in the state Senate last week but much of its content was reborn in a budget bill with $50 million attached.

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

Marin County supes to vote on extending drought emergency declaration

As an ongoing water shortage that’s hurting ranchers and dairies in the North Bay, the Marin County Board of Supervisors will consider extending a local emergency declaration of drought conditions at its meeting Tuesday. Much of the state is facing parched conditions after two consecutive dry years and Marin County is no exception. The county’s two largest water suppliers, the Marin Municipal Water District and the North Marin Water District, have declared water shortage emergencies and put mandatory conservation measures in place.

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

Could climate change put an end to Arizona’s alfalfa heyday?

It’s always alfalfa season in Arizona. In most other parts of the country, the perennial crop grows tall enough to harvest just a few times a year. But in the sun-drenched Southwest, the irrigated fields allow the crop to grow year-round, to the tune of 8.5 tons harvested for every acre and $397 million a year. All farmers need to do is add water. At least that’s been the case for the many decades that alfalfa has boomed and bloomed in the Arizona desert, providing feed to the region’s megalithic dairy industry. Now, accelerating climate change and depleting water availability could change this.

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Aquafornia news KALW - San Francisco

One Planet: CA Democrats fail to pass climate legislation as wells dry up

About 2,700 wells across the state are projected to go dry this year. If the drought continues, 1,000 more will go dry next year. In 2014, the California Legislature enacted a package of new laws that aimed to stop groundwater over-pumping, but as CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports seven years later, little has changed for Californians relying on drinking water wells. Depletion of their groundwater continues. Pumping is largely unrestricted, and there are few, if any, protections in place.

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Aquafornia news Mother Jones

Opinion: Biden just handed a bone to big almond

To fill the post of chief agricultural negotiator at the United States Trade Representative’s office, the Biden administration dipped into California’s hot, dusty, drought-plagued San Joaquin Valley and plucked out an almond-industry lobbyist. … Biden is favoring the $6 billion almond industry at a particularly fraught time in its history. The ever-expanding groves of California’s Central Valley churn out nearly 80 percent of the globe’s almonds.
-Written by Mother Jones reporter Tom Philpott. 

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

Kern County farmers say water infrastructure is needed

On Aug. 3, the State Water Resources Control Board completely eliminated 2021’s surface water supplies for farms in much of the state. It has impacted farmers like John Moore III, who grows pistachios at Moore Farms in Arvin. … While California is prone to drought, the last reservoir in the state was completed in the 1980s. The state’s population has grown tremendously since then. Moore says the state wouldn’t be in this situation if more infrastructure was built.

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Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse

Biden picks California almond exec Trevino for chief ag negotiator

The Biden administration announced Monday its plan to nominate Elaine Trevino, president of the Almond Alliance of California and former deputy secretary for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to be the next chief agricultural trade negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Aquafornia news Sacramento News & Review

A force beyond fire is still killing the forests – illicit black market grows

Four years after California created a legal, regulated marijuana industry that’s largely shepherded by contentious growers, its public lands continue to be decimated by criminal cultivators associated with Mexican drug cartels.  That much was clear as federal investigators ended several major probes over the summer, the incidents involving large-scale plant and wildlife destruction from the central to northern Sierra.

Aquafornia news KQED

Central Valley farmers weigh in on California’s historic drought

Unless you have a personal connection to the Central Valley or work in agriculture, chances are you haven’t been able to speak directly to a farmer about how they’re experiencing this year’s historic drought. Recently on  KQED Forum, three farmers from the Central Valley, where roughly 40% of the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts are grown, shared just how little water they have to work with, how they’re adapting, and what the drought means for their industry long term.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Murders of environment and land defenders hit record high

Murders of environment and land defenders hit a record high last year as the violent resource grab in the global south continued unabated despite the pandemic. New figures released by Global Witness show that 227 people were killed in 2020 while trying to protect forests, rivers and other ecosystems that their livelihoods depended on.

Aquafornia news Daily Bulletin

Pomona wins $48 million in groundwater pollution case

A federal jury awarded the city of Pomona $48 million in damages to be paid by a foreign corporation for contaminating its groundwater with a toxic chemical mixed with fertilizer and sold to citrus farmers for decades. On Sept. 7, the city won its case against the American subsidiary of a multi-billion dollar Chilean company, Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile, known as SQM. The case, which began in 2011, bounced between courts until the city won after presenting its full argument recently in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. 

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Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Fresno County CA towns unable to solve drinking water crisis

The longer it takes for two new wells to be dug in Cantua Creek and El Porvenir in western Fresno County, the deeper in debt the towns are mired. Now, with the drought, those well projects are in a race against dropping groundwater levels as farmers, cut off from surface water supplies, are leaning more heavily on the aquifer. The well projects started in 2018 and aren’t scheduled to be completed until sometime next year.

Aquafornia news NPR

Tensions over use of Klamath River basin’s water were magnified by drought

Many rely on the Klamath River Basin on the California border, especially with the historic drought in the West. Things got heated this summer between the area’s tribes and ranchers. … Over the past week, our colleagues over at The Indicator have been reporting on the historic drought in the West. They spent some time with ranchers on the front lines, including the Klamath River Basin. Sally Herships and Ashley Ahearn report.

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Study finds local oil field wastewater safe for use in irrigation

Central Valley water-quality regulators released a final report Friday concluding oil field wastewater from central Kern County, when blended with other water sources, can safely be used to irrigate a variety of locally grown crops. The report, based on five years’ work and incomplete in some respects, found no evidence of risks to human health from watering tree nuts, citrus, berries, tubers and other ag products with the saline water that comes up from the ground along with oil and which contains small concentrations of toxic chemicals.

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Aquafornia news KQED

California’s sustainable farms, models for agriculture in warming world, need help surviving it

The bustle of birds and insect pollinators is the first thing you notice at Full Belly Farm in Guinda, about 100 miles northeast of San Francisco in the Capay Valley, where Judith Redmond and her partners started farming four decades ago. … Farmers have always labored at the mercy of the elements, but climate change has brought overlapping calamities of wildfires, drought, prolonged heat waves and power outages. 

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Aquafornia news ABC30 Fresno

California governor recall election: Republican candidate Larry Elder discusses drought while visiting Central California farmers

The California recall election is fast approaching, and candidates are not wasting time. GOP frontrunner Larry Elder made a second stop in the Central Valley this week, focusing on crime and water shortages during a one-on-one with farmers. … Jacobsen said farmers are hurting across the Valley and want state leaders to take action and help solve the water crisis. With the gubernatorial recall election looming, the Republican contender Elder said he wants them to know he’s listening.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

California groundwater pumping project can proceed, for now

Environmental groups failed to justify blocking the federal government from funding groundwater pumping in the Sacramento River Valley pending a preliminary injunction hearing, a federal court in California ruled. There’s no evidence that pumping will immediately occur without injunctive relief, according to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. And even if it did happen, there’s no evidence irreparable harm would occur between that time and the preliminary injunction hearing, Judge William B. Shubb said Tuesday.

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Aquafornia news Riverbank News

Irrigation districts join in State Water Board lawsuit

The Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts have joined in a lawsuit challenging the State Water Resources Control Board’s authority to prevent the two water agencies from diverting and storing Stanislaus River runoff in Donnells, Beardsley, New Melones and Tulloch Reservoirs. The state water board, in an emergency drought order issued Aug. 20, declared that OID, SSJID and 4,500 other water rights holders in California must immediately stop diverting water due to unprecedented drought conditions.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Friday Top of the Scroll: California lawmakers shelve plan to fix state’s water supply canals

The major arteries of California’s water-delivery system are crumbling, but a proposal in the state Legislature to spend $785 million fixing them is dead for the year. The legislation, SB 559 was pulled off the table this week by its chief author, state Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), after an Assembly committee stripped the funding and made other changes to the legislation. Hurtado’s decision turns SB 559 into a two-year bill that could be revived next year.

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Farmers face mounting stress amid hard times

California farmers and ranchers have no shortages of stress this year. They face drought and water supply cuts, devastating wildfires and pandemic impacts. There are also labor shortages and financial pressures from fluctuating commodity prices or trade disruptions. These impacts inspire serious discussions in agricultural communities about looking after farmers’ mental health.

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Aquafornia news San Mateo Daily Journal

Opinion: Save water, eat more plants

If you could save gallons of water, improve your health, and leave our Earth a little healthier, would you do it? If your diet is mainly meat-focused, you can effect big changes by beginning to transition to a diet that is plant-based. This is because pound for pound, meat has a much higher water footprint than vegetables and legumes.
-Written by Georgi LaBerge, board member of Sustainable San Mateo County and CityTrees and the former mayor of Redwood City.

Aquafornia news California Trout

Blog: 30 years later – Upper Sac River and Cantara Loop spill

The Upper Sacramento River was again at risk of devastation after a Union Pacific train derailed recently at Cantara Loop, reminding many of the disastrous spill over 30 years ago in the same location. Luckily this time, no spills of any kind occurred, but this further strengthens the argument that this pristine stretch of river requires protection. Disastrous spill In July 1991, a 97-car Southern Pacific train derailed at the Cantara Loop near Mt. Shasta and dumped 19,000 gallons of herbicide metam sodium into the Sacramento River. 

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Growers hope groundwater markets provide flexibility

Some San Joaquin Valley farmers could someday have a new “crop” to sell —  their groundwater. In the face of looming groundwater pumping restrictions, some groundwater agencies are looking at internal markets to give growers a way to save water and still earn a profit.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: San Francisco, agriculture suppliers want their water, sue state over drought restrictions

San Francisco, along with a handful of Central Valley irrigation districts, is suing the state for enacting drought restrictions that are keeping thousands of landowners and suppliers from drawing water from rivers and creeks. The lawsuit, filed late last week in Fresno County Superior Court, claims that the State Water Resources Control Board — drought or no drought — does not have the authority to suspend the draws of those with the most senior claims to California’s water.

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Judge blocks Siskiyou County from cutting off water to South Asian immigrants in rural California

A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked a Northern California county from enforcing water permit laws aimed at cracking down on illegal marijuana farms, finding the restrictions might be intended to drive a minority Asian community out of their homes. … Siskiyou County passed two ordinances in May 2021 requiring permits to extract and move groundwater off site and to transport water by truck.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

California drought takes toll on Central Valley farmworkers

For decades, farm labor has kept unincorporated communities alive throughout the Central Valley. But the drought is making it hard to stay. The dearth of essential resources — clean water, adequate housing and fair employment wages — has crippled towns that are easily overlooked and triggered a slow exodus to bigger places.

