One morning in the Garden ...

Submitted: Apr 20, 2017
Badlands Journal editorial board

 One morning, St. Peter was strolling in the garden when suddenly his Heavenly Meditation was disturbed by a great Godly Guffaw. Curious about this unusual levity from The One and Only, he hastened to the Divine Side.

"Lord, what so amuses You so much this morning?" he asked.

More Holy Guffaws were heard. All the Lord on High could do was point toward a valley below into which 14 rivers flowed.

"I have created this great fertile valley destined to be the most productive valley on the face of My Earth," He said, chortling.

"Lord, if You would excuse me," St. Peter said,  "but what is so funny about that? Yesterday You created the Sahara Desert. It seems a little unfair on Your people down there."

"Don't worry, Peter," The Divine Voice said. "I am filling up this beautiful valley, a fruit and nut basket for the entire world, with California farmers. I believe I can already hear their whine, not their prayers of thanksgiving for abundant rain. They are the People of Blame, and they will blame each other until the end of their miserable history," He said, with a Heaven-Shaking Chuckle.


“It’s not just how much water we have and how much we’re using, but it’s, ‘Who’s got the rights? What are the policies?’ And we don’t manage the surface water and the groundwater together – we treat them like they’re completely separate, which they’re not,” Famiglietti said.

California, which recently came out of a years-long drought, is addressing the problem locally, albeit slowly, Famiglietti said. The state passed a Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that divides the state into different groundwater management agencies. Each agency now has five years to create and implement 20-year sustainability plans.

“The whole process is about 27 years, so [it will take until] about 2042 to really understand where we’re at with groundwater,” Famiglietti, who is also an appointed member of the California State Water Boards, said. That’s a little slow, “but at least it’s there,” he added. -- David Berndtson, PBS Newshour, April 19, 2017






Los Banos Enterprise

News of full water allocation for Westside farmers is good, but late

 Vikaas Shanker And Bonhia Lee


Westside Merced County farmers are happy that, for the first time since 2006, they’ll receive their full water allocation from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

But some feel the news came too late.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Tuesday it is boosting the water allocation for farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to 100 percent.

The notice came weeks after the bureau told disappointed growers they would receive 65 percent of the contract supply from the Central Valley Project.

“While the water is welcome, it’s very hard to plan when you don’t know what you’re getting,” said Breanne Ramos, executive director of the Merced County Farm Bureau. “And then, all of a sudden, you’re getting this opportunity.”

Some Merced County farmers whose water allocation is governed by the Bureau of Reclamation have already put seeds in the ground anticipating a lower allocation.

“We wish it would have been announced earlier in the season so growers affected by this could make those decisions,” Ramos said.

What changed the bureau’s mind? The snowpack results.

On March 30, the state Department of Water Resources reported the average statewide snow-water equivalent in the Sierra Nevada was nearly 46 inches, or 164 percent of the historical average for March.

“Following the California Department of Water Resources exceptional March 30 snow survey results, Reclamation is pleased to announce this increase to a 100 percent allocation for our South-of-Delta water contractors,” acting regional director Pablo Arroyave said in a news release.

“However, as Gov. Brown reminded us last week when lifting California’s drought state of emergency, the next drought could be around the corner. It is crucial that we remain vigilant in conserving our precious water resources.”

Cannon Michael, a Los Banos area farmer who was recently elected as chair of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, said increasing the allocation from 65 percent to 100 percent isn’t going to change farmers’ plans much.

“You don’t want to sound ungrateful and unhappy,” Michael said, noting that the full allocation was a good sign. “But as much water as there was in the system, and snow, there seems like there could have been a way to tell earlier.”

Tomato farmers especially have it rough, Michael said, noting that the time for planting has already passed.

However, Michael said the allocation may mean farmers don’t have to pump as much groundwater for their crops, depending on the costs.

Local farmer and developer Greg Hostetler said the allocation helped his almond, pistachio and grape ranches.

“It gets us some breathing room,” Hostetler said, noting that he hopes the state continues conservation efforts and does more for water storage.

The farm bureau and Westlands Water District, one of the districts harder hit by the low allocation last year, welcomed the water boost news. But officials say Tuesday’s announcement underscores a bigger problem – a broken water delivery system.

The Central Valley Project was designed to deliver full supplies in all types of water years with allocations to be made in mid-February so farmers can make planting decisions, Westlands said. Since 2006, the district has experienced allocations ranging from zero to 80 percent. From 2014 to 2015 the allocation was zero. In 2016, farmers got 5 percent but were told it could not be used during the irrigation season, the water district said.

“For farmers who had to make planting decisions several months ago, (Tuesday’s) announcement of an increase in supply comes too late in the season to aid their operations,” Westlands said in a news release.

But on a positive note, “the water unused from this year’s allocation will remain in storage for next year. We look forward to a timely, adequate allocation for the next growing season.”

