Californians Bet Farming Agave for Booze Holds Key to Weathering Drought, Groundwater Limits

Leo Ortega started growing spiky blue agave plants on the arid hillsides around his Southern California home because his wife liked the way they looked.

A decade later, his property is now dotted with thousands of what he and others hope is a promising new crop for the state following years of punishing drought and a push to scale back on groundwater pumping.

How Much Water Flows From the Sierra to the Central Valley? NASA Reveals

Experts from NASA say a previously unmeasured underground source accounts for about 10% of all the water that enters the highly-productive Central Valley farmland each year.

The NASA study shows an average of four million acre-feet of water is delivered through the soil and fractured rocks under California’s Sierra Nevada mountains to the Central Valley annually.

Opinion: Can San Joaquin Valley Agriculture Survive With Less Irrigation? Here Are Ways to Do It

Change is coming to farming in the San Joaquin Valley. Because of the need to reduce groundwater pumping to comply with the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, we’ve estimated that at least 500,000 acres of farmland will need to come out of irrigated production in the coming years.

This is a major shift for California’s agricultural heartland, and one that will have profound impacts on the region’s residents, workers, economy, and environment.


East Valley Farmers and Cities May Get More Surface Water This Summer

Farmers and cities on the east side of the Valley may get more water than they originally thought.

Friant Water Authority, which operates the Friant-Kern Canal, said in a recent memo on its website it is confident its contractors will not only get the 15% allocation of surface water deliveries announced in February but that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will likely increase the amount to 20%, possibly as early as this week.

California Groundwater Pumping Project Can Proceed, for Now

Environmental groups failed to justify blocking the federal government from funding groundwater pumping in the Sacramento River Valley pending a preliminary injunction hearing, a federal court in California ruled.

There’s no evidence that pumping will immediately occur without injunctive relief, according to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

California Canals Damaged by Sinking Soil, Groundwater Pumping. New Bills aim to Help

Democratic congressmen from Fresno introduced two pieces of legislation that aim to repair aging canals and water infrastructure in California that’s been damaged by sinking ground levels – called subsidence, caused by groundwater pumping.

“The canals on the eastside and the westside are experiencing dramatic subsidence and therefore their capacity to move water has greatly diminished,” said Rep. Jim Costa during a news conference Monday before the backdrop of the central San Joaquin Valley’s Friant Dam, just outside Fresno.