Aquafornia news North Bay Business Journal

Calfornia North Coast illegal cannabis farms siphoning water amid drought

A bust of an illegal cannabis grow site within Sonoma Coast State Park has weeded out an even bigger problem for the North Bay suffering from a drought year — water theft. “Cannabis plants require so much water to grow,” California State Parks Cannabis Watershed Protection Program Assistant Chief Jeremy Stinson told the Business Journal, following his team uncovering the illegal grow site in Bodega Bay that netted two arrests, 1,500 plants, 1,000 pounds of trash, pollutants and water diversion lines. 

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse

California lawmakers scorn ‘corporate agribusiness’ while mulling drought relief for small farmers

Lawmakers accused almond growers of over-planting and livestock ranchers of unsustainable practices, while others sought policy ideas to help small family farmers.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Collaborative efforts once again being used in the Sacramento Valley to benefit birds and the Pacific Flyway

At the end of the growing season, as the Sacramento Valley transitions from summer to fall, we shift from the agronomic season to the bird season as waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and other birds traveling along the Pacific Flyway begin to arrive as part of their annual migration. Birds and other species using the Pacific Flyway are reliant upon varied land uses in the Sacramento Valley that include ricelands and managed wetlands (both privately managed wetlands and public refuges and state wildlife areas) to meet their habitat needs.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Exasperated by drought, farmers could be critical in Newsom recall fight

Like many farmers across California, Zack Andrade’s business is being choked by an extraordinary two-year drought. Water cuts could soon erase about a quarter of the irrigation he depends on to grow leafy greens, carrots and beets on his family’s farm in the rolling hills south of Silicon Valley, near Morgan Hill. Andrade said the crisis has been made worse by successive governors, including Gavin Newsom, who he says have punted on damming rivers and building new reservoirs to help California store more water during wet years.

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Aquafornia news AgNet West

Hopes that dry year will prompt action on water management and storage

There is hope that the unfortunate conditions of California’s water supply this year will prompt decisive action on water management and storage. President and CEO of Western Growers, Dave Puglia noted that his conversations with growers have been disheartening. There is significant concern that if California gets another dry year, many farmers will not be able to recover. The dire circumstances of the current water year underscore the imperative need for an updated approach to water management.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

San Luis Valley water: Drought, climate change and diversion plans

They all remember when the San Luis Valley brimmed with water. South of San Luis, Ronda Lobato raced the rising floodwaters in San Francisco Creek every spring to fill sandbags that protected her grandparents’ farm.  North of Center, potato farmer Sheldon Rockey faced so much spring mud that he had to learn to extract his stuck tractor.  Outside Monte Vista, Tyler Mitchell needed only a hand shovel on the family farm near Monte Vista to reach shallow underground flows in the Valley’s once-abundant water table.

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Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Madera County CA, overwhelmed by drought, dry water wells

Madera County is running out of time as groundwater levels plummet to new depths. Wells are going dry everywhere. Drillers have months-long waitlists. Residents are scrambling for water tanks. And farmers will soon face a reckoning after agriculture’s footprint, particularly nut trees, has more than doubled in the past 50 years — far outpacing irrigation supplies.

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Aquafornia news Herald and News

Lower Klamath Refuge closer to receiving late summer water

As Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge’s last remaining wetland reduces to a mud puddle, California Waterfowl Association’s efforts to secure a meager supply of water for the refuge have cleared a regulatory hurdle. On Thursday, the Oregon Water Resources Department accepted CWA’s application to transfer several thousand acre-feet of water from a willing Wood River Valley rancher to the refuge’s Unit 2. 

Aquafornia news Undark Magazine

In clashes over cannabis, race, and water, hard data is scarce

Tucked between two mountain ranges in Northern California’s Siskiyou County, the Shasta Valley is as complex as it is impressive. … The dearth of knowledge is perhaps most pronounced when it comes to what scientists call the hydrogeology of the groundwater basin –– how exactly water moves through the volcanic rock below the ground. The movement of that water is the economic linchpin of the valley, with cattle ranchers, alfalfa farmers, cannabis growers, and others all depending on it. And thousands of residents also depend on the groundwater for their homes.

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

California’s ‘Cantaloupe Capital’ struggles as drought pummels agriculture across West

This small town [Mendota] in California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley advertises itself as the “Cantaloupe Center of the World.” But as relentless drought punishes California and the West, the land is drying up and the cantaloupes are disappearing. Farmers have let large portions of their melon fields lie fallow as they struggle to get by on dramatically curtailed water supplies. Some are giving their vines barely enough water to stay alive in an effort to conserve. In other cases, fields that have already been planted will never get harvested because there’s not enough water for the fruit to survive.

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Aquafornia news Politico

‘This is a lose-lose’: Drought, wildfires complicate Biden’s California water plans

As climate-driven drought and wildfires rage in California, the Biden administration is struggling to navigate the hard politics that come with deciding who gets access to the state’s precious — and dwindling — water supplies. … Now the Biden administration is delaying action on the fundamental question at the heart of California’s long-running water wars: How much water should be reserved for species protections, at the expense of the state’s powerful agricultural industry?

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Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Blog: Understanding people in the face of rapid environmental change

We cannot solve our most pressing environmental and natural resource management challenges with a better understanding of the biophysical environment of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta alone – we need social science. To address our natural resource management challenges, we must build cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders, find a compromise between conflicting interests and values, and face tradeoffs that require hard decisions about whose needs we prioritize.

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Tooleville wells nearly run dry, state begins consolidation with Exeter

Maria Olivera’s house sits on a dirt road that dead-ends at the Friant Kern Canal, the 152-mile aqueduct quenching the endless thirst of the San Joaquin Valley crops that feed the country. She’s called Tooleville home since 1974, where residents have been fighting to attain the basic human right to clean drinking water for the better part of two decades.

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Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn | Attorneys at Law

Blog: Delta curtailments update – California State Water Resources Control Board’s emergency regulations are adopted; curtailment orders issued to 4,500 delta water users

As discussed in our July 28, 2021, Policy Alert, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) recently adopted the Draft Emergency Reporting and Curtailment Regulation (Regulation), to authorize curtailments of water diversions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta).  The Regulation was approved by the Office of Administrative Law and became effective on August 19, 2021.

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Aquafornia news Bay Area Monitor

Coexisting with coho during drought

When Bolinas farmer Peter Martinelli decided to help coho salmon by boosting summer water levels in Pine Gulch Creek, which runs through his land, he had no idea that the project would take two decades to complete. Now he’s happy he saw it through. Coho are endangered in most of their California range, and droughts like the one we’re experiencing now are among the biggest threats to these coastal salmon.

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Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

Homes lose running water in Klamath basin as they compete with farmers, ranchers

Nearly 200 people in the Klamath Basin this summer reported their wells going dry. In response, local and federal emergency officials have delivered hundreds of the 2,500-gallon, igloo-shaped storage tanks that can hook up to people’s homes to get some water flowing through their pipes again. When someone’s well runs dry, they can first try and drop their pump deeper into their well. That’s the equipment that pumps water from the well into pipes that run into a building. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Top of the Scroll: State orders 4,500 cities, farms to stop drawing river water, including San Francisco

California regulators began cracking down on water use in the sprawling Sacramento River and San Joaquin River watersheds on Friday, ordering 4,500 farmers, water districts and other landowners, including the city of San Francisco, to stop drawing water in the basins — or face penalties of up to $10,000 a day. The move comes as the state slides deeper into an extraordinary two-year drought. Lakes, streams and rivers no longer have enough water for everyone who is taking it, and dwindling supplies must be rationed, state regulators say.

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Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

Opinion: Fresno writer remembers watery joys of the past, even as the drought wears her down

As if I’m a thirsty person craving my next drink, I keep thinking about water. I hear the stories. A 20-acre family farm sits fallow. Down the road, another piece of land has the same barren look. Is the problem reasonable crop values or access to water? Likely, a bucket of both.  Fresno averages 11.5 inches of rain per year. Total precipitation from Oct. 1, 2020 to date is 6.59 inches, or 60% of normal — a larger percentage than most parts of the state.  In the canal I floated down as a kid, not a drop of water has flowed all season.
-Written by Danielle R. Shapazian, a nurse and writer who lives in Fresno.  

Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘I don’t believe anyone is safe’: drought rules spark accusations of racism in California outpost

“I love the smell of diesel power in the afternoon. It smells like victory.” The line, a play on the quote from the Vietnam war movie Apocalypse Now, is the first uttered in a July video by Doug LaMalfa, the US congressman for Siskiyou county. In the background, bulldozers are destroying what appears to be a field with marijuana plants. LaMalfa’s video was a response to a call from the Siskiyou county sheriff, who had invited citizens in this remote region in northern California to help his department in the fight against illegal marijuana grows.

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Aquafornia news Sierra Sun Times

Fresno State reports resources available to Central Valley well owners affected by drought

Resources are available to help San Joaquin Valley residents affected by drought maintain access to drinking water. A group of organizations in the San Joaquin Valley coordinated by the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley Water Workgroup have developed an outreach plan and a list of resources available to private well owners or part of a small community who have lost or are concerned about losing access to drinking water due to groundwater level. 

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Aquafornia news KCBX - San Luis Obispo

Local farms switch to water-conserving irrigation systems during drought

According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, all of San Luis Obispo County is currently experiencing severe drought and 17% of San Luis Obispo County is experiencing exceptional drought. In California, irrigation systems are a common alternative to relying on rainfall for agriculture. Since many crops require a certain amount of water, farms simply can’t depend on rainwater alone in California’s dry climate.

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Aquafornia news Winters Express

Nature Nearby - What’s happening with this ‘extreme’ drought?

Summer is underway and that means splashing around Putah Creek, hiking, camping, and… heat domes? With this excessive heat, the thought on everyone’s minds is likely how does this severe drought affect water resources throughout California? The extreme temperatures coupled with the low snowpack in the Sierra have meant fast evaporation in many of the state’s reservoirs; not to mention a heat dome that has descended upon much of the United States bringing record breaking heat to even the most mild summer climates.

Aquafornia news Forbes

Opinion: The drought is drying up California’s economy: Who’s responsible for opening the floodgates?

