A couple great posts over at ValleyEcon today.
High Country News, always wonderful, reports on southern San Joaquin Valley farmers’ fears of going out of business from a dry future. The tagline to the article asks: Something’s got to give in Central Valley farming. The only question is what. Dude. We know “what”. California will lose 1-3 million acres of irrigated land. The interesting question is how.
Mr. Fitchette writes a post urging agriculture to speak with a united voice. This paragraph caught my eye:
As I understand it, the roots of California’s water woes tap into the federal Endangered Species Act and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which set in motion later court challenges and decisions from the bench that did not support production agriculture.
As I understand it, the roots of California’s water woes come from historic assumptions that the supply of water for human use could be expanded infinitely, our realization that the total quantity is fixed, and that further withdrawals will cause environmental damage that we don’t like.
Mr. Cannella’s confusion about the way state regulators operate would go away if he understood that state regulators do not hold the amount of irrigated lands constant.
There has to be a better way forward on water conservation than encoding #droughtshaming (& naming, with addresses). https://t.co/PtOr0f0SGK
— Faith Kearns (@frkearns) February 22, 2016
During the last drought, I attended workshops in which one of the State’s water use efficiency experts told water districts to rank their water users from lowest to highest, privately contact the top ten water users and work directly with them to lower their water use. (Then do that a few more times until the chunk of disproportionate water users at the top is gone.) My recollection is that water districts said they didn’t have the data, didn’t care to mine it like that, and weren’t in the business of approaching their customers that way. But yes, collecting and using their data and directly contacting big water users could have saved quite a bit of water and bad publicity.
I diverge from the UC Davis group’s drought analysis here:
Global food markets have fundamentally changed the nature of drought for humans. Throughout history, disruptions of regional food production due to drought would lead to famine and pestilence. This is no longer the case for California and other globally-connected economies, where food is readily available at more stable global prices. California continued to export high-valued fruits and nuts, even as corn and wheat production decreased, with almost no effects on local or global prices. Food insecurity due to drought is largely eliminated in globalized economies (poverty is another matter). Subsistence agriculture remains more vulnerable from drought.
I do not trust global food markets. We may have the wealth to participate in them as winners (which hurts the global poor). But I would rather use that wealth to support a healthy farming community in our own state as insurance against unpredicted extreme climate change effects.
None of what I just commented on was nearly as interesting as this look at a macadamia farm in Hawaii. Trees planted straight into the rock!
10 responses to “Lots of good stuff on the internet today.”
And don’t forget, the giant tap in the sky is shutting off. https://news.agu.org/press-release/southwest-sliding-into-a-drier-normal-weather-patterns-that-bring-rain-are-becoming-less-frequent/
In re Mr. Fitchette’s ‘As I understand it, the roots of California’s water woes tap into the federal Endangered Species Act and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which set in motion later court challenges and decisions from the bench that did not support production agriculture.’ I’d just like to say this:
Prior to the 1986-92 drought (or whatever that was) the Bureau of Reclamation was preparing to sell off what it claimed was 1.8 million acre feet of ‘uncommitted yield’ from the Central Valley Project.
I’m sure there’s no one around Bur Rec today that would own up to that, but one need only go to the Bureau’s contracting record and they’ll find that the Bur Rec spent over $5 million on what was then called Jones and Stokes Associates specifically to develop the NEPA compliance documents to support that 1.8 million acre-feet of (imagined) CVP yield sell-off
Beginning in 1987-88 fishery and environmental interests began to pt out that the SWRCB was delivering up an improved Bay-Delta Estuary water quality plan that would require the dedication of an additional 1.6 million acre-feet of freshwater Delta through-flow over that provided in the SWRCB’s predecessor- mid-‘70s – Bay-Delta Estuary water quality control plan, and that if there was, indeed, 1.8 million acre-feet of uncommitted yield remaining in the CVP then a substantial amount of that (800,000 acre-feet) would be required as the federal project’s ‘fair share’ of the new SWRCB-determined Delta through-flow requirement to protect public trust resources .
