Ag Today Thursday, April 2, 2015

California drought: Gov. Jerry Brown announces first-ever statewide mandatory water reductions [San Jose Mercury News]

In a historic declaration atop a Sierra summit barren of snow, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday ordered California’s first-ever mandatory statewide water restrictions, threatening hefty fines for communities — and potential rate hikes for residents — that fail to hit stepped-up conservation targets as the worst drought in state history enters its fourth year….So far, the impact of the drought — now entering its fourth year — has been felt most acutely by farmers, wildlife, and residents in lower-income communities that subsist on shallow private wells….Agriculture has already been cut back, with the federal Central Valley Project allocating no water to farmers and the State Water Project providing 20 percent of allocations, said Mark Cowin, director of the California Department of Water Resources. But there will be new rules that allow inspectors to ensure farmers have stopped using water, after official curtailments.
Brown calls on agriculture industry to cut water use [KXTV, Sacramento]
Gov. Jerry Brown is calling on all Californians to do their part to conserve water – including the heavy water users. The agriculture industry is no exception.…Due to the dry conditions, many Central Valley farmers have started irrigating earlier in the season. “If our irrigation season starts earlier, we just have to spread that amount of water over the whole season,” Lodi wine grape grower Joe Valente said.…Valente said he’s done his part to reduce his water use — a necessity since this is the fourth straight year he will not receive a water allocation due to a dismal snowpack. But in order to grow food, water is a must.
Editorial: Water rules mandate a different world [Sacramento Bee]
…After three grinding years of drought, Brown has taken serious action. To which we say: Finally….Despite Brown’s call for Californians to “pull together,” the mandate was strangely urban in emphasis….Other than a requirement for better reporting on water use, the better to crack down on illegal diversions, Brown doesn’t seem to be asking ag interests to do much more than they’re already doing, which isn’t sufficient….Are the nut orchards that the water feeds – and their profits for farmers and investors – truly so crucial that Westlands and others can’t scale it back some? Two-thirds of the water Californians used last year was groundwater. Not extending the mandates to underground aquifers, or speeding up implementation of last year’s groundwater regulations, forgoes huge potential savings.
Opinion: Sometimes the water questions are more telling [Bakersfield Californian]
Sometimes press conferences aren’t informative so much for what the officials are saying as for what the reporters are asking. Wednesday afternoon, I listened in on a conference call with the Governor’s drought task force where I felt the questions were quite illuminating. As soon as it was time for questions, BAM, right out of the gate: Why aren’t water reductions being required of farmers? The officials explained that farmers have already suffered severe water cuts.…A few more question and, again, if we’re all in this together why aren’t farmers being forced to conserve?…Yes, ag uses a lot of water. Far more than urban areas. Here’s the thing though, less lawn watering doesn’t cause widespread job loss and economic woes to entire communities. Shutting off water to ag does have those effects. Not to mention increased food costs.
New groundwater laws launch journey into unknown territory [Ventura County Star]
A concerned group of farmers, water district officials and others gathered in Fillmore on Wednesday to hear how new state laws requiring management of local groundwater supplies will play out in Ventura County.…Water continues making headlines as the state heads into a fourth consecutive year of drought. But the grand task of implementing a suite of new laws known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will take years, likely long after rainfall resumes and washes away the urgency brought by extended drought….In Ventura County, two existing entities have already become sustainability agencies for their areas: the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency, which covers much of the Oxnard Plain and some inland areas; and the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency. But some groundwater basins fall outside those entities’ boundaries, including the Fillmore and Piru basins in the eastern county and parts of the Mound basin in Ventura.…Those areas will be the focus of discussions in coming months as stakeholders determine who will regulate them.
Basin water year looking dire [Klamath Falls Herald and News]
Basin snowpack is already at June levels. “This is probably going to be the second or third worst year we’ve experienced,” said Jill Nelson, who farms with her husband, Warren, in the Langell Valley Irrigation District….“The general thing I hear from folks is that this year might end up being worse than the last,” said Klamath Irrigation District Manager Mark Stuntebeck. Hollie Cannon, executive director of the Klamath Water and Power Agency, said he has no doubts the water allocation to the Klamath Project will be worse than last year, but irrigators won’t know for sure until next week when the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) releases its 2015 Klamath Project Operations Plan….In an earlier interview with the Herald and News, Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, called 2014 the “third worst water year since 1999.” Last year at this time, snowpack was more than twice what it is now:
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