irrigation

As drought conditions worsen, California braces for ‘worst-case scenario’

Some of California’s agricultural areas are bracing for water cuts later this year after the chair of the state’s Water Resources Control Board said escalating drought conditions will require the state to prepare for the “worst-case scenario.”

As drought worsens, California will halt nearly all water deliveries in 2022

In response to the West’s historic drought, California officials warned on Wednesday that cities and farms won’t get any water from the State Water Project next year unless it’s an emergency. The unprecedented decision will affect 27 million residents and 750,000 acres of farmland. Unless a rainy winter offers a reprieve, officials say the state’s urban residents should also brace for mandatory water cuts.

Trump orders more San Joaquin Valley water into farms, California cities

During a visit Wednesday to California's Central Valley, President Trump announced the completion of a regulatory review that will send more water from the San Joaquin Valley to farms and cities in the southern half of California. Environmentalists say the new allocation of water poses a risk to endangered fish and other native species.

Arizona farms on the front lines of a climate and water crisis

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.

Half the world could face ‘water stress’ in 2050, says report

More than one-third of the world’s population lives in water-scarce regions, and by mid-century, half of the projected 9.8 billion people on Earth “could be at risk due to water stress,” said a report out today from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

California snowpack ‘far below average’ as wet season winds down

With one month left in what are California’s three wettest months of the year, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is at 27 percent of average for the start of February, said the state Department of Water Resources.

Interior agency will ‘maximize water deliveries’ to Southern California

State officials are expected to fight the Trump administration’s proposal to “maximize water deliveries” through the Central Valley Project to Southern California, including farmers in the Westlands Water District, the largest agricultural water district in the nation, says the Sacramento Bee.

Climate and culture change threaten New Mexico’s ancient irrigation canals

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)

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.

Colorado farmers pump less and pay more for water

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.

Climate change could make some places better for agriculture, others worse

Changes in soil moisture and increased temperatures could make some areas newly suitable for rainfed, non-irrigated agriculture, but others could lose viability, says a study published in the journal Nature by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lawsuits pile up against the Delta tunnels project in California

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."

In some countries, wastewater also is irrigation water

A study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters estimates that 139,000 square miles of cropland in or near urban areas rely heavily on untreated wastewater for irrigation, says Modern Farmer. That's far larger than a 2004 assessment that pegged the total at 77,200 square miles.

With climate change, some U.S. regions will be short of irrigation water

By 2050, a number of U.S. water basins will begin to experience water shortages if there is no action to reduce greenhouse gases, says a team of MIT researchers. The study says several basins, particularly in the Southwest, will see their existing water shortages become "severely accentuated," says the MIT study, published in the journal Earth's Future.

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