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Opinion: It’s Time to Get Serious About Water Crisis

Talk about timing.

Last Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom extended and expanded his declaration of a drought emergency, just as the first in a series of storms rolled in from the Pacific to give California a much-needed respite.

Of course, it was just coincidence, one that reminds us of the fickle nature of the state’s water supply, dependent as it is on a few wet months each year. We’ll need an old-fashioned wet winter, with soaking rains and heavy snowfalls, to truly get some relief.

Infrastructure Bill Seen as Way to Pay Farmers to Cut Water Use

Four states in the drought-wracked West considering whether to pay farmers to cut their water use see federal infrastructure legislation as a possible revenue source.

The $550 billion bipartisan legislation approved in the Senate includes $25 million for the four states—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

“There’s that bucket, and a lot of other buckets, in the federal infrastructure bill that could come into play for drought contingency planning implementation,” said Amy Ostdiek, interstate and federal manager in the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Farmers Propose Solutions to Drought Conditions in the Western United States

The Family Farm Alliance aims to protect water for Western agriculture and describes itself as a powerful advocate before the government for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in 17 Western states. The drought-stricken Klamath Basin is one area that they’ve identified as needing legislative change.

The alliance says it has this goal to ensure the availability of reliable and affordable irrigation water needed to produce the world’s food, fiber, and fuel.

A $564 Million Water Project Was Completed in Sacramento. What This Means for You

The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, also known as Regional San, completed a $564 million wastewater treatment project this summer that uses bacteria to remove more than 99% of ammonia from sewer water. The operation, which is called the Biological Nutrient Removal project, is a part of a larger undertaking called the EchoWater project. The EchoWater project was established by Regional San to comply with regulations and to ensure clean water quality. The effort also allows for the potential reuse of water for landscape and agricultural irrigation.

 

Satellites Reveal the Secrets of Water-Guzzling Farms in California

In a new push to stop further depletion of California’s shrinking aquifers, state regulators are turning to technology once used to count Soviet missile silos during the Cold War: satellites.

Historically, California’s farmers could pump as much as they wanted from their wells. But as a consequence of that unrestricted use, the underground water table has sunk by hundreds of feet in some areas, and the state is now trying to stabilize those aquifers.

Regulators need to calculate just how much water each farmer is using across California’s vast agricultural lands, and scientists and private companies are now offering a technique that uses images from orbiting satellites.

EPA Unveils Strategy to Regulate Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’

The Defense Department said it is moving to assess and clean up PFAS-contaminated sites throughout the country, while the Food and Drug Administration will expand testing of the food supply to estimate Americans’ exposure to PFAS from food. And the Agriculture Department will boost efforts to prevent and address PFAS contamination in food.

The plan is intended to restrict PFAS from being released into the environment, accelerate cleanup of PFAS-contaminated sites such as military bases and increase investments in research to learn more about where PFAS are found and how their spread can be prevented.

Q&A: La Niña’s Back and It’s Not Good for Parts of Dry West

For the second straight year, the world heads into a new La Niña weather event. This would tend to dry out parts of an already parched and fiery American West and boost an already busy Atlantic hurricane season.

Just five months after the end of a La Niña that started in September 2020, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a new cooling of the Pacific is underway.

 

La Niña Arrives, Threatening to Stoke Droughts and Roil Markets

A weather-roiling La Niña appears to have emerged across the equatorial Pacific, setting the stage for worsening droughts in California and South America, frigid winters in parts of the U.S. and Japan and greater risks for the world’s already strained energy and food supplies.

The phenomenon—which begins when the atmosphere reacts to a cooler patch of water over the Pacific Ocean—will likely last through at least February, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. There is a 57% chance it be a moderate event, like the one that started last year, the center said.

As Drought Worsens, California Farmers Are Being Paid Not to Grow Crops

Green fields of alfalfa and cotton rolled past as Brad Robinson drove through the desert valley where his family has farmed with water from the Colorado River for three generations. Stopping the truck, he stepped onto a dry, brown field where shriveled remnants of alfalfa crunched under his boots.

The water has been temporarily shut off on a portion of Robinson’s land. In exchange, he’s receiving $909 this year for each acre of farmland left dry and unplanted. The water is instead staying in Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, to help slow the unrelenting decline of the largest reservoir in the country.

New Protections for California’s Aquifers Are Reshaping the State’s Central Valley

California’s agricultural empire is facing a shakeup, as a state law comes into effect that will limit many farmers’ access to water.

The seven-year-old law is supposed to stop the over-pumping from depleted aquifers, and some farmers — the largest users of that water — concede the limits are overdue.