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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The remarkable U.S. water conservation success story

The U.S. economy and population are growing. Our water use is not. New research by Peter Debaere and Amanda Kurzendoerfer of the University of Virginia helps further disentangle the reasons behind this remarkable U.S. water conservation success since the 1980s. The break between population, economic growth, and water use is something Peter Gleick has pointed out …

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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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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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That giant pipeline from a wet place? Not gonna happen….

This comes up every drought, and people in the Pacific Northwest are worried again that we’re gonna steal their water: It may sound like a loopy idea, but there have been a lot loopier ideas that came true. And this is the American West, where we make a living taking water and moving it someplace …

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Yuma’s economy in a single photo

People I talked to on my recent trip to Yuma repeatedly ticked off the three components of the regional economy: ag federal (mostly military) tourism If you count me as “3” on a Gila main canal ditch bank as a squadron of military helicopters flew over, this picture captures them all. I think it’s fair …

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In Coachella Valley, poor people who are always in drought

The Desert Sun has been doing a great series on California’s drought, but this is surely the most important of the stories. While the rest of California worries about a dwindling supply, some poor residents of the palmy, leafy, lawny Coachella Valley, playground of Southern California wealth, don’t have a safe drinking supply at all, …

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