California ag showing remarkable resilience

Amid the rhetoric of doom, California agriculture has so far been growing its way through drought: Even as many farmers cut back their planting, California’s farm economy overall has been surprisingly resilient. Farm employment increased by more than 1 percent last year. Gross farm revenue from crop production actually increased by two-tenths of 1 percent …

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“Enough water will never be enough”

California’s water problems will never be solved Faith Kerns and Doug Parker argue, because cities and farms will always expand to the edge of available supply, overshoot, and then face trouble during the dry times: There are other arenas where this phenomenon is well understood. For example, when it comes to freeways, congestion leads to demand …

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The federal role in western drought

The federal government, through its water agencies (and the funding providing via taxpayers in other places) used to be a major player in the development of the West. This Michael Doyle story, in describing a Congress up to its axles in California drought and unable to move an inch, suggests that is no longer the …

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Mulroy: We’ve built one giant watershed

Pat Mulroy in the Las Vegas Sun on the interconnected west-wide artificial watershed we’ve built for ourselves, and why efforts to solve the Sacramento Delta’s problems matter to the rest of us: From the vantage point of Sacramento, the Colorado River may seem distant and disconnected to the challenges in the delta. Yet, the two …

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In defense of Imperial Valley farming

Tom Philpott, who through his Mother Jones pieces has aimed aimed his considerable knowledge of our food system at California’s water problems, sets his sights this week on the Imperial Valley of southeastern California where, as he notes, “Imperial Valley’s farms gets 3.1 million acre-feet annually—more than half of California’s total allotment and more than …

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An example of why groundwater regulation is hard

OtPR today offers a list of generally poor rural communities that have seen domestic wells go dry as relatively affluent almond farms pump down regional aquifers to keep their orchards alive during the drought. It’s not hard to see why this is wrong: This economic model, in which powerful outsiders come in, displace the natives …

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Why water markets are hard – what economists call “transaction costs”

Nathanael Johnson at Grist continues his excellent work digging past the noise to try to help us understand what’s really going on with California’s drought. Today it’s a deep dive into water markets, which includes this great explanation of why they’re so hard in practice: It’s tricky to show that the water you’re selling is …

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Almond growers – the alfalfa farmer’s new best friend

Tina Shields, the Colorado River Resources Manager for California’s big Imperial Irrigation District, joked Friday about the newfound celebrity of the California almond. Used to be, alfalfa was the alleged water waster that got all the attention. “The best thing for alfalfa growers is almonds,” Shields quipped at one point during a Las Vegas Colorado …

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Water and agricultural jobs

Nathanael Johnson, in an excellent recent Grist piece, argues that the impact on California’s agricultural economy from the drought is likely to be less than some of the dire rhetoric might suggest because of the way farmers adapt: Philip Bowles, whose family farms near Los Banos, Calif., said they are changing and adapting every day. …

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