Ever since a monster El Nino was detected in the Pacific last year, Californians have been anxiously waiting for it to dump torrents of rain on the drought-scarred land. Now, after weeks of frustration, it appears that those expectations will be met.
Call it the tale of two turfs. In summer 2014, 27-year-old Benjamin Triffo wanted to do something about his dry, unattractive yard. He owns a four-bedroom, four-bath duplex in Elk Grove that he’d bought in 2011, and his sprinkler lines were broken. But with the state passing rules last July that would allow fines for overwatering, Triffo quickly figured out that replacing his system and re-sodding would be like attaching a drain line to his checkbook.
In 2014-15, hotel occupancy, tourism spending and travel-generated jobs all reached five-year highs. But in such a mercurial industry — underscored in recent years by drought and wildfires — regional leaders and business owners have had to get creative to keep dollars coming in.
California is having a pretty normal winter, give or take a degree here and a bit of snow there. Since the entire state is abnormally dry or in drought, it’s been a while since that happened. The trouble is, normal might not last.
On the Yolo Bypass, just northwest of Sacramento, scientists and state and federal agencies are collaborating on a plan they hope could save California’s wild salmon.
As Governor Jerry Brown is in Paris urging other political leaders to follow his lead in curbing global warming, the chief executive of California’s largest oil company said the state’s policies “unambiguously raise energy costs and do nothing about greenhouse-gas emissions.”
South Sacramento urban farmer, Chanowk Yisrael, wants to see local food systems improve. Eight years ago, he started growing organic food for his family and eventually launched the Yisrael Family Urban Farm in Sacramento’s historic Oak Park neighborhood. Now, he’s expanding that vision to motivate Sacramento youth to become more engaged in changing our local food system — announcing today that he’ll be partnering with Slow Food Sacramento to charter the city’s first Food Academy.
California’s cities are adapting to the state’s worst-in-a-century drought, hitting aggressive targets for water reduction set by Governor Jerry Brown in April. The bigger challenge is to change the behavior of farmers, who consume 80 percent of the state’s water and have so far been spared the same magnitude of restrictions.
There is growing momentum to build a strong, sustainable biomass energy infrastructure in California — great news for our environment and our forests. But in the meantime, many facilities are struggling to survive, and changes are needed to guarantee a stable future for this important green energy industry.
Tom Frantz has the sierra mountains to thank for his livelihood, since the snowmelt that runs off the peaks eventually sinks into the ground and, over time, descends into the natural underground reservoirs of the Central Valley. In drier years, Frantz gets most of his water from wells that tap into this aquifer. But the water, Frantz says, is being poisoned.
The wildfires that raged across Northern California last month will cost insurers more than $1.1 billion, according to catastrophe modeler Impact Forecasting.
California just passed a bill to sharply limit the use of antibiotics in farm animals, making it the first state to ban the routine use of the drugs in animal agriculture.
California’s $184-billion pension fund for school teachers chided Volkswagen AG for rigging some diesel engines to cheat on U.S. emission tests and said it is evaluating its exposure to losses from the scandal.
Every week, 330 American farmers leave their land for good. And as an aging population of baby-boomer farmers retire, their jobs aren’t being filled quickly enough. Only six percent of all farmers are under the age of 35. But as the national food movement strengthens, will we see a return to farming? What about the children of these aging farmers — will they love their farm land or leave it?
“The Valley fire demonstrates what can happen when public and private landowners (much of the Valley fire is on private land) fail to manage their property.”
Kevin Herman sees his fig trees as his future. They require very little water and, even amid long-term forecasts of limited rain and increasing temperatures, the trees are likely to produce a comfortable living for the Madera County farmer.
El Nino may likely not end the state’s 4-year drought. Imagine instead a darker scenario, where the weather-changing phenomenon adds another year of dryness in the north while ravaging the south with floods. “What do you say when the governor asks you what to do? ‘You prepare for flood and drought because there is a possibility you can get both,”’ said Mike Anderson, state climatologist.
Students representing the university’s 10 campuses have protested and collected petitions urging the school to divest from fossil fuels that include coal and oil sands, a mix of sand, clay, water and a heavy oil called bitumen. Fossil Free UC, a coalition of students, faculty, staff and alumni has asked the university to adopt a five-year plan to freeze new fossil fuel investments.
Agricultural groups and the federal government are actively encouraging growers to improve their irrigation systems to save water, usually by graduating from flooding, and farmers who haven’t upgraded have received stinging criticism. But drip irrigation is not necessarily a panacea for water shortages.