Cropless fields, fishless rivers, burning forests, empty reservoirs and powerless dams — either you’ve seen the headlines, or you’re living it. America’s West has run out of water. For most of us, this is a reckoning moment. Water exists in abundance. It’s cheap, free-flowing and limitless. We’re quite literally swimming in the stuff. But suddenly, that’s no longer true. California’s surging population and farming-dependent economy, coupled with sustained drought, means that demand has completely drowned out supply.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Water projects in West benefit from infrastructure bill

With vast swaths of the West experiencing exceptional or extreme drought conditions and more than 90 active wildfires, a national coalition led by the California Farm Bureau has helped secure Senate approval for major federal investments in critical water projects. California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson applauded the Senate’s passage of legislation to fund $550 million in infrastructure spending over the next five years. As drought conditions continue to worsen throughout the West, he said, “now is the time to invest and make timely improvements in our nation’s water management portfolio.”

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Rejuvenating our lands – Healthy soils in the Sacramento Valley

With an increasing focus on the multiple benefits of healthy soils, the Budget Act of 2021 recently appropriated $50 million in one-time funding from the General Fund to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) for implementation of the Healthy Soils Program and $40 million for State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) to reduce greenhouse gases and save water. The CDFA’s Healthy Soils Initiative promotes the development of innovative farm and land management practices that increase water retention and infiltration …

Aquafornia news Marketplace

California farms destroying crops instead of paying for water

When Stuart Woolf was growing up on his dad’s ranch in Huron, California, he never liked working the tomato harvest. “I thought, ‘I am never going to do this.’ Everything was kind of wet, hot and stinky,” Woolf said.  These days, though, now as president of the 20,000-acre ranch, Woolf is prioritizing tomatoes over some of his other crops, like cotton and almonds, since they’re relatively less water-intensive. With the drought desiccating California’s Central Valley, farmers like Woolf are having to reevaluate their business models based on how much water they can afford.

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Aquafornia news The Atlantic

A well fixer’s story of the California drought

The well fixer and I were standing at the edge of an almond orchard in the exhausted middle of California. It was late July, and so many wells on the farms of Madera County were coming up dry that he was running out of parts to fix them. In this latest round of western drought, desperate voices were calling him at six in the morning and again at midnight. They were puzzled why their pumps were coughing up sand, the water’s flow to their orchards now a trickle.

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Deep pockets vie for Kern pistachio orchards

Pistachios have recently become perhaps the top choice for institutional investors in Kern County agriculture, apparently surpassing almonds. Farmland brokers say prices and demand for local pistachio orchards — the few properties listed for sale, anyway — have increased since about 2019 because of the trees’ longevity, crop price stability and higher tolerance for limited and lower-quality water supplies.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Opinion: Why drought should have California’s almond, alfalfa farmers deeply worried

Like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — arid nations with limited water supplies — California should consider banning or limiting the cultivation of water-intensive crops. At a time of severe water shortages, it makes sense to end the cultivation for export of crops like almonds and alfalfa, a plant mostly used to feed cows. Where does the world get 80 percent of its almonds? The Golden State. Where does Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (and Japan and China) get much of their alfalfa? You guessed it. California.
-Written by San Diego U-T columnist Chris Reed.

Aquafornia news Las Vegas Review-Journal

New plan slows Lake Mead decline by paying farms not to plant crops

Officials in Lower Colorado River Basin states want to slow the decline of Lake Mead’s water levels over the next few years by paying Southern California farmers not to plant crops. It’s not a plan that Bill Hasencamp, manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, considers a “drought buster,” but it will reduce lake level decline by up to 3 feet over the next three years, he said.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg Green

Climate change hits sushi supply chain amid California water war

If you’ve eaten sushi anywhere in the U.S., chances are the rice came from California’s Sacramento Valley. Fritz Durst, a sixth-generation farmer, has grown the grain and other crops there for more than four decades. But this year, amid a historic drought, Durst is planting only half as many acres of rice as usual. … Farmers like Durst would be having an even worse year if it weren’t for water siphoned from the Sacramento River to irrigate fields. Those diversions, though, have dire consequences for another part of the sushi supply chain: The salmon industry. 

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Salmon need greater share of river water to survive

Amid extreme drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking for statewide conservation of 15%, farmers are facing cutbacks in water deliveries, and a mass die-off of salmon is expected. Drought affects us all, so our response must improve the natural systems that make our water, air and food — our existence — possible. The State Water Resources Control Board has taken the rare drastic step of adopting emergency regulations to curtail diversions of water rights holders when water is not available. 
-Written by Sandi Matsumoto, director of The Nature Conservancy’s California Water Program, and Julie Zimmerman, the lead freshwater scientist at The Nature Conservancy in California.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

First water cuts in US West supply to hammer Arizona farmers

A harvester rumbles through the fields in the early morning light, mowing down rows of corn and chopping up ears, husks and stalks into mulch for feed at a local dairy. The cows won’t get their salad next year, at least not from this farm. There won’t be enough water to plant the corn crop. Climate change, drought and high demand are expected to force the first-ever mandatory cuts to a water supply that 40 million people across the American West depend on — the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Opinion: Glimmer of hope for Stanislaus-area water storage in federal infrastructure deal

Whenever politicians are asked about the California water wars that threaten our well-being in Modesto and Stanislaus County, eventually the talk gets around to something like, “Well, you know what we really need is more water storage.” As in dams, mostly, and also off-stream reservoirs holding water captured in wet years for use in dry ones.  They say something similar when reporters ask about drought, and sometimes about wildfires and climate change.  
-Written by Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee columnist.

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

California drought: Wine country vineyard struggles to stay afloat after well runs dry

As the drought deepens, industries that rely on water are facing a desperate situation and that includes the wine regions of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys where one producer has literally run dry. Chris Loxton, of Loxton Cellars, spends so much time in his Glen Ellen vineyard that he can spot the slightest changes in his grapevines and the news isn’t good. … Vineyards across this famous wine-growing region are beginning to show signs of stress from lack of water.

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Aquafornia news Ridgecrest Daily Independent

Indian Wells water battle

Two motions to block the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s groundwater replenishment fee were shot down in court this week. Judge Kirk H. Nakamura of Orange County Superior Court granted motions filed by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority to dismiss two separate actions filed by Searles Valley Minerals and Mojave Pistachios. The actions were aimed at stopping the collection of the groundwater replenishment fee, which was imposed last January to fund the cost of securing rights to water to bring to the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin.

Aquafornia news NBC

Northern California water restrictions prompt accusations of racial profiling of Hmong farmers

Water restrictions in Northern California have prompted protests from a Hmong community, who say the ordinance has led to discrimination and a rise in racial tension in the area. The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to hold a third hearing about the ordinances, which were passed as emergency measures in May. … But many Hmong residents, many of whom belong to the area’s large farming population, said the policies disproportionately affect their community and have led to racial profiling by local authorities.

Aquafornia news Random Lengths News

Living with climate change in farmworker communities

In the southern San Joaquin Valley town of Poplar, extreme heat in the summer is the normal condition in which people live and work. It is one of the poorest communities in the state.  Air conditioning in trailer homes or crowded houses normally consists of old swamp coolers, which hardly lower temperatures. At work people bundle up, using layers of clothing to insulate against heat and dust.

Aquafornia news CBS San Francisco

CA drought: Old-fashioned dowser uses sixth sense to help Napa farmer find water

With the drought rapidly drying up reservoirs, farmers are desperately searching for new sources of water and some of them are turning to a mysterious method, thousands of years old. … [Rob] Thompson, who owns Thompson Well Location in Sonoma County, practices the mysterious art of dowsing, locating underground water with nothing more than a pair of bent steel rods. He touches his rods to the ground to reset them, then begins to move them. When they point toward water, the rods magically cross each other, almost like they become magnetized.

Aquafornia news Boise State Public Radio

Climate change could mean almond production moves north to Idaho from California

Virtually all almonds in the U.S. are produced in a 20,000 square mile area in the middle of California. The hot and dry Mediterranean climate there helps produce $17 billion worth of crops every year. … Temperatures rarely dip below freezing and historic rain levels have created rich soil, providing an environment suitable for almond growth. … Some researchers are starting to look north and ask: Could the Potato State become a hub for almonds? University of Idaho researchers are finding commercial production could thrive here.

Aquafornia news KRCR

Bureau of Reclamation explains releases from Shasta Dam

Shasta Lake is at about 30 percent of capacity, the lowest it’s been at this time of year since 1977. KRCR spoke with Bureau of Reclamation Area Manager Don Bader on a windy morning on top of Shasta Dam. He says a water schedule is set in February and adjusted as necessary. The release from Keswick Dam is about 8,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). Normally it would be 12,000 CFS. The reason that much water is flowing downriver is for freshwater fish in the delta and agricultural diversions.

Aquafornia news Herald and News

More Klamath Basin wells go dry as groundwater decline persists

In July, the number of dry wells registered in Klamath County was at 84. A month later, that number has climbed to 185 as wells from the California state line all the way to Crescent and La Pine are getting low and going dry. There are likely more unregistered dry wells in Klamath County. The county watermaster’s office said they receive daily calls from well owners asking how to register. And the Modoc County Sheriff shared a PSA on Facebook explaining what to do if someone in that county is without well water.

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Aquafornia news Statesman Journal

There’s not enough Klamath River water to meet everyone’s needs

When Bureau of Reclamation water managers decided not to perform a surface flush of the Klamath River this year, they knew there might be an explosion of a parasite that could all but wipe out salmon populations. That’s exactly what happened in northern California, where the Yurok Tribe depends on fishing for income and food. Salmon are also an important part of their culture. On the first Friday in June … Barry McCovey, director of the Yurok Tribe’s fisheries department, and his colleagues, fished 361 dead juvenile Chinook salmon out of a monitoring trap on the Klamath River. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Big battle looms over California water rights

California doesn’t have enough water to meet all demands even in wet years, and when drought strikes the competition becomes, to put it mildly, intense. State and federal officials who must ration the restricted supply are beset with pleas from farmers, municipal water systems and advocates for the environment. However, water managers must also contend with a bewildering array of water rights, some of which date to the 19th century, as well as long-standing contractual obligations and laws, both statutes and judicial decrees, on maintaining flows for spawning salmon and other wildlife.
-Written by Dan Walters, CalMatters columnist.

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Aquafornia news Senator Alex Padilla

News release: Padilla secures over $71 million for water resiliency, fire and other local california infrastructure projects in senate appropriations bills

Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) announced that he secured over $71 million in federal funding for 20 projects across California in the Senate’s Agriculture, Energy and Water, and Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee bills. The bills were approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee this week and now await passage by the full Senate. 

