Southern California environment news and trends

California Drought News: Federal legislation, and the crop that will be hit hardest

Bob White/Flickr

A northern California rice field, after the crop has been harvested.

Friday's news is packing up for the long weekend. But before you go:

  • The U.S. Senate passed a 16-page drought bill late Thursday night. Now it's got to go to committee with a 68-page drought bill passed by the GOP-controlled House. One bill puts into practice stuff President Obama's already done. The other has earned a threat of a veto from the President. Compromise? (McClatchy/DC)
Environmentalists are not happy. Patricia Schifferle of Pacific Advocates says the new bill allows reservoir storage to continue until the governor formally declares the drought to be over. It also circumvents historic water agreements and legal rulings to allow greater water exports from the Sacramento Delta to growers in the Central Valley. (Represent!)
  • The drought will hit the cost of rice hardest...which makes sense. Rice is a water-intense crop. (Sacramento Bee) (Though the rice lobby says rice farming is more efficient than you think.)
  • Fish vs. Farmers? Eric Holthouse arrives at California's longstanding battle, and says everyone's wrong. (Slate)
  • Pleasanton's drought hotline is taking 500 calls a day. I guess people in Pleasanton really want to do this drought right. (KTVU)

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California Drought News: Weak credit, weaker food and stronger fires

Wheat fields like this one could yield wheat with less zinc and iron in the future if they are exposed to higher levels of CO2, according to the journal Nature.

Zaharov Evgeniy/iStockphoto.com

Wheat fields like this one could yield wheat with less zinc and iron in the future if they are exposed to higher levels of CO2, according to the journal Nature.

Today's drought news dryku:

The future's so bright
From fires and a warming Earth
I gotta seek shade

Food:

  • A new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs says the quality of our food is going to suffer as a result of global warming. The council says it's necessary we start strategizing ways to adapt our food for hotter times, as the LA Times reports:
The findings will be unveiled Thursday in Washington to agricultural industry leaders and policymakers, who are gathering to examine how to find and promote new and more resilient ways to farm amid the extreme heat, drought and flooding that threaten to drive down food production.

Scientists already have been investigating breeds of chicken and cattle that can thrive in triple-digit temperatures, grapes that are resilient to heat fungi and crops that won't whither as temperatures rise. Speeding up such innovations and exporting them to developing nations will be a focus of discussions Thursday. (LA Times)

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California Drought News: New worries for farmers, high water in Russian River, cold water on Bay Delta tunnel plan, more

Michelle Kloser for NPR

Healthy foods requirement for school lunches under scrutiny by Congress.


  • As if California farmers didn't have enough to worry about, the state that produces most of the nation's fruits and vegetables could see softening in one guaranteed source of demand if Congress waives rules requiring at least one serving of fresh fruits or vegetables with school lunches.  (SFGate)
  • There's good news for folks living along the Russian River in Northern California: there's apparently enough water in the river for traditional Memorial Day weekend activities like tubing, canoeing and swimming. (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
  • Supporters say it's the best way to provide reliable water in the future, but a $25 billion plan to build two water diversion tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta falls short on "scientific rigor," according to a state-appointed panel of scientists. (Sacramento Bee)
  • California golf courses are having to contend with calls to reduce water use just like everybody else. Putting greens are likely to stay just that, but the rough — and even the fairways — at many courses may be left to wither. Fore! (San Jose Mercury News)

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California Drought News: Fuel for fire and other songs of the drought

tiny tomatoes

Photo by horrigans via Flickr Creative Commons

Taking a break from making up drought synonyms. Instead, I offer you a little soundtrack to listen to while reading today's drought news:

M. Ward's "Fuel for Fire"

Farms:

  • A UC Davis report says that Central Valley agriculture could lose as much as $1.7 billion and 14,500 jobs:
Altogether, 410,000 acres may be left unplanted in the San Joaquin Valley alone, the analysis showed, as farmers enter the growing season with about two-thirds of the water that they need. By comparison, a drought in 2009 led to the fallowing of 270,000 acres of cropland and the loss of 7,500 jobs, the study showed. (Reuters)
  • Bloomberg looks at the somewhat brighter side and points out that the projected $3.4 billion loss statewide is half of what was forecast back in March. What's changed? Unexpected water deliveries. (Bloomberg)

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California Drought News: Are you surprised San Francisco's not saving water?

Schnaars/via Flickr

Lawns are still pretty popular in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they're using the same amount of water as before the governor asked for voluntary conservation 5 months ago.

Monday's drought news wishes it could sneak up on you and surprise you, not like a scary surprise but more like a fun birthday surprise.

  • This story's not gonna do it. The monthly national drought report showed that 100 percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought. “Things are not trending in the right direction,” Mark Svoboda, a scientist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, told Climate Central. (Scientific American)
  • Governor Jerry Brown made the rounds yesterday, telling ABC, CNN, and an audience at UC Davis in Sacramento that California is on the front lines of climate change — what with its heat, fire and drought. "We're getting ready for the worst," he said on ABC. Climate scientists and fire managers agree. (Al Jazeera America, ThinkProgress)
"The fires in California and here in Arizona are a clear example of what happens as the Earth warms, particularly as the West warms, and the warming caused by humans is making fire season longer and longer with each decade," said University of Arizona geoscientist Jonathan Overpeck. "It's certainly an example of what we'll see more of in the future." (Haaretz)

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