The Salton Sea and the risk of failure

While I was writing my book about the future of Colorado River water management, I joked about my efforts to leave the Salton Sea out of the story. It was only sort of a joke. The problems of the Salton Sea, an inland water body fed by agricultural drainage from the Imperial Valley, are an …

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rainfall variability is for not fighting over

Fascinating new paper by Lewis Davis at Union College (gated) arguing that the need for collaboration in early agricultural societies with highly variable rainfall led to the development of cultural norms of not fighting over water: The link between rainfall variation and individual responsibility draws on an extensive theoretical and empirical literature on risk sharing among …

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Despite drought, the value of California farmland is rising

California’s epic, headline-grabbing drought has not dented the value of the state’s farm land. According to a new USDA dataset released today, California cropland rose 2.1 percent in value per acre in the last year, and 16 percent since 2012. Despite drought, California cropland remains at $10,900 an acre the second most valuable in the …

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Climate science identifies the problem – it can’t tell us what to do in response

Writing in the latest Nature Geoscience, Reiner Grundmann of the University of Nottingham calls out a problem that I wish I’d understood years ago about our understanding of, and response to, climate change and the family of problems to which it is connected. (I hope that link works, let me know in the comments if it …

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Stuff I wrote elsewhere: The Great Decoupling of the West’s Water

This 2010 paper by Peter Gleick and Meena Palaniappan planted the seed, and as I worked on my book I found examples everywhere – geographies and economic communities that are using less water even as they were growing. I blogged about it, as one does, one thing led to another, and when I finished the book …

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Green versus green: removing Snake River dams

One of my University of New Mexico Water Resources Program colleagues frequently points out what they call “green versus green issues” – environmental tradeoffs that are often under-examined because our environmental discourse focuses on one set of values without sufficiently incorporating other values. Today’s inbox missive: removing dams from the Snake River in the U.S. …

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The inevitable decline of irrigated acreage in California’s central valley

It’s a relatively straightforward point: when there is less water to irrigate farmland, there will be less irrigated farmland. For example, OtPR last year: As groundwater sustainability agencies have to bring irrigated acreage in line with the sustainable yield of the groundwater basin, they will be retiring irrigated lands (Dr. Burt: 1-1.5 million acres; Dr. Lund: …

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From the World Bank, hope for our ability to handle climate change’s water problems

A new report by a team from the World Bank offers hope for the ability of most of the world to cope with increasing water scarcity associated with climate change. The headlines following the report’s release have been grim: “Global water shortages to deliver ‘severe hit’ to economies, World Bank warns“, to cite one typical …

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On the use of the word “decoupling”

I’ve been using the word “decoupling” to describe what is happening in the relationship between water use and population/economic growth. The phenomenon is common, and I blog about it a lot – water use going down even as population and agricultural productivity go up. Now comes Robert Stavins, a prominent environmental economist, to argue that …

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