UN official says 8.4 million Yemenis ‘a step away from famine’

The Saudi-led blockade of ports into Yemen "is limiting supplies of fuel, food and medicines," said a senior UN official in the country. "The lives of millions of people, including 8.4 million Yemenis who are a step away from famine, hinge on our ability to continue our operations and to provide health, safe water, food, shelter and nutrition support." The statement by humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick follows an assessment by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) that there is a credible risk of famine in 2018 in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria.

Ogallala aquifer disappearing at faster rate than ever

The Ogallala aquifer shrank twice as fast in the last six years as it did in the previous 60, largely from over-pumping on farms, reports The Associated Press. The aquifer — a key source of irrigation water for farms in eight states — lost 10.7 million acre-feet of storage between 2013 and 2015, drying up streambeds, undermining fish species and threatening the farmers who rely on Ogallala for their crops.

Midwest farmers uproot FDR’s ‘Great Wall of Trees’

Midwestern farmers, seeking to expand their crop lands, are destroying millions of trees that helped protect the region's soil after the catastrophic Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The removal of these trees is expected to worsen the impact of a drought that could come as climate warms the region, says Carson Vaughn in FERN’s story with Weather.com.

California wildfires char wine country, hit dairy farms

Driven by "diablo" winds, massive wildfires burned hundreds of buildings, including three wineries, and tens of thousands of acres in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, reports the Wine Spectator. Dairy farms and produce growers with crops ripe for fall harvest also were in peril, "but moving farm animals is another story," said the San Francisco Chronicle.

California and Oregon urge feds to send relief to salmon fisheries

Officials in California and Oregon are calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division to release emergency funding after salmon fisheries were closed in both states.

Ag district refuses to pay for California’s twin-tunnel water project

The board of the largely agricutlural Westlands Water District voted 7-1 against taking part in Gov. Jerry Brown's twin-tunnel project "to remake the fragile estuary that serves as the hub of California's water delivery network," reports the Sacramento Bee. The decision, by the first water agency to vote on the project, is "a potentially fatal blow" to the $17-billion project.

Nestle, Coca-Cola and Smithfield top water sustainability list

On average, food companies improved their management of water by 10 percent compared to 2015, according to the report Feeding Ourselves Thirsty, published by the nonprofit investor coalition Ceres.

U.S. wrongly paid a third of planning cost of twin-tunnel project

An audit by the Interior Department's inspector general says the government improperly spent $84 million to help plan the mammoth twin-tunnel project to ship water to Southern California from northern parts of the state, reported The Associated Press. The audit said the expenditures meant the Bureau of Reclamation paid for one-third of the cost of project planning through 2016, when California water districts were supposed to bear the costs.

Italian firm catches flack over water plan in rural New Mexico

A wealthy Italian family plans to pump groundwater out of rural New Mexico to supply 155,000 households in sprawling Albuquerque, 140 miles away. Local ranchers have criticized the plan, fearing that the $600 million project will deplete the ancient aquifer they depend on for their cattle and families.

In Colorado River Basin, project pays ranchers to leave land dry

A first-of-its kind program in the Colorado River basin is paying ranchers and farmers to forgo their water rights in order to conserve the region’s rivers and lakes. Launched in 2014, the $15-million “money-for-water program” was funded “by the four largest municipal water providers in the Colorado River basin (which includes Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and California), along with the Bureau of Reclamation,” says High Country News.