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Don't know much about hydrology

The California drought is complicated.
Nathanael Johnson of TheGrist.org set about clarifying some myths related to California's drought situation, leading him to declare - according to the article's headline - "Everything I thought I knew about water in California is wrong."

The first myth he debunked has been circulating since Gov. Brown announced steep water cutbacks for the state's municipalities. "He didn't mention agriculture, and that made people suspicious," Johnson wrote.

For clarification, Johnson spoke to Doug Parker, the director of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Institute for Water Resources. Brown didn't talk about ag in his big announcement because growers are already operating under an 80 percent cut from their normal water share from the State Water Project, and a zero percent allocation from the federal Central Valley Project.

"California farmers took about 5 percent for their land out of production last year, and that number will surely go up this year," the article says.

Other myths tackled in the story include:

  • Agriculture uses 80 percent of California's water
  • Dumb laws prevent the buying and selling of water
  • Farmers are wasting a lot of water
  • Farm conservation measures can free up plenty of water
Posted on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 4:34 PM
Tags: Doug Parker (10), drought (87)

Almonds get roasted over water use

Hensley Lake in Madera County, a reservoir on the Fresno River, is at 8 percent of capacity.
People around the world are eating 1,000 percent more California almonds than they did just a decade ago, and last year almonds became the top export crop in the nation's top agriculture state, reported Ellen Knickmeyer of the Associated Press. China's booming middle class is driving much of the demand.

The issue of increasing almond production is raised because of its water use. According to the story, almond orchards consume more water than the indoor use of all 39 million California residents combined.

The AP article was picked up by the Fresno Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, and may other media outlets.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources advisor David Doll is featured in many of the images distributed with the story. In one he holds an almond he says is smaller than normal in size due to the drought. Doll displayed micro sprinklers, used by almond growers to conserve water, and in another photo he is seen talking with an orchard manager who uses a floating pump to bring water from the Merced River to his almond orchard.

UC Cooperative Extension hosts water supply meeting
Rich Greene, Daily News
UCCE hosts a regional meeting in Corning April 30 where local efforts to sustain water supplies will be discussed. The meeting will cover the numerous events that have occurred on the water front since September 2014. That included the passing of the Groundwater Sustainability Act and the disappointing rainfall and snowpack numbers from 2015.

Drought issues, trial studies at center of UC desert field day
Michael Dukes, Imperial Valley Press
An update on the statewide drought topped the agenda for the Agronomic Crops and Water Conservation Field Day held at the UC Desert Research and Extension Center here early Thursday morning. The event, sponsored by Imperial County's UC Cooperative Extension and the California Department of Water Resources, played out in a six-stop tour, with specialists from across the agribusiness world providing attendees with an inside look at a variety of initiatives taking place within the Valley and all over California.

Posted on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 1:28 PM
Tags: David Doll (14), drought (87)

Coho salmon endangered by drought

UC ANR Cooperative Extension is working with a number of agencies to protect coho salmon. (Photo: Cal Dept of Fish and Wildlife)
The drought is imperiling coho salmon in Sonoma County, where streams may shrink and become disconnected from the Russian River, reported Guy Kovner in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

“It's grim. It's going to be a rough year for the coho,” said Mariska Obedzinski, a fish biologist who coordinates the coho monitoring program. “They can't get where they need to go.”

Obedzinski is part of the UC Sea Grant program, based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

Two coho spawning streams — Porter and Pena creeks — are already cut off from the river. If no more rain falls, other tributaries, including Green Valley, Dutch Bill and Mill creeks, will likely go dry in spots, Obedzinski said.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is already planning rescue operations to save the smolts and younger fish in disconnected streams.

Last year some streams disconnections took place in late May, toward the end of the salmon run. The drying being seen in mid April may be unprecedented. Obedzinski said it was possibly the worst year for the fish since stream monitoring began in 2005.

A multiagency effort to save the Russian River coho began in 2001, when the fish were on the verge of extinction. The effort includes California Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and UC Sea Grant.

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 2:26 PM

Food prices are drought-resistant

The California drought is not expected to impact food prices, UC expert says. (Photo: Rudy Gonzales, Jr.)
Changes being made in California agriculture to cope with the fourth year of drought will have minimal effects on food prices, according to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Daniel Sumner, director of a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources think tank, and co-author Tim York.

Sumner leads the UC Agricultural Issues Center, where scientists study such topics as international markets, invasive pests and diseases, the value of agriculture research and development and the rural environment.

The reason for drought's lack of impact on produce prices can be traced to the state's geography, water infrastructure and the economics of its agricultural industry, the op-ed says.

"The Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys are home to significant production of alfalfa, silage, rice, cotton and other so-called field crops, but are also a major source of fresh produce, including peppers, melons, grapes, oranges, tree nuts and tomatoes. Farmers in these valleys have typically relied on a mix of pumped groundwater and surface water deliveries via both the Central Valley Project—a huge network of dams, reservoirs and canals—and the larger California State Water Project. Most farmers, however, will receive no water from the CVP for the second year in a row, and the SWP is delivering only a fraction of normal allocations.

"This, coupled with much higher groundwater pumping costs as more and deeper wells are required, has forced many farmers to shift out of thirsty field crops. But this decreased production has minimal effects on food prices because California accounts for a small share of the supply, or because these crops affect food prices only indirectly. For example, fewer acres of corn silage makes it more expensive to feed milk cows, but the subsequent effect on the price of cheese is small. Fresh produce, which generates high revenue per unit of water consumed, continues to be planted."

The authors said the water bond voters passed in November 2014 and new regulations on groundwater use enacted by the state legislature is help, eventually. Some farmers are adjusting planting schedules and shifting crops between growing regions to adapt. Others are rerouting water from annual field crops, which can be left unplanted for a year or two, to permanent crops such as fruit and nut trees.

Even if water remains short for the next 10 years, an adequate supply of fresh fruits and vegetables should not be a concern, the authors wrote. "In a global market, produce suppliers from the U.S., Mexico, Chile and beyond compete to keep prices low," they said.

Posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 8:59 AM
Tags: Daniel Sumner (13), drought (87)

Almond producers taking heat over water use

Almonds aren't getting a fair shake, says UC expert.
The extreme water conservation measures mandated by Gov. Jerry Brown has pundits casting a critical eye on the California almond industry, reported Daniel Dale in TheStar.com, a Canadian news website.

It takes nearly four litres of water to produce each solitary almond, the article said (about one gallon). The almond's small size, high retail price and easy-to-understand water needs create a a handy example of purported ag water gluttony for people being asked to conserve.

Almonds have become California's second-most lucrative crop and No. 1 agricultural export, but doesn't deserve "as much of a target as is on its back," said David Doll, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources almond expert. Doll is a farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County.

The industry, he said, has reduced its water use by about 30 percent over the last 30 years. At 0.8 litres of water per calorie produced, the almond is actually more efficient than the average food crop.

And the one gallon of water, Doll said, produces not just the edible almond but a hull and shell that are used as livestock feed, reducing the need for water-consuming corn and alfalfa.

Posted on Friday, April 10, 2015 at 1:52 PM
Tags: almonds (23), David Doll (14), drought (87)

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