A pair of Valley congressional leaders applauded the full water allocation but also recognized the need to improve the water system.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said in a statement that Tuesday’s announcement was long overdue for the Valley’s agricultural community.

“While I applaud today’s announcement, there is no denying that California’s water system is broken, and further action must be taken to move California’s water system into the 21st century,” Costa said. “Investments need to be made to build water storage and fix broken water infrastructure, so that more water can be captured during years with above-average rain and snowfall.”

Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, said he was encouraged by the allocation and what it means for the future.

“Access to a clean, reliable water supply is the lifeblood of the Central Valley’s booming agricultural economy, and is imperative to the everyday lives of all Valley families,” Valadao said in a statement.

BoNhia Lee of The Fresno Bee contributed to this report



PBS Newshour

International Food Crops Could Vanish as Groundwater Disappears

About 11 percent of nonrenewable groundwater is used to irrigate internationally-traded crops

Dave Berndtson

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We already know that humans are depleting vital groundwater resources across the globe. But a new study shows one of the biggest causes of disappearing groundwater is the international food trade.

About 70 percent of freshwater around the globe goes toward irrigation. Researchers from the University College London and NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies now say that a third of that freshwater is drawn from the world’s aquifers—nonrenewable underground pockets of groundwater—and 11 percent of that nonrenewable groundwater is used to irrigate internationally-traded crops.

That means in time, “the current type of food that’s grown will not be able to be produced,” said Carole Dalin, an environmental engineer at the University College London who led the study published in Nature. “Or we’ll not have the same productivity, so it means prices will increase.”

When water is used to grow crops, it’s no longer visible to the consumer. This study keeps track of where this ‘hidden’ water is embedded and where it ends up.

To measure how irrigation drains global aquifers, Columbia University hydrologist and study co-author Yoshihide Wada used an in-house model that essentially places a computerized grid over the Earth and then measures soil moisture, along with water exchange between the atmosphere, soil layers and the underlying groundwater reservoirs, to see where water was going and why. He validated his calculations by comparing them with satellite measurements that track water flow and underground water storage.

Meanwhile, Dalin gathered information on global trade and irrigation rates. By combining the information, they could determine how much groundwater was sapped by the agriculture required for the international food supply.

Rice used 29 percent of the groundwater intended for international food crops, topping the study’s list, followed by wheat (12 percent), cotton (11 percent), maize (4 percent) and soybeans (3 percent). Citrus and sugar crops used about 5 percent each.

Who will be hit the hardest? Countries that export the largest number of these crops, those that import a substantial amount of their food and those that both export and import these crops, the study says.

Pakistan, the United States and India, for example, account for two-thirds of all exported crops irrigated with nonrenewable groundwater. Depletion of this water resource would impede efforts to export crops at their current levels.

Countries in arid and semi-arid regions that rely heavily on imported goods—like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait—would have the most difficulty getting access to food should groundwater run out and potentially create a global food shortage. In other scenarios, countries such as the U.S., China, Mexico and Iran, all major food producers and importers, would take a hit both in the amount of food they can produce as well as in a drop in the global food supply. U.S. exports to China, Mexico and Japan—largely cotton, wheat, maize and soybeans—are depleting most of the country’s groundwater supply for crops.

“If you are producing this crop and it disappears, then you can compensate with imports,” Dalin said. But it’s harder if “both your local production and imports … are exposed to the risk.”

Dalin and Wada, along with colleagues from NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York City and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Germany, found nonrenewable groundwater was also being extracted at a much higher rate in 2010 than it was just 10 years earlier. Dalin predicts farmers could lose their jobs, nations could face food shortages and economies could suffer if these trends continue.

Jay Famiglietti, the Senior Water Scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at the University of California-Irvine, was not involved in the study. But his research indicates two billion people rely on nonrenewable sources of water, and more than half of the world’s aquifers are being depleted passed the “sustainability tipping point.”

“I think we’re headed to major threats to food security,” Famiglietti told the NewsHour.

Keeping track of water resources used for tradable goods can improve water sustainability and food production, as populations continue to grow and drought frequency rises.

“These virtual flows of water are going to become more and more important as population grows and certain regions don’t have enough water to grow food,” Famiglietti said.

Some regions have attempted to tackle the groundwater problem, but nothing is being done on a global scale, Famiglietti said. There are a number of barriers to doing so.

“It’s not just how much water we have and how much we’re using, but it’s, ‘Who’s got the rights? What are the policies?’ And we don’t manage the surface water and the groundwater together – we treat them like they’re completely separate, which they’re not,” Famiglietti said.

California, which recently came out of a years-long drought, is addressing the problem locally, albeit slowly, Famiglietti said. The state passed a Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that divides the state into different groundwater management agencies. Each agency now has five years to create and implement 20-year sustainability plans.

