[env-trinity] SF Chronicle July 22 2009

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Jul 22 10:58:28 PDT 2009

Farmers told how to save huge amounts of water

Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer <mailto:kzito at sfchronicle.com> 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


California farmers could save enough water each year to fill Yosemite's
Hetch Hetchy reservoir 16 times by using more efficient irrigation
techniques, according to a study that is bound to be highly controversial
among the state's powerful agriculture interests.


TL&o=0> http://imgs.sfgate.com/graphics/utils/plus-green.gifView Larger

type=newsbayarea> S.F. garden isn't dead - just in transition 07.22.09


The report, released today by the Pacific Institute, an Oakland water policy
group, also recommends that the state rethink its historic water rights
system and boost water prices. Both measures, in theory, would spur
agricultural users to use less water at a time when climate change, urban
growth and ecological restoration are expected to further cramp water

"If we want to have a healthy agriculture economy, the only real option is
to figure out how to produce more food with less water," said Peter Gleick,
president of the Pacific Institute and co-author of "Sustaining California
Agriculture in an Uncertain Future."

Farmers agree water supplies are stretched, but they disagree on the cause.
During recent "fish vs. farm" rallies in the Central Valley, protesters
decried environmental rules that have cut water exports from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to protect endangered fish species.

What's more, farmers say, they are doing their part. For instance,
California growers in 2000 produced double the volume of crops in 1967 with
only 2 percent more water, according to Mike Wade, executive director of the
California Farm Water Coalition.

Further, sweeping changes to water prices or supplies would simply hammer an
industry reeling from a three-year drought, he added.

"You can't just wave a magic wand," Wade said. "There are consequences. It
affects things like ... what consumers can put their hands on at the grocery

But maintaining the status quo isn't an option, Gleick argues.

"California agriculture is in trouble," Gleick said. "If we continue doing
the things the way we've always done them ... there's not going to be enough
water - that's indisputable."

California's produce growers, cattle ranchers, and rice farmers use about 34
million acre-feet of water each year (one acre-foot equals about 326,000
gallons), compared with 8 million acre-feet used in cities, according to

In a 2003 study, Gleick found cities could save 2.3 million acre-feet -
nearly 30 percent, compared with the 16 percent prescription for agriculture
(the report said farms could save 4.5 million to 6 million acre-feet a

Gleick's recommendations for the agriculture sector range from relatively
simple to positively thorny. In addition to increasing drip rather than
"flood" irrigation, Gleick proposed re-examining state water rights and
renegotiating higher prices for long-term federal water contracts as ways to
promote conservation.

The report also called for better monitoring of water supplies.

"There are a lot of districts that have no idea how much water they use,"
said David Sunding, co-director of the Berkeley Water Center. "That needs to
change. We're past that point in California."



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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