Aquafornia news Ag Information Network Of The West

Netafim brings drip irrigation technology to rice

Water conservation is on everyone’s mind in California agriculture, especially this year. One staple crop that may have potential for future water savings is rice. Netafim, who invented drip irrigation, is now applying that technology to rice, which is typically grown through flooding. Here’s chief sustainability officer John Farner.

Aquafornia news NDTV

A drought-hit California town Corcoran finds itself sinking into the ground

[S]igns of this subsidence are nearly invisible to the human eye. There are no cracks in the walls of the typical American shops in the town’s center, nor crevices opening up in the streets or fields: to measure subsidence, Californian authorities had to turn to NASA, which used satellites to analyze the geological change. And yet, over the past 100 years, Corcoran has sunken “the equivalent of a two-story house,” Jeanine Jones, a manager with the California Department of Water Resources, told AFP.

Aquafornia news Al Jazeera

Historic drought threatens California farms

In the valleys of central California, the search for water has turned into an all-out obsession as the region suffers through a drought that could threaten the US’s food supply. Residents have watched with dismay as verdant fields turned into brown, dusty plains, leaving shrivelled trees, dying plants and frustrated farmers. Much of California, and of the broader US West, has suffered through years of lighter-than-usual precipitation and a particularly dry winter.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Young farmers lose hope as drought closes in: ‘It’s like a sad country song’
America’s water crisis

They are land rich and resource poor. Most have hundreds of acres of fertile soil, some thousands, but little money in the bank and – most importantly – no water. Now the young farmers of the Klamath Basin, an agricultural community on the border of Oregon and California, fear they might be the last generation of their kind. … The area has struggled with water scarcity for years – but this year has been unlike any other. Amid a historic drought, in May the federal government cut off all irrigation to farmers for the first time in more than a century…

Aquafornia news Newsweek/Zenger

Drought will force western U.S. to rethink water use, experts say

A record hot summer has laid bare a stark new reality for many states on America’s West Coast: Amid rising temperatures and worsening droughts, many will need to systematically rethink the way they manage limited water supplies. … Washington state’s official climatologist, Nicholas Bond told Zenger that rising temperatures were impacting year-round water supply levels by melting the state’s mountain snowpack earlier than in past years.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Thieves are stealing California’s water – watch how it happens

Known for its starry skies, Joshua Trees and 100-plus-degree heat, California’s vast desert has recently become a hotbed of something else: thieves stealing California’s water. So who’s on the receiving end of all this theft? Local investigators say it’s often illegal pot farms. And with the parched state in a withering drought, water managers are doubling as amateur detectives.

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Aquafornia news National Law Review

Blog: Water law – Tension within the doctrine of beneficial use

In the western United States, water law developed around two main principles: (l) the goal of full beneficial use of water, and (2) the need to afford vested water right holders certainty as to their rights. At the time western water codes developed, these goals were seemingly in harmony—rewarding those who needed the water and invested in infrastructure for water use with rights that were enforceable against subsequent appropriators.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Opinion: Mother Nature is not stupid; that’s why long fescue grass isn’t native to California

The largest crop grown in the United States is not corn.  Farmers grew corn on just a paltry 14,281 square miles in 2019.  It pales in comparison to the largest crop estimated at 63,000 square miles — lawns.  Experts indicate lawns in the United States collectively would almost cover the state of Texas.  Lawns are a crop that humans cannot eat. Except for lawns that are in parks, sports field, and golf courses the only real purpose they serve are for eye candy.  
-Written by Dennis Wyatt, Manteca Bulletin editor.

Aquafornia news Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Climate change forces California winemakers to reconsider what grapes grow where

For decades, California winemakers have long thought of the Winkler Index as gospel. Developed in the 1940s by two professors at the University of California at Davis (U.C. Davis), the Index uses regional climate conditions to determine the best places to grow a wide range of wine grapes. With increasing pressures from heat and drought bearing down on the state, however, the Index may currently be horribly out of date. On July 22, U.C. Davis announced it would update the Index for the first time in more than 75 years. 

Aquafornia news North Coast Journal

California salmon: ‘Witnessing the Collapse’

A deeply troubled group of high-ranking state officials, tribal leaders, environmentalists and fishermen met July 27 to discuss the triple whammy that is threatening some species of Pacific salmon with extinction — a combination of record-breaking heat, drought and disastrous federal water policies — particularly those of the Trump administration, which drained mountain reservoirs of cold water, sending it to the Central Valley.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

President Joe Biden’s agriculture secretary touched down in Fresno. Here’s what he saw

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stressed innovation and collaboration Thursday as he visited a Fresno County farm dealing with California’s drought. … Vilsack’s visit comes the same week the State Water Resources Control Board imposed an “emergency curtailment” order covering the rivers of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed — essentially the entire Central Valley.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Rare California water restrictions hit farmers amid dire shortages

Regulators on the water resources control board, which oversees the allocation of the state’s water, voted unanimously on Tuesday to stop diversions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a vast watershed sprawling from Fresno to the Oregon border. … But the timing of the order, which will take effect in two weeks, could spare many growers from hardship as the greatest agricultural demand on the watershed tends to fall in late spring and summer …The order, which could affect as many as 5,700 water rights holders, includes exceptions for uses such as drinking, sanitation and generating electricity. 

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Groups fail to block logging in California’s wine country

Gualala Redwood Timber LLC can proceed with its logging project in California, a federal court in the state ruled after agreeing with the company that one plaintiff already challenged the environmental impacts of the project in state courts. Friends of Gualala River and the Center for Biological Diversity argued the Dogwood Timber Harvesting Plan that authorized logging in a private forest on the border of Sonoma County threatened four protected species. The species include the California red-legged frog, northern spotted owl, the Northern California steelhead, and the California Central Coast Coho salmon. 

Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Huichica Creek demonstration vineyard teaches growers to monitor, manage water use in irrigation

When Miguel Garcia was a child in small-town Mexico, he and those around him were constantly looking forward to escaping the farmland. But now, after earning his Masters degree and Ph.D., Garcia is right back in the fields teaching farmers how to preserve water while producing their grapes. And honestly, he isn’t mad about getting back to his roots. The conversation surrounding water use in California is certainly not a new one, but in recent years, the Napa County Resource Conservation District has been running a program geared specifically toward growers and their irrigation patterns …

Aquafornia news Ag Net West

Public good achieved through agricultural regulations warrants public support

Many agricultural regulations are implemented as a safety mechanism to help provide some measure of protection to the environment. These efforts generally provide a public good to the community at large. However, farmers and ranchers are responsible for covering the cost of compliance with these types of regulations. Professor of Agribusiness at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Lynn Hamilton suggests that more public support is warranted in helping producers cover these costs.

Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

Ranchers selling off cattle in order to stay afloat during drought

Two droughts in the last decade mean a rough ride for ranchers who are selling off cows to survive. The cost of meat is sky high during COVID but that money is being spent on the supply chain in the form of labor at meatpacking plants. It’s not trickling down to meat producers. But now the drought is drying up animal feed. … Casey Stone and his family operate Yolo Land and Cattle Company in the hills of Esparto. They run more than 600 cows and calves and manage 7,500 acres. Two droughts in the last 10 years and multiple wildfires are hitting hard. Stone is about to sell off 30 to 40 percent of his herd.

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Aquafornia news International Business Times

Federal infrastructure bill can help California farmers

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a drought emergency in most counties across the state while experts predict the current drought will end up being worse than the one we experienced between 2011-2017. That historic event was caused by nonstop hot and dry weather aggravated by climate change.  Increasing temperatures and fluctuating atmospheric patterns reduce rainfall and devastate farms across the Golden State especially because most farmers can’t rely on state or federal water projects to help supplement the lack of rainfall.

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Aquafornia news U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

News release: EPA and Army announce next steps for crafting enduring definition of Waters of the United States

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of the Army announced plans for upcoming community engagements to inform their efforts to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to better ensure clean and safe water for all. EPA and Army are committed to developing a reasonable, effective, and durable definition of WOTUS that protects public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and other industries. 

Aquafornia news Santa Rosa Press Democrat

State taking unprecedented action to conserve water in upper Russian River

State regulators are suspending the ability of about 1,500 water right holders to draw from the upper Russian River watershed, in an unprecedented bid to try to preserve as much storage in Lake Mendocino as possible in the event of a third successive dry winter. The order handed down Monday will affect hundreds of grape growers, ranchers, small water districts, towns and rural property owners. It takes effect Tuesday under emergency regulations adopted in June by the State Water Resources Control Board.

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Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: State water officials preparing to make emergency cutbacks to growers and ranchers

As California’s drought worsens, state water officials are preparing to take emergency action to conserve. The state water board is voting later this morning on new water restrictions that could impact thousands of farmers. If passed, the emergency regulations would restrict anyone from diverting water out of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and their tributaries.

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Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Study: North Coast cannabis growers rely more on groundwater amid debate over drought restrictions

A new study has found that cannabis farms in California’s prime growing regions, including the North Coast, rely primarily on groundwater wells to irrigate their crop as opposed to streams, providing more insight into the debate over water scarcity as the state grapples with a historic drought. The Cannabis Research Center at UC Berkeley report found that well water use by cannabis farms is common statewide, exceeding 75% among farms that have permits to grow in nine of the 11 top cannabis-producing counties that include Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties.

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Aquafornia news Western Farmer-Stockman

Blog: How to make water: Saving, reusing can extend resources

Low precipitation and heat continue to dry out the West. With nine of the 11 Western states recording average water year-to-date precipitations from 50%-to-80% of normal and record-breaking high temperatures, drought is literally a hot topic. When water is limited, the first thing to consider is how to better conserve the water that you have. Then, investigate alternative water sources.

Aquafornia news UC Merced

News release: New AI institute expands UC Merced’s smart, sustainable agriculture effort

With a new $20 million federal grant, UC Merced becomes part of a multi-institutional research collaborative to develop artificial intelligence — or AI — solutions to tackle some of agriculture’s biggest challenges related to water management, climate change and integration of new technology into farming. The new institute is one of 11 launched this year by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and among two funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

Aquafornia news Ag Net West

Regulatory pressure on California production has a global impact

Regulatory pressures on California agriculture can have a global impact on consumers. North American Regional Head of RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness for RaboBank, Roland Fumasi explained that the agriculture industry ultimately exists to meet the global demand for food. Restrictive policies enacted that put added pressure on agricultural production can potentially have a negative impact on billions of consumers that rely on California ag products. 

Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

Republican recall candidate Kevin Faulconer visits Fresno, offers plan for valley water

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer made a stop in Fresno on Wednesday to plead his case on why he’s a key candidate in the potential recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom.  Faulconer’s talking points during the visit consisted almost entirely of the state’s water woes as he stood outside the Department of Water Resources office in central Fresno, where he was accompanied by Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes.  

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

As drought in the West worsens, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Colorado faces a dwindling water supply

In late June, Simon Martinez drove along one of the dirt roads crisscrossing the parched rocky shrubland on the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Farm & Ranch Enterprise, a 7,700-acre agricultural operation owned by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in the far southwestern corner of Colorado. In normal times, he would be driving past giant circular fields of corn and alfalfa irrigated by 110 rotating sprinklers called pivots. But most of the fields are barren this year, casualties of an unprecedented drought — “the worst in 30 years,” said Martinez … 

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Registration open for virtual journeys into key water regions this fall

Immerse yourself in California’s key water sources this fall with the Foundation’s schedule of engaging virtual tours.  Each tour event will run from 2:30-5:30 p.m. PT and includes: An overview presentation of the region’s critical topics; A guided video tour of key locations — farms, wetlands, dams and reservoirs, wildlife habitats — to gain a stronger understanding on a variety of water supply issues and the latest policy developments; Live Q&A with experts in chat rooms so participants can dive deeper into the topics, including the drought gripping California.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

How California drought impacts beef, dairy cow ranches and prices

Jennifer Beretta has been working as a dairy farmer since she was 6 and knows some of her family’s 700 cows by name. One of her favorites, a Jersey named Harmony, has won top prizes at the Sonoma County Fair. … But business is business, and right now business is bad. California’s devastating drought has dried up most of the Beretta Family Dairy’s pastures, driven up the cost of feed and made milking cows unprofitable. The Beretta family has sold off more than 40 of its cows this year, and could sell more before too long.

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Aquafornia news Food & Wine

California faces water theft amid drought conditions

It sounds like the plot of a post-apocalyptic movie: Water thieves roaming scorched terrain in search of nature’s most precious resource. But in California, water theft is a massive reality with numbers that are hard to comprehend — and as droughts increasingly afflict the state, so does the extent of this illegal activity. Over 12 billion gallons of water have likely been stolen in California since 2013, John Nores — the former head of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Marijuana Enforcement Team — recently told CNN.

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Aquafornia news Time

Opinion: We’re in a water crisis. We need to act like it

One of the greatest lessons of the pandemic is that we can meet the challenges of existential threats when we combine the collective power of our creativity, innovation and industry. As the climate crisis worsens, we need to address protecting and preserving water with the same urgency that we put into creating vaccines. We need to act like lives are hanging in the balance—because they are. Water is already shaping our politics, our economy and our national security too.
- Written by José Andrés, a chef, activist and creator of the documentary Undiscovered Haiti, and Caryl Stern, executive director of the Walton Family Foundation

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Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

California preps for catastrophic summer salmon slaughter

Facing another summer of catastrophic fish kills, California lawmakers and fisheries managers on Tuesday blamed a Trump-era water policy and climate change for the sizzling water temperatures threatening to erase an entire run of Chinook salmon. … Chinook salmon die-offs on the state’s rivers have happened routinely over the last two decades. But a pending disaster on the Sacramento and Klamath rivers has elected officials, regulators, Native American tribes and fishermen scrambling to save the keystone species from extinction.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

With record-low inventory going into the pandemic, California tomatoes wither under drought and limited irrigation water

Tomato sauce is feeling the squeeze and ketchup can’t catch up. California grows more than 90 percent of Americans’ canned tomatoes and a third of the world’s. Ongoing drought in the state has hurt the planting and harvesting of many summer crops, but water-hungry “processing tomatoes” are caught up in a particularly treacherous swirl (a “tormado”?) of problems that experts say will spur prices to surge far more than they already have. The drought threatens to imperil some of Americans’ favorite ingredients — pizza sauce, marinara, tomato paste, stewed tomatoes and ketchup all hang in the balance.

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Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Illegal cannabis growers stealing water amid Calif. drought, officials say

California’s deepening drought is creating another big problem for authorities: water theft. Water thieves, many of them illegal marijuana growers, are tapping into fire hydrants and drilling unauthorized water wells, according to officials, threatening the water supply for residents. In a recent sting in Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County, federal, state and local law enforcement officers disrupted hundreds of allegedly illegal marijuana cultivations in the area. They arrested 131 people and seized 65 vehicles, including two water trucks. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Will Delta users sue again to stop California’s drought rules?

Drought-plagued California is poised to bar thousands of farmers, landowners and others from pumping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed, a move that irrigation districts said exceeds the water board’s authority. The emergency rules would be the first time state regulators have taken such wide-reaching action during a drought to prevent diversions from the massive Delta watershed stretching from Fresno to the Oregon border.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Extreme drought water crisis slams Oregon-California line

Ben DuVal knelt in a barren field near the California-Oregon state line and scooped up a handful of parched soil as dust devils whirled around him and birds flitted between empty irrigation pipes. DuVal’s family has farmed the land for three generations, and this summer, for the first time ever, he and hundreds of others who rely on irrigation from a depleted, federally managed lake aren’t getting any water from it at all. … [T]his summer there is simply not enough, and the farmers, tribes and wildlife refuges that have long competed for every drop now face a bleak and uncertain future together.

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Aquafornia news Ag Net West

Cost of regulatory compliance more than triples in six-year period

A study tracking regulatory compliance costs in California was recently released, with striking findings. Researchers looked at data from 22 different farms of various sizes in the San Joaquin Valley between 2012 and 2018. During that timeframe, regulatory costs increased by 265 percent. Professor of Agribusiness at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and co-author of the report, Lynn Hamilton said several factors contributed to the significant increase. 

Aquafornia news Ag Net West

Audio: Harsh reality of California drought shown in no water=no crops campaign

The drought in California isn’t quite fathomable to all. In efforts to showcase the harsh reality producers are experiencing, Western Growers has a new campaign called “No water= No Crops.” In a series of videos, the campaign focuses on a few California producers who are struggling with the water shortages. Joe Del Bosque of Del Bosque Farms is one of the farmers in the campaign. He started out his planting year thinking he’d have enough water but that quickly changed as the dry water year encroached.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Marijuana farmers blamed for water theft as drought grips American West

Extreme and prolonged drought in the American west is prompting water thieves to tap into other people’s scarce supplies. More than 12bn gallons of water have been stolen in California in the past eight years, according to state officials, but the issue has been further exacerbated by the ongoing drought and recent searing early summer heatwaves. A significant amount of recent water theft has been blamed by the authorities on illegal cannabis cultivation in some parts of the state.

Aquafornia news KTVL

Klamath Water Rights: Could there be a solution?

The Klamath water rights issue dates back decades and is as complex and nuanced as it is lengthy but when boiled down it seems to come back to one primal animal instinct that all living beings share: to ensure the survival of our spawn. For the Lost River and Shortnose Suckerfish in the Klamath basin, that continuum was disturbed somewhere along the line. The adult fish are healthy but aging while their spawn has been failing to thrive. Pending on their survival are the identity, traditions, culture, and livelihood of the Klamath tribes.

Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

Happy Valley resident says their small farm is struggling with the water crisis

In the town of Happy Valley, residents are dealing with a crisis. California is experiencing an extreme drought, and Happy Valley says there is a meager amount of water left in the community. Coleen Wogoman, a resident of Happy Valley said their small farm, Wogoman’s Farm, is struggling to stay afloat as the lack of water striking hard for her family and their livestock. A mix of emotions is expressed from Wogoman as she looks upon her farmland and home for over 15 years.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: Thousands of Central Valley farmers may lose access to surface water amid worsening drought

Forced to reckon with a worsening drought, California’s water regulators are preparing to forbid thousands of farmers from tapping into the state’s major rivers and streams. It’s an extraordinary step — and one that regulators didn’t take during the last drought, which was considered one of the worst on record. The State Water Resources Control Board on Friday released an “emergency curtailment” order that would cut thousands off from rivers and streams in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

AQUAFORNIA BREAKING NEWS: CA drought prompts water cutoff threat to Central Valley farmers

The State Water Resources Control Board on Friday released an “emergency curtailment” order that would cut thousands off from rivers and streams in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds. The five-person board still has to vote on the order Aug. 3, and it would take effect about two weeks later.

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

After 20 years of drought, Western Slope ranchers face a choice — keep adapting, or move along

On the side of a dirt road in Gunnison County, a herd of cattle is cooling off in the water of an irrigation ditch.  Doug Washburn, range manager for Spann Ranches in southwestern Colorado, points at the hills surrounding the operation’s northern headquarters. … Colorado’s Western Slope is considered a climate hot spot where temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. This warming has contributed to more than 20 years of dryness, which scientists are calling a megadrought.

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Aquafornia news NPR

Without enough water to go around, farmers in California are exhausting aquifers

A lot of the fruits, vegetables and nuts that you see in grocery stores come from California. Growing them takes a huge amount of water, which is a huge problem when the state is in the middle of a drought. California’s farmers are pumping most of that water from underground aquifers. They can’t keep doing that, though, especially as the climate changes. NPR’s Dan Charles has the story.

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Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

California’s Delta an oasis amid arid farmland

As California has imposed severe water cutbacks throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s vast watershed, most growers in the Delta region itself are still getting enough water to bring their crops to harvest. With a majority of landowners in the region holding pre-1914 riparian water rights, the state has not curtailed their ability to pump water from the Delta’s labyrinth of canals and waterways – at least yet. In fact, growers whose land is on islands below sea level have been pumping water off, San Joaquin County Agricultural Commissioner Tim Pelican said.

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Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Blog: Has water scarcity caught up with almonds?

Has double-digit growth within the California almond industry ended? Will last year’s 3.1-billion-pound crop be the largest on record? Is the industry ready to open a new chapter centered around something other than year-over-year record crops? Every year the news was pretty much the same from the Almond Board of California – predictions of double-digit annual growth as industry insiders talked up new markets and pointed to impressive numbers from the monthly position reports.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Seizing the moment – Preparing for next year with groundwater recharge opportunities

As water resources managers work hard this summer to deliver limited water supplies to cities, rural communities, farms, refuges and fisheries–while also providing essential hydropower for the state’s energy grid–there is increasing attention to prepare for the next water year. … As we think about water management opportunities for next year, there is an increasing focus on groundwater recharge … 

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Tour Nick Gray

Central Valley Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - November 4

Join us as we guide you on a virtual journey through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.

