Modernizing a crumbling 19th-century irrigation system in Colorado and building spawning habitat for salmon downstream from thirsty California farms are among the nature-based projects in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill designed to help western states cope with drought.
California’s San Joaquin Valley is getting drier, hotter and more polluted as climate change intensifies, and its communities will need to embrace more equitable agricultural strategies in order to survive, according to local experts and political leaders.(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.
After a near-record year of drought, California received some relief this week from torrential rains, the result of an atmospheric river hitting a bomb cyclone. The storms snuffed out the Dixie Fire, which has been burning in the northern Sierras since July, and put an end to Northern California’s grueling fire season. What the rains didn't do was end the drought — or the water restrictions faced by many of the state's farmers. (No paywall)
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)
Hundreds of thousands of Minnesota residents are drinking water contaminated with elevated levels of nitrate, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group. The state is rolling out new rules to regulate nitrogen fertilizer application and protect groundwater, but advocates say they may not go far enough to keep residents safe.
General Mills, ADM, Cargill, McDonalds, and The Nature Conservancy are among 10 companies and nonprofit organizations that are forming a national market by 2022 to incentivize the adoption of farming practices that build soil carbon and improve water conservation.
Some 1,700 U.S. communities have worrisomely high levels of nitrate in their water supplies, and two-thirds of those communities, serving more than 3 million people, have no treatment system to remove it, said an Environmental Working Group report released today.
For hundreds of years, a network of earthen canals that ribbon through New Mexico have been central to a thriving small-farm scene and a communal way of life. But those canals, called acequias, and the way of life they support, are being pushed to the brink by a changing climate, a development boom, and the imperatives of the modern economy, says Alexis Adams in FERN's latest story, published with The Weather Channel. (No paywall)
Iowa, which has been embroiled in controversies over agricultural runoff and water-quality issues, has announced a novel program to give farmers who plant cover crops a $5-per-acre discount on their crop insurance over the next three years, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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.
Three new studies show that the West is running low on water, and that much of that decline is a result of climate change, says High Country News.
A coalition of environmental groups, a homeowners’ organization and a public water agency in Napa County have filed appeals against a sprawling hillside vineyard project that they argue imperils water resources, sensitive habitat and the climate in the heart of wine country.
Synthetic fertilizer accounts for more than a third of the 1.8 million tons of new nitrogen entering California each year, and animal feed accounts for another 12 percent, making agriculture the largest single source of nitrate pollution in the state, according to a new report from the UC Davis Agriculture Sustainability Institute and the University of California division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Three farmers in western Kansas are partnering with a state agency in a test of thrifty irrigation systems that require less water to grow crops in the Plains
Water levels in the aquifer underlying eastern Idaho are plummeting, so state officials have proposed creation of the East Snake Plain Aquifer groundwater management area, says The Associated Press. The result would be a plan that parcels out water to farmers and other users in predictable amounts rather than abrupt cutbacks when the holders of senior rights to the water claim their share.
Stanford researchers say that California’s drought-stricken Central Valley harbors three times the supply of groundwater previously thought. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, points up the need to develop a better understanding of deep aquifers, and has implications for regions beyond California where drought is a problem.