Ag Today July 19, 2021

Megadrought Poses ‘Existential’ Crisis in California and the West [CBS, San Francisco]

The American West was once seen as a place of endless possibilities: grand vistas, bountiful resources and cities that somehow grew out of deserts. Now, manifest destiny has become a manifest emergency. A scorching drought made worse by climate change is draining reservoirs at an alarming pace, fueling massive wildfires and deadly heat waves and withering one of the most important agricultural economies in the country. “I’m really concerned, I’m really worried,” said Joe Del Bosque, who has been growing melons and other crops in California’s Central Valley since 1985. He has weathered droughts before but nothing quite like this. He showed CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy a field of dirt that he has left fallow because there’s not enough water to plant a crop there this summer.

Tracy asked, “How much of your land have you left unplanted this year?” “About a third,” he replied. “That’s significant. If that water doesn’t get here, we will start to lose our crops. Some of our crops will probably die.”

Megadrought Poses ‘Existential’ Crisis in California and the West – CBS San Francisco (


Evaporation, diversions increase botulism risk at Tule Lake [Klamath Falls Herald and News]

Last month, biologists and irrigators drained Tule Lake’s largest unit of open water to mitigate avian botulism outbreaks on Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Now, record heat and irrigation diversions threaten to undo that work….But for the past three weeks, farmers on federal leaselands in the southwest chunk of the refuge have been diverting water from Sump 1B to irrigate grain, alfalfa and row crops like potatoes. That, combined with intense, unseasonable heat that has accelerated evaporation, has made the sump lose more than 1,300 acre-feet of water since the beginning of July. “It started dropping like a rock,” said TID Manager Brad Kirby. Kirby said the heat was more to blame than the irrigators, who according to his calculations make up 20% of Sump 1B’s water loss at most.

Evaporation, diversions increase botulism risk at Tule Lake | Local News |


Wildfire explodes near Lake Tahoe, forcing hundreds to flee; critically dangerous fire weather expected through Monday [USA Today]

A wildfire roaring near Lake Tahoe that forced hundreds to flee blew up to cover 30 square miles Sunday, one of more than 80 major fires raging across the hot, drought-stricken West, fire officials said. Authorities at Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest issued evacuation orders for more than a half-dozen communities and two campgrounds near tiny Markleeville, California, a town of less than 200 people about 35 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe. The Tamarack Fire, which ignited two weeks ago, forced closure of a highway and some smaller roads. Wildfires burning Sunday in 13 states torched more than 1,800 square miles from Alaska to California and Minnesota to New Mexico. Almost 20,000 firefighters worked to keep the blazes at bay.


Editorial: Sacramento County declared a climate emergency. Its action plan should take that seriously [Sacramento Bee]

The city of Folsom is moving forward with a plan to build a staggering 11,000 new homes, whether it has the water to service those homes or not. Is the way we make land-use decisions in the region — with an eye on market and housing demands and no regard for environmental and climate consequences — still feasible?…Depending on the willingness of Sacramento County officials to commit to significant mitigation strategies, it’s no hyperbole to say the county’s climate plan will determine how long Sacramento will remain habitable in the face of impending climate catastrophe. The climate plan is not required by state law, but local governments consider it to be a time-saving measure to help streamline environmental reviews required by the California Environmental Quality Act….Urban sprawl — the expansion of cities and towns via outward development — accounts for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and the county has the power to reduce it. Any climate plan made in 2021 must make curbing sprawl and encouraging infill development on unused or underused spaces the top priority. That means county officials need to put the health of the community and the planet first, not the wealth of developers. Propper said Sacramento County officials have allowed developers to expand urban boundaries. To make matters worse, the county has leaned on developers to help fund the final phase of the climate plan, raising legitimate conflict-of-interest concerns.


Op-Ed: Feeling the drought on my family farm [Los Angele Times]

I can see my future: It’s dry, thirsty and bleak. On our farm, we live with drought daily, working with limited groundwater and learning to adjust and adapt, or to fail and abandon our fields. Water will determine a farmer’s survival. I farm organically outside Fresno, part of one of the world’s richest and most productive agricultural oases, providing, of course, that we have water. Typically, we make use of two sources of the liquid gold: annual rainfall and snowmelt captured from the Sierra, and also the pool of groundwater lying beneath our land. Both are threatened by a lack of rain and snow, exacerbated by the slow depleting and over-pumping of our aquifers. In the past, many of us took water for granted. We simply turned on the faucet or flicked an irrigation pump switch and the water magically appeared. It was there when we needed it until it was not.

Op-Ed: Feeling the California drought on my family farm – Los Angeles Times (


Palm Springs gets most rain in nearly 6 months Sunday [Palm Springs Desert Sun]

Palm Springs was visited by early morning thunderstorms Sunday. The scattered showers delivered 0.08 inches of rain between about 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, with additional rain possible Sunday afternoon. Rainfall varied throughout the rest of the Coachella Valley, ranging from a relatively low 0.04 inches in Palm Desert and Indio to 0.27 inches in Cathedral City….The last time Palm Springs recorded this much rain was on Jan. 29 with 0.11 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The rainfall record for July 18 was set in 2015 at 0.33 inches, according to Stefanie Sullivan, another meteorologist with the National Weather Service.


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