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.

Ethiopian drought kills livestock, ramping up need for food aid

Nearly one-fifth of Ethiopia is in need of food aid, as a punishing drought kills off livestock in areas where people — especially pregnant women and children — rely on milk for nutrition, Reuters says.

Drought hurts Iowa, North Dakota farmers

Iowa, the top corn-producing state in the nation, has faced a punishing drought this summer, all but eliminating any hope of a “bin buster” corn year, despite rain this past week. North Dakota is also facing devastating drought conditions, says the AP, and its biggest ranch and corn organizations have launched efforts to help ranchers and farmers.

Crop tour points to lowest spring wheat yield since 2008

A three-day lightning tour of the spring wheat crop in the northern Plains points to the lowest average yield in nine years, “a sign of the intense drought conditions plaguing much of the western Dakotas this year,” said DTN. Crop scouts checked 496 fields and saw a “high number of abandoned fields in the western counties, many of which had been cut and baled for hay” because the wheat was not worth harvesting.