Tour Nick Gray Jennifer Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

Join us as we guide you on a virtual exploration of the Sacramento River and its tributaries and learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Tour Nick Gray Jennifer Bowles Layperson's Guide to the Delta

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

This tour guided participants on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.

Aquafornia news Spectrum 1 News (Riverside)

Could hydroponic farms promote water conservation?

[La Sierra University student] Max Proebstle, who never thought he would find a personal interest in hydroponic farming … and about 20 other students have been volunteering their time inside the repurposed shipping container turned indoor hydroponic farm on campus. This method of growing crops replaces the need for soil with plant nutrients, artificial light and recirculating water. After working with the new tech system, Proebstle believes it could be a game-changer for the future of farming.

Aquafornia news CW 31- Good Day Sacramento

Adding to state water woes, illegal pot growers in Nevada County steal water anywhere they can get it

As if California’s dire dry season wasn’t already difficult, thieves are making matters even worse. Illegal pot growers are stealing water anywhere they can get it. That’s why the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office has a warning that investigators are cracking down. … But beyond stealing water, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is also finding the illegal grows lead to large environmental impacts due to poor cultivation practices and waste contaminating water resources. 

Aquafornia news North Bay Bohemian

Salmon suffer in a state of drought

Environmentalists say the San Joaquin watershed needs more water. So do state officials, who in 2018 ordered water users to give a large share of water back to the San Joaquin and its tributaries, notably the Tuolumne. But the fight to restore this ailing ecosystem has turned political, and environmentalists leading the effort are facing an unlikely foe the water service provider for one of the most liberal cities in the country.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Drought has desperate ranchers asking: “Can I feed tomorrow?”

California may only be one year into the drought, but its toll feels much bigger to San Joaquin Valley livestock operators. … Andrée Soares, president of Star Creek Land Stewards, Inc [is] based in Los Banos on the west side of the valley but her animals are often spread up and down the state doing targeted grazing for fire prevention. Soares doesn’t know where her animals will be in the next few months or how they will eat. 

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Aquafornia news KCRW

It takes 400 gallons of water to grow a bread loaf, so don’t trash it, says ‘Eat Less Water’ author

Water is part of nearly every aspect of the farm-to-table supply chain. So how can people eat food that takes less water to grow, clean and prepare?  Florencia Ramirez, author of “Eat Less Water,” found that one way to cut water consumption is by buying organic and seasonal food, whether at farmer’s markets or your local grocery stores.  But even before making those trips, Ramirez says that the main priority should be cutting down on food waste because food that ends up in a landfill wastes a lot of water. 

Aquafornia news The Street

The water risks facing California: New index offers future price visibility

A new futures contract based on the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index provides longer-term visibility into the price of water, according to Roland Fumasi of RaboResearch. California is facing another dry summer in 2021, and for agricultural producers, that means a difficult growing season. … The situation has put a strain on the state’s traditionally fragile water resources, resulting in water price spikes for producers looking to sustain their crops.

Aquafornia news The Washington Post

Heat waves and climate change pose huge risk to workers

Surging temperatures across the West Coast this summer are exposing another way that the changing climate threatens the country’s future: the danger it poses to workers, particularly those who work outside and in warehouses. The issue has become such a concern that the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has put a new heat illness rule on a list of agenda items for the Biden administration to consider, calling it a top priority. … After a series of deaths in the fields, California instituted what were then the country’s most stringent protections for farmworkers, in 2005, and has updated those laws since.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Kern River water rights case gets hearing date

Whether the Kern River truly has spare water and, if so, how much, has been left up in the air for more than a decade. Now, 11 years after the State Water Resources Control Board ruled the Kern River was not fully appropriated, it will finally start the process of getting at those two key questions: Is water available? How much? A status conference hearing has been scheduled by the board’s Administrative Hearing Office for Aug. 17 at 9 a.m., the board announced on Monday.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Illegal marijuana growers steal California’s scarce water

One day last spring, water pressure in pipelines suddenly crashed In the Antelope Valley, setting off alarms. Demand had inexplicably spiked, swelling to three and half times normal. Water mains broke open, and storage tanks were drawn down to dangerous levels. … It took a while for officials to figure out where all that water was going: Water thieves — likely working for illicit marijuana operations — had pulled water from remote filling stations and tapped into fire hydrants, improperly shutting off valves and triggering a chain reaction that threatened the water supply of nearly 300 homes.

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Aquafornia news Property and Environment Research Center

Blog: Trading water, saving water

Today, as a water economist, my job is to help customers stretch their limited water resources. This means managing supplies wisely and getting a handle on collective demands. Fortunately, one of our available tools is an old one: water markets that can help reallocate the resource to the places it’s needed most. I’ve learned a lot more about water and water markets since I was a second-grader determined to help fish in the San Francisco Bay. One lesson is that even well-intentioned water markets can have bad outcomes if poorly designed or executed, as was my first water transfer.

Aquafornia news U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

News release: Reclamation announces contract repayment negotiations for the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Friant Water Authority scheduled a teleconference contract repayment negotiation session for costs of extraordinary operation and maintenance work on the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. The date and time of the teleconference-only negotiation session are: July 22, 2021, from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. PDT Call 1-202-640-1187 and, when prompted, type in participant passcode 523 487 550# The public is welcome to listen during the session and comment after the negotiations close. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Feeling the California drought on my family farm

I can see my future: It’s dry, thirsty and bleak. On our farm, we live with drought daily, working with limited groundwater and learning to adjust and adapt, or to fail and abandon our fields. Water will determine a farmer’s survival. I farm organically outside Fresno, part of one of the world’s richest and most productive agricultural oases, providing, of course, that we have water. … A severe two-year drought is drying out the West and Southwest from Washington to California, Montana to Texas. Agriculture feels the impact with crops withering and production limited.
-Written by David Mas Masumoto, a farmer in Del Rey, California. 

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Aquafornia news The New York Times

In California drought, water witches are swamped

In a vineyard flanked by scorched hills and charcoal trees, Rob Thompson gripped two stainless steel rods, began rotating in a circle and counted under his breath.  Then he said he had found it — water, hundreds of feet beneath the parched ground.  “This is really good,” said Mr. Thompson, 53, scratching an ‘X’ into the ashen soil with his shoe. “This is a deep one: 750 feet, 55 to 60 gallons a minute.” He added, “This one I can feel.”  Mr. Thompson is a water witch.

Aquafornia news GV Wire

In first Valley visit, U.S. senator gets pushed on farm water

Alex Padilla made his first official visit to the Central Valley as U.S. Senator, holding several discussions about water. Padilla, along with other elected officials, held a media availability at his only public event of the day — a tour of the Dos Palos water treatment plant. There, he spoke about the need to upgrade infrastructure for drinking water, as well as water for farmers. Padilla says the infrastructure bill being debated in the Senate will help with water, especially in underserved areas.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News:

The government cut off water to farmers in the Klamath basin. It reignited a decades-old war over water and fish

Joey Gentry hesitates before she drives through the fields of alfalfa and wheat that line the roads in the Klamath Basin. ”It’s not safe for Natives to be out in farmland during a drought year,” [Gentry said.] Like much of the American West, this dry, hilly, high-elevation landscape straddling the California-Oregon border is experiencing a summer of extreme drought. But when the federal government announced in May that, for the first time ever, it would cut irrigation water to about 180,000 acres of agriculture in the basin, tensions ignited between farmers and the Klamath tribes.

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Aquafornia news Pacific Institute

Blog: All together now? Differences in water shortage conditions across California 

California is back in a drought. You’ve heard it on the news, you’ve heard it from scientists, and they’re right — 100% of the state is in at least moderate drought. Yet, California Governor Gavin Newsom has yet to declare a statewide drought emergency, instead opting for county-level declarations — 50 of 58 counties have been declared so far this year. And if you look closer at what impacts different regions are facing, and how they are responding, you see important differences in water shortage conditions across the state.

Aquafornia news Colorado Public Radio

Colorado’s monsoon season is struggling to bring relief to rivers, ranchers and wildfires as the climate warms

The North American monsoon has returned to Colorado, and the rain has brought some much-needed relief to some of the driest parts of the state — after multiple back-to-back years of almost no summer rain. … Gov. Jared Polis has recently declared a drought emergency for the region and the rest of western Colorado. … The seasonal moisture from the tropics creates afternoon cloud cover that protects … drought-stricken creeks from baking in the sun. The rain helps lower the risk for wildfires. The timing of the monsoon is vital to Colorado’s ecosystem, which evolved on its schedule.

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Aquafornia news ABC 7 News

Could meters be the key to conserving water in California agriculture? Watsonville growers explain

As he set goals last Thursday for the Bay Area to conserve water, Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged the lack of metering provides no sense of how much water is used by California agriculture. Growers in the Watsonville area in Santa Cruz County, however, are metered, and the meters have resulted in significant water conservation.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Colorado

Report: Colorado River ranch water savings hit 42 percent

Colorado’s high altitude hay meadows, a significant water user in the state, could be re-operated to yield more than 40 percent in water savings, according to a new report. The report is based on a major high tech research initiative to see if ranch-scale water conservation techniques, in which farmers are paid to voluntarily stop irrigating their fields temporarily, could produce enough saved water to help protect the Colorado River from unplanned shortages due to drought and climate change.

Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

Waterfowl across Sacramento region threatened by California drought

The future of millions of waterfowl that visit the region each fall could be up in the air if dry conditions continue. Fourth-generation rice farmer Brian McKenzie farms about 4,000 acres and his fields are filled with wildlife. … This year’s drought has decreased the number of birds and the number of acres farmed. … And that has many worried about what will happen to what is known as the Pacific flyway this fall.

Aquafornia news LA Weekly

Water crisis: The California drought is drying up our local farmers markets

Flora Bella Farms has been a fixture at the Santa Monica Farmers market since it opened in 1991. James and Dawn Birch have been a favorite stop for local chefs ever since they made their first sale to Nancy Silverton. Because of the lack of water in this year’s drought and the loss of most of their crops, next Wednesday, July 21 will be their last day at the market with no return day in sight. We talked to Dawn at the market Wednesday, who told us that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: In California, who owns water rights is a mystery

As we careen deeper into drought, California will face increasing impacts to urban and agricultural economies, rivers and forests, and wildlife. In response, government agencies will need to determine how to allocate water among competing needs. Water users will scramble to buy and sell water — if they can — or reduce their use. But the current lack of information hobbles the ability to make difficult decisions about water management. For California to cope with persistent shortages, water rights data need to be accessible to decision-makers and the public.
-Written by Michael Kiparsky, director of the Wheeler Water Institute in the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at UC Berkeley School of Law.

