Industry Trends for California Water & Ag | 01.15.21

Axios, 01/14/21

The Southwest U.S. is mired in an ever-worsening drought, one that has left deer starving in Hawaii, turned parts of the Rio Grande into a wading pool, and set a record in Colorado for the most days of "exceptional drought." 

Why it matters: These conditions may be the new normal rather than an exception, water experts say, as climate change runs its course. And worsening drought will intensify political and legal battles over water — with dire consequences for poor communities.

Yale Climate Connections 01/12/21

Colorado is no stranger to drought. The current one is closing in on 20 years, and a rainy or snowy season here and there won’t change the trajectory.

This is what climate change has brought.

“Aridification” is what Bradley Udall formally calls the situation in the western U.S. But perhaps more accurately, he calls it hot drought – heat-induced lack of water due to climate change. That was the core of research released in 2017 by Udall, a senior climate and water scientist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Center, and Jonathan Overpeck at the University of Michigan.

The Washington Post, 01/07/21

Drought is an insidious climate threat — by the time it has a hold of a region, impacts on ecosystems and water supplies can be locked in. It may not grab extreme weather headlines like the disrupted polar vortex or record hurricane season, but drought during 2020 and heading into 2021 is a looming story likely to grow in importance.

AZ Central, 01/08/21

The warming climate is intensifying drought, contributing to fires and drying out the river's headwaters, sending consequences cascading downstream.

Over the past two decades, rising temperatures have intensified the dry years across the Colorado River Basin. Warmer conditions are eroding the flows of the tributary streams as vegetation draws more water and as more moisture evaporates off the landscape.

Los Angeles Times, 12/31/20

One of the best road trips I’ve ever taken was a sightseeing tour of the Colorado River, where it straddles the California-Arizona state line. I stood at the edge of Imperial Dam near the Mexican border, which diverts water to the farm fields of the Imperial Valley, then drove north to Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, home to lots of birds. I walked along the river in Laughlin, Nev., where there’s a hotel called the Colorado Belle that looks like a boat, and in Needles, Calif., where Snoopy’s brother Spike lives.

CRS Reports, 12/15/20
The Colorado River Basin covers more than 246,000 square miles in seven U.S.states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California) and Mexico. Pursuant to federal law, the Bureau of Reclamation (part of the Department of the Interior) manages much of the basin’s water supplies. Colorado River water is used primarily for agricultural irrigation and municipal and industrial (M&I) uses; it also is important for power production, fish and wildlife, and recreational uses.

NY Times, 01/03/21
Investor interest in the river could redefine century-old rules for who controls one of the most valuable economic resources in the United States.

There is a myth about water in the Western United States, which is that there is not enough of it. But those who deal closely with water will tell you this is false. There is plenty. It is just in the wrong places.

S&P Global, 01/06/21
West of Lake Powell, along the Utah-Arizona border, lies a sparsely populated territory of high desert, deeply scored canyons and barren mesas. Here, Utah officials want to build a 140-mile-long pipeline to bring precious Colorado River water west to the thriving town of St. George, in the state's far southwestern corner.

In an era of perennial drought, when the future of the Colorado River watershed, the lifeline of the U.S. Southwest, is the subject of fierce debate in state capitols across the region, the idea of bringing more than 26 billion gallons of water a year to a community of fewer than 200,000 people on the edge of the Mojave Desert strikes many as folly.

Fresno Bee, 12/09/20
In the San Joaquin Valley, agricultural runoff from fertilizer and manure leaches into groundwater, contributing to some of the highest levels of nitrate pollution in community water systems in the country.

Capital Press, 12/22/20
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress this week passed a $1.4 trillion spending package to fund the government through next September and $900 billion in COVID-19 relief.

As part of the package, Congress also passed a multi-billion-dollar bill funding Western U.S. water projects called the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, or WRDA.

Vegetable Grower News, 01/12/21
A national coalition of over 200 agricultural organizations and urban and rural water districts urged President-elect Joe Biden and congressional leadership today to address aging Western water infrastructure in any potential infrastructure or economic recovery package.

The coalition includes organizations from 15 states that collectively represent $120 billion in agricultural production, nearly one-third of all agricultural production in the country, and tens of millions of urban and rural water users.

The Hill, 01/08/21

Farmers should be rewarded for their efforts to become climate stewards. From building healthy soil to on-farm renewable energy to organic production and more, there are diverse agricultural solutions to the climate crisis. Our food security depends upon this fundamental transition in how farmers manage the land. 

Hemp Industry Daily, 1/13/21

Licensed hemp acreage decreased in 2020 for the first time since the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill established a national hemp pilot program. Licensed acres dropped to about 375,000 acres- down 27% from an estimated 511,000 acres in 2019. And less than a third of those acres were planted in 2020.

Regulatory uncertainty and 2019 oversupply drove the decrease, even as the number of licensed hemp growers jumped, as more states launched hemp programs and brought more new players into the fold.Despite the challenges of 2019 and 2020, most growers, manufacturers and retailers feel positive about hemp in 2021, and are convinced this year will be better than in 2020.

Hemp Industry Daily, 12/22/20

Everyone knows the planet’s changing temperatures are creating dramatic swings in weather that threaten our very survival. But global warming could also be the kind of problem that provides hemp companies with opportunities that former generations couldn’t imagine.

Corporate America has finally accepted what scientists have long been saying about climate change: Not only is it real, it threatens the livelihoods of billions of people who will have to adapt to a hotter Earth, fleeing scorched coastal areas for higher ground and creating the need for new housing and sources of food and fuel.

National Geographic

The need for sustainable agriculture has never been greater. By providing a practical framework for sustainable agriculture, and a targeted set of innovations, the Farm Requirements can help farmers produce better crops, adapt to climate change, increase their productivity, set goals to achieve their sustainability performance and target investments to address their greatest risks. The Farm Requirements are designed to support certificate holders to maximize the positive social, environmental, and economic impact of agriculture, while offering farmers an enhanced framework to improve their livelihoods and protect the landscapes where they live and work.

Public Policy Institute of California, 01/06/21

Cooperation between California and the federal government was at a low ebb over the past four years. With a new administration in the nation’s capital, what should be top water priorities for collaboration between the state and the federal government? The PPIC Water Policy Center recently discussed this issue with a diverse group of experts.

ENR, 01/14/21

Six days before his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled the framework of his first major legislative priority—a $1.9-trillion “American Rescue Plan” that seeks to address immediate problems stemming from the persistent coronavirus pandemic. The legislation would fund activities such as a stepped-up vaccination push, further payments to individuals, extended and increased unemployment benefits and expanded paid family leave, plus substantial aid to state and local governments and to schools.

But to construction industry officials, the major news may well have been Biden's statement that the rescue plan would be followed in February by a second key measure, a “Build Back Better recovery plan." The president-elect said proposals would “make historic investments in infrastructure, along with manufacturing, research and development and clean energy.”

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