Decades of drought and overuse have pushed the Colorado River to an ecological “tipping point,” and conservationists need to work closely with farmers and tribal nations to save it, several water experts said Wednesday at a webinar organized by the Nature Conservancy’s Colorado chapter.
As California enters its third year of drought, pressure is mounting for lawmakers to update the state’s antiquated water laws. On Thursday, a coalition of legal experts and retired state officials released a report with a list of suggested reforms, which they say would make California’s water politics more equitable and sustainable as climate change gets worse. If implemented — a major if — many of the reforms would provide a check on the state’s massive agricultural industry, which sucks up some 80 percent of all the water used in California.
An onslaught of rain and snow has pulled most of California out of exceptional drought, but experts warn that the state’s dry spell is far from over. Officials issued emergency water regulations this week — including a controversial exemption for agriculture — even as the northern part of the state braced for possible flooding from winter storms.(No paywall)
One-third of agricultural land worldwide, more than 2 million square miles in all, suffers from soil degradation caused by human use, said an FAO report on the mounting pressure on land and water for food production. "The pressures on soil, land and water are now intense and many are stressed to a critical point," wrote FAO director general Qu Dongyu in a foreword.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack were named Wednesday to be co-chairs of a Biden administration working group charged with addressing worsening drought conditions in the western half of the nation.
A legal dispute over water rights in California's Mojave desert has growers for The Wonderful Co. on one side and a town reliant on a sprawling naval base on the other. As Brent Crane reports in FERN's latest story, published with Bloomberg Green, the case offers a glimpse of the coming water wars in California, as the state's all-powerful agriculture interests increasingly square off against thirsty communities over a dwindling supply of fresh water. (No paywall)
Arizona's farmers are facing a water crisis, as the state diverts scarce Colorado River resources to booming population centers, reports Stephen R. Miller, in FERN's latest story with National Geographic. To deal with the situation, farmers are drilling deeper into aquifers or selling off land, but pressures will only mount with climate change.
A decade or more ago, farmers in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado began to run out of irrigation water. The solution, after years of court cases and finger-pointing, was an agreement to raise the price of water, says the NPR blog The Salt.
At least 57 groups, ranging from local governments to crab boat owners, filed suit against the mammoth twin-tunnel project in the Sacramento River delta, using "one of the most powerful legal weapons found in any courtroom — the California Environmental Quality Act," reports the Sacramento Bee. "History suggests that suing under the California environmental law won't be enough to kill the tunnels."
Already more than a decade in the planning, California’s proposal to build two massive tunnels stretching 35 miles beneath the Sacramento River delta has received an important green light from federal wildlife experts.
The seventh-longest river in the world, the Yellow River, irrigates 15 percent of China's farmland, such a broad dissemination of water that it has a measurable effect on temperature, says a team of scientists. In a paper published in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters, they said that when irrigation is in use, air temperatures are lower.
By a 3-to-1 margin, the Senate passed and sent to President Obama a water infrastructure bill that changes how much water is shipped to Southern California and San Joaquin Valley farmers from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The bill was criticized by environmentalists and the fishing industry, reports the Los Angeles Times, and a court challenge is likely if Obama signs the bill into law.
Weld County, just northeast of Denver, "is the epicenter of urban growth and changing land use in Colorado," says public broadcaster KUNC.
The State Water Resources Board proposed a $1.5 million fine against the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District in northern California for "unauthorized diversion and use of water," the first such action against a senior rights holder, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Five water districts sued California's State Water Resources Board over its decision to ban senior water rights holders from drawing water out of rivers and streams in the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds, said the Sacramento Bee.
For farmer Cannon Michael, life "is almost exclusively focused on finding ways to overcome the drought, and in California, when it comes to saving water, there's no time to waste," writes Sena Christian in the online magazine Ensia.
The House passed a bill last week to stop EPA from finalizing the rule but the Democrat-run Senate is unlikely to consider such legislation this fall. Proponents say the regulation clarifies federal jurisdiction after two Supreme Court decisions. Farm groups call it a power grab.
The Republican-run House passed a bill to prevent the EPA from finalizing its "Waters of the United States" regulation, sending the bill to an uncertain future in the Senate during the brief pre-election session. "I doubt if (Majority Leader Harry) Reid is going to let something like that come up," said Sen Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican. The White House, in a statement, threatened a veto if the bill reaches the president.