The fishery and environmental interests got the CA Legislature to resolve its opposition to any further Bur Rec sell-off of CVP yield in 1988 (the CA Legislature’s online records don’t go as far back as that 1988 Senate Jt Resolution but you can see its wording at page 60 here https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=102512
‘Coming out of the 1986-92 dry spell Bur Rec acted as though they had never for one moment considered any further sell-off of CVP yield (then what was that $5 million-plus Jones and Stokes contract all about???)
The Central Valley Improvement Act of 1992 directed that 800,000 acre-feet of CVP yield be dedicated to the restoration of Sacramento River salmon habitat (i.e., half the additional Delta through-flow need identified in the SWRCB’s 1988 draft SF Bay-Delta Estuary water quality plan)
What happened next was that the Gingrich Congress began impeachment proceedings against the President, and the policy staff, including that at the Dept of Interior, those who had joined the Clinton administration with high hopes in 1993, began to leave like rats from the ship and by the time the Interior Solicitor and others began to query re whether that 800k afa need be provided salmon conservation etc. all that remained in D.C to testify were folks like Congressman Vic Fazio who was desperately clinging (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) to a district that was totally alien to him (i.e., not his original Sacramento-Davis constituency, but one of all farm country north of Davis to the Shasta County line)
The salmon never got their congressionally-intended 800 afa boost from the CVP
The one solid thing that the CVPIA did deliver was the salmon restoration flows on the Trinity River. And since Westlands Water District was literally conceived as a Trinity River Diversion Project baby it was the big loser to the 1992 CVPIA.
And maybe that’s what Mr. Fitchette means by ‘California’s water woes’ – Westlands Water District’s water woes, huh?
There is, in fact, a lot of confusion going on in California today as between ‘California water woes’ and those strictly of the Westland Water District, the biggest loser in the CVPIA enactment process.
But, hey, there was plenty of good agriculture going on in California before Standard Oil conjured up the Westlands Water District in the 1950s and used its considerable wealth to buy enough of the CA congressional delegation to deliver the Trinity River to what we used to call the ‘Oil Patch’
And, let’s face it, the Tribes – they who were here before you, I or Standard Oil – have a first claim on salmon river water.
And that’s why the CVPIA simply confirmed what was going down anyway, a confirmation of the Tribes’ right to a healthy Trinity River.
Those Tribal rights are the ‘roots’ of the story, Mr. Fitchette, if you just trace the story as it happened from the Trinity to the Oil Patch and back to the Trinity …
An excellent and concise summary, Bill Kier!
I know! Mr. Kier, I don’t know if you saw that other blogs are now linking to me for your comments! Thanks!
I understand that the BuRec and the USFWS are looking to release some additional flows down the Trinity to benefit the salmon runs there and on the lower Klamath. Thereby drawing a lawsuit, or the threat therefore from Westlands. The beat goes on.
I think dought-shaming works just fine. And I DO believe in allowing people to buy their way out: Let them truck in Purple Pipe water to water their plants, not use precious drinking water. It will create an industry among low-skill workers, create markets for Purple Pipe water, I note that in the shaming instances, it largely worked.
I don’t mind the drought shaming much, but I also think it was unnecessary. The districts could have looked at their top users at any time. Very often, disproportionate residential users have a leak or are overwatering, and will happily fix those when they are shown they can still have their lifestyle.
I did see one guy last year who was being shamed for using 12AF/year, which is huge for urban use. But he had a 20 acre parcel. Was he giving the trees on his parcel 0.6AF/year, barely keeping them alive? Was he watering a 4 acre vineyard? I couldn’t really feel sanctimonious without knowing that, so the shaming wasn’t nearly as satisfying.
Thoughts provoked by Mr. Cannella:
When I was a child, our mother took us to Sunday school. We were taught that God created the heavens and the earth, and all the creatures thereupon. On the seventh day he rested, and he saw that it was good.
I have come to wonder if, when Man wipes out enough of God’s creatures, God may decide that even He can make a mistake, and do away with Man.
In the words of the old spiritual we learned in grammar school, and a nod to James Baldwin:
“God told Noah in the rainbow time, this time it’s the water, it’s the fire next time.”
Sorry if that’s a hated metaphor or something. My mother didn’t actually succeed in making much of a Christian out of me, but I have developed a sort of spiritual connection to wildlife. So I get pretty irritated by denouncers of the ESA.
Sorry if that’s a hated metaphor or something.
Not at all. I am glad you wrote your comment.