California Plan Would Pay Farmers to Grow Less to Save Water

California would pay farmers not to plant thousands of acres of land as part of a $2.9 billion plan announced Tuesday aimed at letting more water flow through the state’s major rivers and streams to help restore the unique habitat in one of North America’s largest estuaries.

The agreement, signed Tuesday between state and federal officials and some of California’s biggest water agencies, would result in about 35,000 acres of rice fields left unused — or about 6% of the state’s normal crop each year, according to the California Rice Commission.

As It Enters a Third Year, California’s Drought Is Strangling the Farming Industry

The school is disappearing.

Westside Elementary opened its doors nearly a century ago here in the San Joaquin Valley, among the most productive agricultural regions on earth. As recently as 1995, nearly 500 students filled its classrooms. Now 160 students attend and enrollment is falling fast.

This was where the children of farmworkers learned to read and write, often next to the children of the farm owners who employed their parents.

Valley Water Agencies Ask for More Water Now and in the Future

On pace to be the driest January-February on record, signaling a third straight year of drought, local water authorities are begging the state to release more water for farmers this summer or at least begin building capacity to withstand future droughts.

On Feb. 23, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced its initial 2022 water supply allocations for Central Valley Project contractors, including the water agencies which operate the Friant-Kern Canal to the east and Delta-Mendota Canal to the west. Allocations are based on an estimate of water available for delivery to CVP water users and reflect current reservoir storages, precipitation and snowpack in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada.

Opinion: Byzantine Water Laws Will Leave Californians High and Dry

It’s been said that California is confronting a 21st century water crisis armed with 20th century infrastructure and 19th century laws. That’s indisputably true.

California’s water rights system was created in the latter half of the 1800s. It has changed surprisingly little since then. In a state that prides itself on environmental innovation, it’s alarming that California’s calcified water rights system is out of sync with current needs.

H2O and the Central Coast: the Critical Connections Between Water, Jobs and Housing

A fairly decent start to this year’s rainy season quickly dried up.

The Central Coast of California is a story of ebbs and flows, wet years and drought.

From man-made reservoirs to underground aquifers, we need to store rain that falls in wet years to help supply the never-ending demand for water during the dry years. But it’s a constant battle to make sure there’s enough set aside to go around.

California Conservationists and Farmers Unite to Protect Salmon

In an experiment a decade in the making, biologists are releasing hatchery salmon onto flooded Northern California rice fields, seeking to replenish endangered fish species while simultaneously benefiting the farmers’ business model.

At a time when environmentalists are often pitted against agribusiness in California’s water wars, conservation scientists and rice farmers are working together, trying to reclaim the great flood plains of the Sacramento River for salmon habitat.

Their task is daunting. California’s wetlands have all but disappeared, converted into farms and cities in one of the great engineering feats, or environmental crimes, of the 20th century.

Opinion: Erratic Weather Requires New Water Policy Approach

What happened — or didn’t — weatherwise during the last two months starkly reminds us of the erratic nature of California’s vital water supply.

After months of severe drought, the state saw record-shattering storms in December, creating a hefty mountain snowpack while replenishing seriously depleted reservoirs. But January, historically a month of heavy precipitation, was bone-dry.

With climate change, California’s wet periods have become briefer, albeit sometimes more intense, and the dry periods have become longer, making the state’s elaborate water storage and conveyance systems less able to cope with precipitation patterns.

What Dry January Means for Central California Farmers

The snowpack which feeds into Pine Flat Dam is a healthy one.

It’s a little above average at this point, according to the first snow survey of the season conducted by the Kings River Water Association.

“What we’re told is this is the kind of year, the kind of weather pattern where we get wet sequences followed by extended dry sequences and that’s exactly what we’ve seen this season,” says Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen.

Opinion: With Budget Surplus, Now is the Time to Fund Vital Water Projects

Over the past 40 years, California has not completed a major water storage project of statewide significance despite the state’s population nearly doubling.

Without substantial new investments and commitments to capture, store and move water throughout the state, whole communities will be subject to water scarcity and farmers will be unable to produce adequate food supplies, threatening food and national security.

Opinion: Here Is the First Step to a Sustainable Water Policy

Water that is promised in a contract but can’t be delivered is called “paper water” – shorthand for water that does not exist except in legal documents.

During its mid-20th century frenzy of dam and canal construction, California allocated much more water than it actually had. These paper water commitments far exceed the amount of water than is available in our reservoirs and rivers. According to a study from the University of California, Davis, “appropriative water rights filed for consumptive uses are approximately five times greater than estimated surface water withdrawals.”