Ag Today Friday, March 20, 2015

Editorial: Officials cobble $1 billion to fight drought [Sacramento Bee]

At legislators’ prodding, Gov. Jerry Brown began loosening his tight fist by agreeing to spend $1.1 billion to combat the drought. The question: What has taken so long?…The spending plan includes $272 million from the $7.5 billion water bond. The projects seem attainable: installing low-use plumbing, improving recycling, and helping those farmers who have not yet installed up-to-date irrigation. Another $44 million would be spent on emergency water and food aid, much of it intended for Central Valley towns where food bank use has spiked along with drought-related layoffs.
Water districts brace for cutbacks [Marysville Appeal-Democrat]
Last year was bad. This year could be worse. As the drought barrels into its fourth consecutive year with no end in sight, local water districts are bracing for another round of cutbacks, even those who survived 2014 unscathed. Last year, a round of late-March storms rescued several local districts and agencies from the need to cut supplies. But this year, those game-changing storms are nowhere in sight….While farmers in the Sacramento Valley are more water-rich than those to the south due to senior water rights and a wetter climate, it seems unlikely that any district or agency will deliver its usual full supply of water, said David Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association, an organization that includes most of the water districts, companies and agencies in Yuba-Sutter. Settlement contractors, who hold senior water rights, on the Sacramento River are anticipating a 25 percent cut in supply — the maximum allowed under their contracts. Settlement contractors on the Feather River will likely see a 50 percent cut in supply, Guy said.
No, California won’t run out of water in a year [Los Angeles Times]
Lawmakers are proposing emergency legislation, state officials are clamping down on watering lawns and, as California enters a fourth year of drought, some are worried that the state could run out of water. State water managers and other experts said Thursday that California is in no danger of running out of water in the next two years, even after an extremely dry January and paltry snowpack. Reservoirs will be replenished by additional snow and rainfall between now and the next rainy season, they said. The state can also draw from other sources, including groundwater supplies, while imposing tougher conservation measures….The headline of a recent Times op-ed article offered a blunt assessment of the situation: “California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?” Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at UC Irvine, wrote about the state’s dwindling water resources in a March 12 column, citing satellite data that have shown sharp declines since 2011 in the total amount of water in snow, rivers, reservoirs, soil and groundwater in California. In an interview Thursday, Famiglietti said he never claimed that California has only a year of total water supply left.
Comment: Discouraging flood irrigation a foolish mistake [Modesto Bee]
The Modesto Bee and most, if not all, of the irrigation districts’ board members appear to have accepted the idea that the public has been “ripped off” by low water charges to farmers who are using flood irrigating. I beg to differ. In the past, a U.S. Geological Survey study of the Modesto area concluded that over half the recharge to groundwater was due to water from flood irrigation seeping past the root zone of plants and into the water table below…Think of groundwater as a bank, with farmers making deposits in that bank through flood irrigation. On the other side, cities that use wells and other farmers who use drip are making withdrawals from the bank….Assuming global warming is true, and maintaining groundwater is critical to absolutely everyone, we should pay farmers to recharge our groundwater rather than charging them for it.
Judge: Monterey County water agency on hook for ag runoff [Monterey Herald]
After resisting for 4 1/2 years, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency has been declared a waste discharger responsible for managing contaminated Salinas-area waterways. On Thursday, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills ruled that the agency will be required to file a waste discharge report with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board for the Reclamation Ditch and Blanco Drain, which are among the most contaminated waterways in the state because of agricultural runoff. Wills’ ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed in fall 2010 by Monterey Coastkeeper, which sought to force the agency to take responsibility for the waterways.
U.S. farm official visits Stockton [Stockton Record]
A top U.S. farm official visited Stockton on Thursday morning to promote the Obama administration’s efforts to boost foreign trade and to emphasize the importance of that trade to San Joaquin County agriculture. In particular, Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor, on a tour of California, talked up the Trans Pacific Partnership, a proposed pact that would lower trade barriers around the Pacific Rim, and the need for renewal of the trade promotion authority to give the president power to put new trade deals on a fast track toward Congressional approval. “Trade is vital to rural economies,” she said during a media opportunity Thursday following a roundtable discussion with local leaders at the San Joaquin Farm Bureau….Foreign trade is more than just important to San Joaquin County agriculture, said Bruce Blodgett, farm bureau executive manager. “It’s essential for our survival,” he said.
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