Aquafornia news Lake County News

Prop 64 funded program protects fish and wildlife habitat statewide

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, in conjunction with their state and county partners, are preparing for the 2021 cannabis enforcement season. As authorized by Fish & Game Code section 12029, CDFW, in coordination with the State Water Resources Control Board, or SWRCB, and the state licensing authority, established a watershed enforcement program to address environmental violations associated with unlicensed cannabis cultivation. The environmental impacts associated with illegal cannabis cultivation can have a detrimental effect on fish and wildlife and their habitats…

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

A Delta in distress

Global warming has already left its mark on the backbone of California’s water supply, and represents a growing threat to its first developed agricultural region, state experts have warned in a new study. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fuels California’s $3 trillion economy, including its $50 billion agricultural industry, sustains more than 750 plant and animal species and supplies 27 million people with drinking water.  But global warming is likely to destabilize the landscape that made the delta a biodiversity and agricultural hotspot …

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Aquafornia news CBS Sacramento

Northern California farmers bracing for drastic water restrictions

Farmers are facing a water shortage right as we head into peak growing season…. Solano County farmer Spencer Bei shows us one of the wells his family uses to farm 15,000 acres. He says he is losing pressure now as he is pumping because he is pulling more from the aquifer due to a lack of surface water and no rain in sight. He is one of many farmers feeling the heat after the State Water Resources Board sent out letters to 4,300 water-right holders saying there was no longer enough water for them and that the remaining 2,300 with pre-1914 riparian rights could see even more restrictions soon.

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Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Drought reduces projected almond crop in Central Valley

The worsening drought forced a 13% cut in the projected almond crop in California. The U.S. Department of Agriculture now expects about 2.8 billion pounds from the August-October harvest. The initial estimate in May was for a record 3.2 billion pounds. Some growers have opted to strip nuts from branches so their trees can get by with less irrigation this summer, Monday’s report said. Water is especially short in parts of the western and southern San Joaquin Valley.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

As California wineries lose insurance, some fear this fire season will be their last

Across California, as peak wildfire season approaches, many vintners in the state’s $40 billion wine industry are unable to protect themselves from fires in several crucial ways. Winemakers here were already vexed by smoke taint … which forced many to abandon their entire production in 2020. … Now, some are discovering that the one fallback they’d counted on — insurance in case their properties are damaged or destroyed by flames — is either impossible to get or exorbitantly expensive. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Illegal pot farms have invaded the California desert

[The] hot, dry, unforgiving climate [of the Mojave Desert] has attracted more than a thousand marijuana plantations that fill the arid expanse between the Antelope Valley and the Colorado River. It’s an unprecedented siege that has upended life in the remote desert communities and vast tract developments that overlook Joshua trees and scrub. Authorities say the boom has led to forced labor, violence, water theft and the destruction of fragile desert habitat and wildlife. Longtime residents say they feel less safe, claiming black-market growers act with impunity by carrying weapons, trading gunfire with rivals and threatening those who wander too close to their farms.

Aquafornia news Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management

New research: Approaches to planning water resources

Water resource problems and management are complex, confusing, and controversial for participants in technical, policy, and public water deliberations. A thoughtful planning approach can reduce confusion and structure controversies. This paper attempts to summarize and organize various technical approaches to water resources planning. This paper summarizes the basic approach of rational planning, followed by brief reviews of requirements-based, benefit-cost-based, multiobjective, conflict resolution, market-based, and muddling through approaches to planning.

Aquafornia news The Modesto Bee

Key players in California water confront drought, fish and more at Modesto summit

A key message emerged when California water leaders gathered in Modesto: Stop grumbling about drought, and get cracking on real fixes.  Rep. Josh Harder, R-Turlock, convened the Thursday afternoon summit at the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau.  Several speakers called for new reservoirs and groundwater recharge to hold wet-year surpluses for use in dry times like 2021. The manager of a West Side irrigation district invited others to follow her lead in using water recycled from city sewage plants. 

Aquafornia news ABC7 Los Angeles

Diamond Valley Lake: SoCal’s largest water reservoir filled to 80% capacity despite drought

Southern California’s largest reservoir is filled to more than 80% of its total capacity, despite the fact the state as a whole is in the second year of a severe drought. And Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet is proving to be a key asset in making up for the shortfall in water from other sources after another year of below-normal precipitation.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

In California’s interior, there’s no escape from the desperate heat: ‘Why are we even here?’

In Cantua, a small town deep within California’s farming heartland, the heat had always been a part of life. “We can do nothing against it,” said Julia Mendoza, who’s lived in this town for 27 years. But lately, she says, the searing temperatures are almost unlivable. … Global heating is driving stronger, longer heatwaves in the region, said Jose Pablo Ortiz Partida, a climate scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit advocacy group. Researchers have been warning of such extreme heatwaves for decades, he said, but the barrage of heat surges that California and the western US have been alarming, he said.

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Aquafornia news Red Bluff Daily News

Tehama County Supervisors to discuss groundwater

Groundwater, a subject of growing concern, will be discussed Tuesday during the Tehama County Board of Supervisors meeting. Clay Parker, the groundwater commissioner and Red Bluff councilman, will be delivering a report to the board with an update on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan and the Domestic and Agricultural Well Ad Hoc Committee. … The committee is still in early development, although the agenda report said an ordinance is expected to be brought before the board by the end of the year.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: The collaborative steward

The rhythmic patter of hooves skimming the earth below was a sound Amy never tired of when she was young. Whether in the hot sweat-inducing summer or the bone-chill frost of winter in upstate New York, the sound was ever-present, because Amy was always riding. … Now as the Interim Director of the California Program at American Rivers, one of Amy’s central goals is to work with agricultural landowners to protect and improve habitat in wetlands and rivers.

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

IID pounds pavement to head off bill

Imperial Irrigation District officials are making a last-ditch effort to amend or kill proposed legislation that could fundamentally transform the governing board of the agency, Assembly Bill 1021. At the heart of the issue is how the bill could force the district — which provides water and power to virtually all of Imperial County, and electricity to part of the Coachella Valley — to add a seat representing energy ratepayers from a small section of southeastern Riverside County to the IID Board of Directors. 

Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘Save our water’: Meet the rain harvesters taking on the US West’s water woes

The American west has a sprawling network of dams, reservoirs and pipelines that brings a supply of water to its cities and farms. But overexploitation and a two-decade dry spell have put a severe strain on the resources, with reserves dwindling to historic lows in some areas. The situation will only get worse in the coming decades, warn scientists, as surging populations will boost freshwater demand and a hotter, drier climate will bring deeper droughts and more erratic precipitation patterns. …[N]ew water-sourcing approaches are also needed. One such is rainwater harvesting. 

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Lawsuit alleges lax groundwater oversight in Sonoma County threatens Russian River

An environmental group dedicated to promoting healthy waterways around California is taking Sonoma County to court over permitting policies it says too liberally allow people to drill groundwater wells, potentially endangering Russian River stream flows. California Coastkeeper, an affiliate of the locally based Russian Riverkeeper and a dozen or so other organizations around the state, filed the first-of-its-kind lawsuit late last month amid the intensifying drought and a surge in well drilling around the region.

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Aquafornia news Lost Coast Outpost

News release: Karuk Tribe seeks to stop Scott River water use to protect coho salmon

Today the Karuk Tribe filed a formal petition with the California State Water Resources Control Board demanding that it use its emergency powers to curtail water use in the Scott River to prevent the extinction of the Southern Oregon- Northern California Coho Salmon (Coho). … The Scott River is home to most of the native Coho salmon left in the Klamath Basin. Coho were added to the endangered species list in 1997. While federal agencies have forced water users on the federal Klamath Irrigation Project along the California/Oregon border to allow downstream flows to protect the fish, other water users’ impacts have been ignored.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California drought – Bay Area, state hit 126-year lows for rainfall this year

California and the Bay Area experienced the driest rainy season on record, with average statewide precipitation reaching 126-year lows, according to Golden Gate Weather Services, a meteorological consulting firm. The Bay Area got only 9.88 inches of rain this season, 39% of its normal amount of 25.28 inches, Golden Gate Weather Services said. That’s the least ever, going back to 1895. California got 11.46 inches, or 49% of its normal 23.61 inches. That’s also the least ever.

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Aquafornia news ABC7 Los Angeles

Drug cartels stealing millions of gallons of water for illegal marijuana grows in Antelope Valley, officials say

Amid California’s ongoing drought, drug cartels have been stealing 2-3 million gallons of water a day to feed illegal marijuana grows in the Antelope Valley, officials said. Asked where the water was being stolen from, Rep. Mike Garcia, who represents the state’s 25th District, said: “Right here from our local aqueduct system. The California Aqueduct flows right through the Antelope Valley. They’re taking it out of wells. They’re stealing it from fire hydrants.”

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Aquafornia news Fox News

Western farmers fight for fairness, businesses amid drought ‘like Hurricane Katrina’

As the western United States continues to face a months-long bout with extreme drought, American farmers are feeling catastrophic effects to their livelihoods. … John Moore, a fourth-generation crop farmer from Kern County, California, highlighted the misunderstanding lawmakers have toward the agricultural community. In his mind, heeding to some Trump-era water policies would’ve changed the entire landscape of how farmers face droughts like these.

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Aquafornia news WIRED

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: A massive water recycling proposal could help ease drought

Lake Mead, which provides water for 25 million people in the American West, has shrunk to 36 percent of its capacity. One rural California community has run out of water entirely after its well broke in early June. Fields are sitting fallow, as farmers sell their water allotments instead of growing crops, putting the nation’s food supply in peril. As the West withers under extreme drought, legislators in the US House of Representatives have introduced HR 4099, a bill that would direct the Secretary of the Interior to create a program to fund $750 million worth of water recycling projects in the 17 western states through the year 2027.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Running out of water: how climate change fuels a crisis in the US west

Except for a brief stint in the military, Paul Crawford has spent his entire life farming in southern Oregon. First, as a boy, chasing his dad through hayfields and now, growing alfalfa on his own farm with his wife and two kids, who want to grow up to be farmers. … The American west is drying out as the region faces an unprecedented drought. Few places are as devastated as the Klamath Basin, where Crawford’s farm sits. Straddling the border between California and Oregon, the watershed spans 12,000sq miles – from agricultural lands fed by Upper Klamath Lake to tribal communities surrounding the Klamath River.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Tribe becomes key water player with drought aid to Arizona

For thousands of years, an Arizona tribe relied on the Colorado River’s natural flooding patterns to farm….Now, gravity sends the river water from the north end of the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation through 19th century canals to sustain alfalfa, cotton, wheat, onions and potatoes, mainly by flooding the fields. Some of those fields haven’t been producing lately as the tribe contributes water to prop up Lake Mead to help weather a historic drought in the American West…. As Arizona faces mandatory cuts next year in its Colorado River supply, the tribes see themselves as major players in the future of water.

