Water: Upbeat first assessment of year’s supplies



The rainy season isn’t over yet, but California farmers already have reasons to be optimistic about the 2011 harvest.

A torrent of early winter storms and higher-than-expected water left from 2010 prompted federal regulators Tuesday to issue an upbeat first assessment of the year’s water supplies.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the sprawling network of pipes and pumps that bring water to Central Valley farmlands and some urban customers in the Bay Area, expects to deliver as much as 100 percent of the water supplies requested.

“The new year starts with an encouraging water supply forecast, thanks to the precipitation delivered by Mother Nature,” David Hayes, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said in a statement.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/18/BARH1HARF6.DTL#ixzz1Bh1HaBxh

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Expert urges agriculture water use changes

An expert says small changes in agricultural irrigation practices could eliminate wasteful water use.

Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson says in a report being presented to the State Water Resources Control Board next week that California should crack down and aggressively enforce the state’s ban on wasteful water use.

The Los Angeles Times reports Tuesday that Wilson proposes broader enforcement of the state Constitution’s “reasonable use” doctrine rather than current case-by-case enforcement.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2011/01/11/state/n054733S81.DTL#ixzz1AkUIlw4h

California growers put forth water alternative

SALINAS, Calif. — A new water quality plan by the California Farm Bureau Federation offers an alternative to a state regulatory proposal that some growers have called punitive and costly.

At issue is the expiring conditional waiver of waste discharge requirements, up for a five-year renewal March 17. In California, the waiver shapes policy on the runoff of pesticides, fertilizers and fumigants from irrigated farming.

The federation submitted its plan Dec. 3 to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board on behalf of the Ag Working Group. More than a dozen growers’ organizations from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz form the group. Supporters include two grower-shipper associations and Western Growers.

Growers took steps to advance water quality under the prior waiver, the state’s draft order says, but stricter verification is needed. Agriculture, it says, is responsible for 78% of nitrate pollution in groundwater — water that finds its way into hundreds of drinking wells in the region.

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Water Deals Heighten Concern for Farms

Two farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley are proposing to do with their water what farmers around the country have done for decades: sell it to developers.

The farmers pay a maximum of $500 per acre-foot of water from the state water project, KFSN-TV reported. But the Tejon Ranch is paying the farmers $5,850 an acre-foot, meaning that the sellers will net $11.7 million. (An acre-foot is generally considered the amount of water two average households use annually.)

The fields, within the Dudley Ridge Water district, a small 30,000-acre area in southern Kings County, northeast of Los Angeles, produce fruit and nut trees — pomegranates, pistachios and the like.

Farms in the district have been the source of large water transfers to developers before.

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In Defense of Farming

By David Mas Masumoto

We’ve all heard it: The Valley needs to diversify the economy and stop being so dependent on agriculture. We need better-paying jobs, get people out of the fields, and stop the exploitation. The Valley must develop other resources and create another identity; we need to be something more than cows and critters, vines and cheap vino.

I hear the message: We’d be better off without farms and farmers.

I am defensive. We in the Valley already have a powerful economic identity called agriculture. Yet people seem to want to discard it, ignore it, and forget it.

Agriculture in our Valley is a multibillion dollar industry. When compared with the flash of the film industry or the sizzle of high technology, we don’t stand a chance. We aren’t sexy enough.

Read more: http://www.fresnobee.com/2010/09/24/2091645/in-defense-of-farming.html#ixzz10kWpg09F

Proposal: Calif. farmers could own water pipes

FRESNO, Calif. — The federal government is considering giving Central California farmers some massive water infrastructure to settle a lawsuit over drainage problems that killed birds and left farmland too salty for crops, according to a draft proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

Shifting the cleanup cost to the private sector would save the federal government about $2.2 billion, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said Wednesday.

The complex deal could transfer the government’s stake in local pumps and drain pipes to some of the country’s biggest farming operations, according to a bureau letter detailing the legislative strategy for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

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Proposal: Calif. farmers could own water pipes

FRESNO, Calif. — The federal government is considering giving Central California farmers some massive water infrastructure to settle a lawsuit over drainage problems that killed birds and left farmland too salty for crops, according to a draft proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

Shifting the cleanup cost to the private sector would save the federal government about $2.2 billion, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said Wednesday.

Read more…

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