Posts Tagged: water
He said an estimated 500,000 acres of farmland sits unplanted due to water shortages, a number that could nearly double if the drought extends into 2015.
"In the long term, it could change some of the cropping patterns in California, especially for the animal industry," Parker told NBC, explaining that the economics of raising and tending livestock hinges on locally grown feed. "Without water to grow it, you really end up just having to sell off animals." Much of the state's beef cattle, for example, roam unirrigated rangelands that are parched.
Parker was also quoted in a drought story by Aljazeera America, which focused on Gov. Brown's $687 million emergency drought plan.
“I think it's a good first start,” Parker said. “But I don't think this will be the end of it.”
Gov. Brown's proposal doesn't provide funding for long-term solutions to California's water problems, but it could provide much-needed immediate assistance to many of the driest communities.
Capital Press spoke to Alan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Tehama, Colusa, Glen and Shasta counties, about the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's dire 2014 surface water allocation plan. He said most farmers will rely on groundwater to get through the season.
"The main thing that will happen is just improving their wells and making sure they're operable,” Fulton said. “They're trying to manage through the drought with hopes of a wet year next year.”
Mother Jones featured a drought story rich with infographics outlining the surprising amount of water required to grow common food crops and the amount of water used per person per day in California communities. The article includes commentary from Jay Lund, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis, about the future of agriculture in the Golden State.
Lund said the state's current water problems mean agriculture may soon play a less important role in California's economy, as the business of growing food moves to the South and the Midwest, where water is less expensive. Production rates for thirsty crops like alfalfa and cotton have already diminished significantly in the last few years, Lund said. Between 2006 and 2010 alone, the amount of land irrigated for cotton fell by 46 percent.
Groundwater makes up roughly 90 percent of the water delivered by Pajaro Valley’s Water Management Agency (PVWMA). There is a current overdraft of groundwater in the aquifers of this region, which calls for immediate action to protect their water source. Historically, the amount of groundwater in the aquifer was above sea level so the amount of salt water in the freshwater aquifer was kept at bay. Removing too much water from the ground at a faster rate than it is being replenished has caused seawater from the Pacific Ocean to enter the aquifer as the water level tries to even out. This seawater intrusion impairs water quality because saltwater is too saline for both agriculture and human consumption.
Agricultural conservation program
PVWMA asked Samuel Sandoval Solis, Ph.D., UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, to help them with their agricultural conservation program. PVWMA wanted to know the volume water that could be potentially saved and the resulting economic impact of water savings on the valley.
The key to agricultural water savings is to water a crop to its evapotranspiration (ET) value. The ET value indicates optimum water amounts that should be applied in order for the water to be completely beneficial to the plants. To estimate the potential water savings, Sandoval and his UC Davis team – undergraduate student Vicki Lin and Ph.D. students Jenna Rodriguez and Belize Lane – had to determine how many growers were surpassing a crop’s ET value. The scientists interviewed growers to find out the volume of water each grower applied to the crops and the amount of money they invested in crop production. A statistical analysis was completed with applied water data of growers from PVWMA, information from the growers’ interviews, and expert-provided ET values to check for accuracy.
The scientists also analyzed land-use data sets from 2009 and 2011 for this project. The analysis focused on 2009 because it was a normal year in terms of groundwater extraction. They determined that Pajaro Valley can save between 4,600 and 5,100 acre feet per year through conservation. This agricultural water savings program is anticipated to contribute to 41 percent of the region’s total water savings just by using water more efficiently.
Vegetable growers would take hard hit
The full 37-page report on this project can be downloaded from a link at the top of http://watermanagement.ucdavis.edu/cooperative-extension/water-savings-agriculture.
A lot actually. UC researchers are working with farmers across the state to find ways to reduce their impact.
For example, water. Water is one of the biggest concerns in California - both quantity and quality. The San Joaquin River is the second largest water supplier, but also one of the more impaired water bodies. UC researchers have started working with farmers to restore wetlands and using them as agriculture buffers. This natural protection mechanism is preventing nitrates from reaching the San Joaquin River, and has helped stabilized nitrate levels in our drinking water.
Bovine Bubbles are another great example. UC researchers are using bovine bubbles to study the amount of greenhouse gasses cows produce, and how to reduce it. In the process, they've discovered that cows produce 3.4% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, contrary to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization report in 2006 that stated livestock contributes 18% of global emissions.
"There's no other country in the world that uses fewer animals to produce a given amount of food than what we do here," says Frank Mitloehner, UC Air Quality Extension Specialist.
For example, in California, one cow equals 20,000 lbs of milk. In Mexico, one cow equals 4,000 lbs of milk, and in India, only 500 lbs of milk.
"From now on, every 11 years we add another billion people to the world population. Within my lifetime, the human population has doubled. And here comes the big problem: the land that we use to feed all the people in the world...is a set amount and cannot be increased," says Mitloehner.
It all comes back to sustainability. Can California continue to lead in agricultural sustainability? Will we be able to continue to increase yields to feed our growing population, while protecting and preserving our natural resources?
Comment below, and sign up for next week's Global Food Systems Forum live webinar to join the conversation.
The State Water Resources Control Board recommended a point-of-sale fee on agricultural commodities, a fertilizer tax, or a water-use fee from residents to offset the costs of providing clean drinking water to communities where tap water supplies have high levels of nitrate, reported Gosia Wozniacka of Associated Press. The final report to the legislature is on the SWRSC website.
The AP article was published in BakersfieldNow.com, the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications. A story by Sasha Khokha of KQED about the report said California may become one of the first states to levy a fee on nitrogen fertilizer if the Legislature adopts the board's recommendations.
The water board based its recommendations on a UC Davis study it commissioned, which was released last March and titled Addressing Nitrate in California's Drinking Water. The study said that nitrate contamination of drinking water is an issue in the Tulare Lake Basin of the San Joaquin Valley and the Salinas Valley.
UC Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station researchers are working with growers with small and large acreage on fertilizer management, irrigation efficiency and other farming practices to provide options for protecting groundwater. For more on these efforts, see Healthy crops, safe water.
Recommendation No. 12 in the SWRSC report said water boards should continue to provide technical assistance for CDFA's ongoing work with UC Cooperative Extension and other experts in establishing a nitrogen management training and certification program that recognizes the importance of water quality protection. UC Ag and Natural Resources is developing a curriculum to train certified crop advisors in nitrogen budgeting.
Without a secure source of funding, nitration contamination of drinking water will grow, the state report said.
Imperial Valley News.
Because 20 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level and the country maintains an important agricultural sector, managing water has required creative approaches. Wageningen University entered into a memorandum of understanding with UC Davis to collaborate on water issues.
Both institutions and CDFA's Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) believe there are opportunities for information sharing about technological advances that can be used to help solve water quality and efficiency challenges facing farmers and ranchers. FREP has been actively engaged in funding research to support efficient use of nitrogen fertilizers in order to limit the movement of nitrates to surface and groundwater systems. The Netherlands has experience with similar issues.