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Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Dealing with drought: Farmers challenged as water supply dwindles

The drought is here, and agriculture is scrambling. Water regulators have cut the amount that can be taken from lakes, rivers and streams. Farmers who ordinarily get that water either have to forgo planting some of their fields, or pump water from the ground, or a combination of the two. Farmers dependent on wells are also affected… Neither the state nor the federal water projects are delivering water for agriculture from Northern California to south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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Aquafornia news The Mercury News

Drought: The end of California’s groundwater free-for-all

The water spigots on California farms will soon be twisted tighter. As the state faces a growing threat from drought, an increasing number of water agencies are planning to require flow meters on agricultural wells, part of a landmark effort to measure and constrain pumping that used to be free and unlimited. It’s a controversial step aimed at protecting water supplies that could change cultivation practices in the Golden State’s thirsty fields.

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Aquafornia news ABC 10 San Diego

Valley Center residents blame SDG&E project for low water supply

Residents in Valley Center say they are running out of water and blaming an SDG&E project meant to reduce fire danger. The olive trees that line Kristen Bazata’s Valley Center farm have not been watered recently – at a time they need all the H20 they can get. … Bazata stopped watering the trees after noticing an alarming change when she turned on her own faucets. “We have lower water pressure than we have ever had,” Bazata said. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Opinion: How California’s leaders can end the salmon slaughter

Our leaders must take bold action to adapt to our new reality and create a system that can support healthy rivers and wildlife, communities with access to safe drinking water and a thriving agricultural economy. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re seeing today. The state’s water regulators are draining our reservoirs and depleting our rivers to deliver vast volumes of water to a small number of powerful agricultural interests during a historically dry year. Protecting fish and wildlife and water quality for Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta communities does not mean eliminating agriculture in the Central Valley. 
-Written by Rachel Zwillinger, water policy advisor for Defenders of Wildlife in Sacramento.

Aquafornia news NPR

Drought has pitted farmers against native tribes protecting endangered fish

In the drought-stricken Klamath Basin along the California-Oregon border, water is precious. This year, Native American tribes and farmers are competing for this shrinking resource. It’s an indicator of future water wars in the West. Jefferson Public Radio’s Erik Neumann explains.

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Aquafornia news Idaho State Journal

Idaho almond trial drawing a lot of interest from California

Interest from California growers in the possibility of growing almonds commercially in Idaho has not waned. In fact, it’s increasing. University of Idaho fruit researchers have been conducting a major almond trial at the university’s agricultural research and extension station in Parma since 2014.  … California is the global leader in almond production but growers there are increasingly concerned about burdensome regulations, an uncertain water supply and expensive land prices, Fallahi says.

Aquafornia news Truthout

Explosive growth of toxic algae threatens water supplies across US

With a vast portion of the United States coping with exceptional drought this summer, conditions are ripe in many places for harmful algal blooms, bringing additional threats to already-stressed water systems and increased health risks for communities. The blooms are in large part fueled by phosphorus and nitrogen runoff from industrial agricultural operations, which provide a feast of nutrients for cyanobacteria — a group of aquatic, photosynthetic bacteria that grow out of control and overwhelm their ecosystems in the presence of excess nutrients.

Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

Report: Delta adapts – Creating a climate resilient future

The time to act is now. Climate change is already altering the physical environment of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta and Suisun Marsh (Delta), and we will continue to experience its effects through hotter temperatures, more severe wildfires, and prolonged droughts. Over the long term, climate change in the Delta is expected to harm human health and safety, disrupt the economy, diminish water supply availability and usability, shift ecosystem function, compromise sensitive habitats, and increase the challenges of providing basic services. Many of these impacts will disproportionately affect vulnerable communities.

Aquafornia news National Geographic

Historic drought in the West is forcing ranchers to take painful measures

On Andrew McGibbon’s 90,000-acre cattle ranch south  Tucson, Arizona, the West’s punishing drought isn’t just drying up pastureland and evaporating water troughs. … Nearly 1,000 miles from McGibbon’s ranch, near Rio Vista, California, the drought on Ryan Mahoney’s ranch feels just as bad. … In the contiguous United States, more than a third of available land is used for pasture. That means more than 15 million beef cattle are trying to graze this year on drought-parched grasses, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures. 

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Aquafornia news Stanford Water in the West

Report: Dispute resolution clauses in interorganizational coordination agreements

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a landmark piece of legislation in the quest for comprehensive management of California’s groundwater, required the creation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), and authorized local governments either to form GSAs separately or join with other local governments in the same groundwater basin. This was the genesis of 74 interorganizational agreements now examined in a new report, which focuses on whether, given the high stakes and history of conflict in water resources management in California, participants were prepared for disagreements with dispute resolution clauses in their planning.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: How does cannabis cultivation affect California’s water?

The rise in legal cannabis cultivation in California has brought a once-clandestine industry out of the shadows. Legalization has begun to illuminate the industry’s impacts on ecosystems and water—a particularly fraught issue as the state confronts a new drought. We spoke with Van Butsic and Ted Grantham, co-directors of UC Berkeley’s Cannabis Research Center and adjunct fellows at the PPIC Water Policy Center, to better understand how cannabis cultivation affects the state’s water.

Aquafornia news Reuters

Water futures market fails to make a splash with California farmers

Former bond trader Alan Boyce is just the type of California farmer expected to dive into the world’s first water futures contract. Boyce is comfortable navigating financial tools, and he grows irrigated pistachios, tomatoes, alfalfa and other crops in California’s drought-prone Central Valley. But he says the water contract is still too illiquid to benefit him. Financial exchange operator CME Group (CME.O) launched the contract late last year to help big California water users such as farmers and utilities hedge rising drought risk and give investors a sense of how scarce water is at any given time.

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Aquafornia news City of Scottsdale

News release: Water – Colorado River shortage

For the first time ever, an official Colorado River Tier 1 Shortage is expected to be declared starting January 1, 2022. The announcement comes from the Bureau of Reclamation in August based on projections for Lake Mead water levels for the following January. The shortage declaration means reduced water for some stakeholders who receive water from the Central Arizona Project (CAP); those stakeholders who receive a portion of their water from CAP include municipalities, agriculture, tribes, and others.

Aquafornia news Delta Stewardship Council

News release: State, federal agencies award over $10 million for new Delta science

The Delta Stewardship Council (Council) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) are pleased to award over $10 million to fund 16 critical scientific studies in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and Suisun Marsh over the next three years. … At its June 24 meeting, the Council voted to approve $9,611,012.75 to fund 16 projects, with Reclamation contributing over $3.42 million toward four of these projects. The State Water Contractors will co-fund one of these 16 projects, pushing the grand total awards to over $10 million.

Aquafornia news TreeHugger

Blog: California water use threatens biodiversity in the long term

The diversion of water from the San Francisco Bay Delta, for example, is one of the forces famously driving the delta smelt to extinction. Now, a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month shows another counterintuitive way in which human water use in California is putting its unique riverside woodlands at risk.  By diverting water in ways it would not otherwise flow, human management is providing some stream-side, or riparian, ecosystems with excess water that gives them a short-term boost, but undermines their long-term sustainability. 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Valley’s westside farmers are angling for a water lifeline. Federal water officials could cut it off

As farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley struggle to irrigate crops and weather an ever-worsening historic drought, a bit of relief could be on the horizon courtesy of farmers in the north Valley. But it could be all for naught if Federal water managers don’t sign-off. What’s at stake? A proposed transfer of 100,000 acre-feet of water from the Southern San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) and Oakdale Irrigation District to farmers utilizing water from the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

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Aquafornia news Nasdaq

Blog: The answer to inflation woes could be under this dusty lake

Severe water restrictions like these are not merely a serious economic threat to farming operations; they are also a contributor to rising food prices. Without adequate water supplies, many farmers simply refrain from farming. And that’s not a good thing in a state like California, which grows nearly half the country’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Almost all agriculture is thirsty, of course, but California agriculture is especially thirsty. Growing a single almond requires more than one gallon of water, while growing a single avocado requires 60 gallons! Obviously, a major drought is not helpful.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Opinion: Can California start taking droughts seriously, please?

Drought may be the sneakiest of natural disasters. Although human history teems with people engulfed by abrupt aridity — the Akkadians of four millenniums ago, the Maya in the ninth and 10th centuries A.D., the Great Plains farmers of the 1930s — even today drought is a poorly appreciated phenomenon. … The American West is once again facing drought, one of the worst on record. Across a vast region encompassing nine states and home to nearly 60 million people, the earth is being wrung dry. 
-Written by Farhad Manjoo, NY Times opinion columnist.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Farmers face water rights curtailments

The California priority water rights system is being put to the test, as state regulators impose emergency regulations and send notices of water unavailability to farmers who are trying to negotiate their crops through another drought year. Reacting to worsening dry conditions, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency regulations last week to curtail water diversions in the Russian River watershed in Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

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Aquafornia news ABC30 Fresno

New bill would make it easier to transfer water throughout California

Growers are dealing with severe cutbacks in the surface water deliveries they normally receive from reservoirs. The lack of steady irrigation has already impacted spring cropping decisions made by farmers. … A bill introduced by Republican Congressman David Valadao would allow more water to be moved south from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while keeping protections in place for fish such as the delta smelt and salmon.

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Aquafornia news Pacific Institute

News release: Forty-two percent of public water supply wells in California’s San Joaquin Valley vulnerable, finds new report

Forty two percent of shallow wells supplying water to community water systems in California’s San Joaquin Valley are vulnerable to going partially or fully dry under the state’s minimum thresholds, finds a new report from the Pacific Institute. Most impacted wells are shallower, and tend to be in disadvantaged communities.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Farmers and ranchers need support during drought

While California is known for its world-famous entertainment industry and ever-transforming tech sector, agriculture is the often-overlooked backbone of our diverse state and one of its earliest economic engines.  Our state’s multigenerational farmers and ranchers not only feed Californians, but also supply one-third of our country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts, while also leading the nation in milk production.
-Written by Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and David Shabazian, director of the California Department of Conservation.

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