“The whole process is about 27 years, so [it will take until] about 2042 to really understand where we’re at with groundwater,” Famiglietti, who is also an appointed member of the California State Water Boards, said. That’s a little slow, “but at least it’s there,” he added.

Kansas is also addressing concerns about its High Plains aquifer, which provides about70 percent of the water Kansans use each day. Water management officials in Kansas have placed flow meters on 99 percent of the irrigation wells that pull water from the aquifer as a way to measure the amount of liquid that passes through. This data helps scientists who study the groundwater levels.

“The key to the Kansas situation is the data, because you can’t really manage what you don’t know,” Jim Butler, a senior scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey, said.

In addition to the data collection, a group of farmers in a small 99-square mile area of northwestern Kansas agreed to reduce the their groundwater crop rate by 20 percent through a grassroots generated program called Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMA). By changing their irrigation and farming strategies, they have used less water while maintaining their bottom lines. Now in its fifth irrigation season with these new protocols, the group has hit the 20 percent reduction mark each year.

Dalin said there’s an urgent need for more data on nonrenewable groundwater because “we don’t know exactly how much water is in these aquifers and so we don’t know exactly when they’ll be empty.”

“The one wish we all have is that we would have moved forward on this 10 to 15 years sooner,” Butler said. “Each year that passes that we don’t do something it just makes it more difficult because you have less and less of an aquifer to work with.”

This article is reprinted with permission from PBS NewsHour. It wasfirst published on April 17, 2017.



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Cock and bull; gas and missiles -- Trump does the Middle East

Submitted: Apr 14, 2017
Badlands Journal editorial board

 The Trump administration continues to use PR and media with devastating effectiveness against critical thought. We refuse to be devastated. Below you will find a very plausible alternative "narrative" to the one that has been jammed down our throats by the government and corporate media. The moment may be chiefly useful, not so much for revealing specific details around a specific incident as a chance to see how successfully the populace is again being manipulated into war.

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Will Rep. Devin Nunes lose his office?

Submitted: Apr 13, 2017
Badlands Journal editorial board

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, rather than some House Republicans he once characterized as "lemmings wearing suicide vests," himself rushed like a lemming to the side of President Trump with special documents and Trump's reward was to hand Nunes his political suicide vest. He might avoid the fate if he bothered to listen very hard  to constituents but so far he seems content to go down as an arrogant elitist instead. -- blj



Fresno Bee

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Court decides against OID for violating CEQA in fallow-for-money scheme

Submitted: Apr 11, 2017
Badlands Journal editorial board


Modesto Bee

OID loses hard-fought fallowing lawsuit

 Garth Stapley

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Trump's policy

Submitted: Apr 10, 2017
Badlands Journal editorial board

 The media is filling our emptying days with conjectures about President Trump's "policy," and describing in escruciating detail the "inconstituencies" of this policy. But, actually, Trump's policy is a masterpiece of concision and constitency. It is: 




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Questions without answers

Submitted: Apr 09, 2017
Bill Hatch


Below are some questions the asker does not know the answer to -- questions that are not simply inverted assertions, questions that are not mere rhetorical openings for opinions, questions that are not part of dogmatic "answers."

Do the answers constantly produced by mass media, targeted, tailormade to placate political consumers, satisfy what is political in us?

What is the political in us?

Is citizenship a privilege without obligations?

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A knowledgeable view from the ground on the Syrian attacks

Submitted: Apr 08, 2017
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Patrick Cockburn once again delivers a perspective on the Syrian War beyond the vortex of the furious combat of the two dominant hungry ghosts in American politics: the Republican and Democratic parties, neither of which is either republican or democratic but weirder and weirder manifestations of elitist distortion. -- blj 

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One of the nation's most endangered rivers runs through it

Submitted: Apr 04, 2017
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Badlands readers have corrected our previous post on Rep. Devin Nunes, Raver-Visalia in different ways. Some considered our post nothing but evidence that we've been duped by the "Russian Conspiracy" Democrats. But the more interesting criticism raises doubts that Nunes's political gyrations for the benefit of the Trump Regime will be rewarded with a new dam on the San Joaquin River at Temperance Flats (a few miles upriver the Friant Dam). They argue, persuasively that the probably soon-to- be-former-Rep. Nunes, Political Graveyard CA, stupidly sacrificed his career for promises of support from Westlands Water District and President Trump.

"Trump was just lying and Westlands is already grooming a new boy or girl for the district," say these readers.

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What's National Security next to more off-stream storage?

Submitted: Apr 01, 2017
Badlands Journal editorial board

The incoming Trump administration has appointed a Westlands’ lobbyist, David Bernhardt, to head the Interior Department transition team that will make recommendations on policies and personnel.

One of Bernhardt’s stated priorities has been “potential legislation regarding settlement of litigation” – which means the Valadao bill – according to lobbying registration records filed by Bernhardt’s firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. Westlands paid the firm $245,000 last year, records show.


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