Ag Today Monday, April 13, 2015

Big north-to-south California water sale dries up [Sacramento Bee]

When the water supply is tight in California, the product often flows to where the money is. Typically, that means north to south. In the record-breaking drought of 2015, however, practically no one has a drop to spare. That means the buying and selling of water can grind to a halt, even with jaw-dropping prices on the table. That appears to be the case with a mammoth deal engineered by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and a group of Sacramento Valley rice farmers….Now the deal is largely falling apart. The reason: Many of the farmers were told this week their own supplies are being curtailed because of the drought. As a result, most of them are invoking opt-out clauses and canceling the sales.
Drought to hit county’s farmers hard [U-T San Diego]
Valley Center is classified as an urban water agency even though 70 percent of its water is used for agriculture, said Gary Arant, general manager of the Valley Center Municipal Water District. So the agency is being told to impose severe cutbacks that make no sense for agricultural use, he said. Under regulations proposed by the State Water Resources Control Board, Valley Center must cut its water use by 35 percent….Dead avocado and citrus groves, already a common sight in North County, will expand if the State Water Resources Control Board doesn’t modify its proposed regulations to take into account Valley Center’s agricultural nature, Arant said.
California delta’s water mysteriously missing amid drought [Associated Press]
As California struggles with a devastating drought, huge amounts of water are mysteriously vanishing from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — and the prime suspects are farmers whose families have tilled fertile soil there for generations. A state investigation was launched following complaints from two large agencies that supply water to arid farmland in the Central Valley and to millions of residents as far south as San Diego. Delta farmers don’t deny using as much water as they need. But they say they’re not stealing it because their history of living at the water’s edge gives them that right. Still, they have been asked to report how much water they’re pumping and to prove their legal rights to it. At issue is California’s century-old water rights system that has been based on self-reporting and little oversight, historically giving senior water rights holders the ability to use as much water as they need, even in drought. Gov. Jerry Brown has said that if drought continues this system built into California’s legal framework will probably need to be examined.
Despite drought, water flowing freely in Imperial Valley [Los Angeles Times]
With California in its fourth year of drought, Gov. Jerry Brown has avoided targeting farmers and their water usage. But some are beginning to wonder whether the clamor will soon build for redirecting farm water to more populous areas. And when it comes to water-rich areas with relatively few people, there is no place in California quite like the Imperial Valley….Imperial Valley farmers watch vigilantly for attempts to chip away at their water rights. “That’s a lifelong thing for us in the valley,” said Carson Kalin, who farms 1,800 acres with his brother. “We have to be aware that everyone is looking at our water and how we use it.”
Off the table so far: Water cuts for environmental uses [Salinas Californian]
Largely absent from the debate over residential versus agricultural uses of water in California is a third piece of the puzzle – environmental uses, advocates of which are content to remain hunkered down away from the melee while the other two are bloodying each other’s noses. But some growers are beginning to ask out loud what environmental sacrifices will be made along the lines of what is being asked of residents and farmers….Tricia Stever Blattler, executive director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, said Friday that in terms of the greatest use, environmental releases for river recreation and habitat rank at the top. While farmers use 40 percent of the state’s water and urban users consume 10 percent, environmental releases consume 50 percent, as much as urban and ag combined. “We haven’t heard anything about environmental uses for habitat flow,” Stever Blattler said. “It’s a conversation we need to have.” At least one Central Coast environmental nonprofit is willing to talk. Steve Shimek, executive director of The Otter Project in Monterey, said water cuts to environmental needs should be done surgically, not ham-fistedly.
Editorial: California’s Farm-Water Scapegoat [Wall Street Journal]
Perhaps the only issue on which Bay Area liberals and conservatives down California’s coastline agree is that farmers use too much water and should be rationed. The fortunate in Silicon Valley and Marin County need a tutorial in Golden State water allocation….The reality is that farm water has already been rationed for more than two decades by the ascendant green politics, starting with the 1992 federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Federal protections for the delta smelt, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon (2008-2009) further restricted water pumping at the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, so 76% of inflows, mainly from the Sierra Nevada mountains, spill into San Francisco Bay. In 2009 Democrats in Congress mandated that a spring salmon run be restored along a 60-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River that’s been dry since the 1940s. During the current drought, about 400,000 acre-feet of water—enough to sustain 100,000 acres and 400,000 families—were used for test-runs. Their conclusion? The salmon aren’t ready for the river, or vice versa.
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