Toxic Weed Killer Glyphosate Found in Breast Milk, Infant Formula - The widely-used herbicide glyphosate, now classified as probably carcinogenic to humans by the World Health Organization (WHO), has been found in a number of items, including honey, breast milk and infant formula, according to media reports. “When chemical agriculture blankets millions of acres of genetically engineered corn and soybean fields with hundreds of millions of pounds of glyphosate, it’s not a surprise babies are now consuming Monsanto’s signature chemical with breast milk and infant formula,” said Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group. “The primary reason millions of Americans, including infants, are now exposed to this probable carcinogen is due to the explosion of genetically engineered crops that now dominate farmland across the U.S.” “Through their purchasing power, the American consumer is fueling this surge in GMO crops and the glyphosate exposure that comes with it,” added Cook. “It’s time the federal FDA require foods made with GMOs be labeled as such so the public can decide for themselves if they want to send their dollars to the biotech industry that cares more about profits than public health.”

Drug-Resistant Food Poisoning Lands In The U.S. -- This time last year, a painful new virus was knocking on our doorstep. Travelers were bringing chikungunya to the U.S. And eventually, the mosquito-borne virus set up shop in Florida. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says another nasty pathogen is hitching a ride to the U.S. with travelers: multidrug-resistant Shigella.  Shigella is just about as bad as the word sounds. The bacteria infect your intestines and trigger crampy rectal pain, bloody or mucus-laced diarrhea and vomiting. Multidrug-resistant Shigella has caused several outbreaks over the past year in the U.S., the CDC reports Thursday in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. At least 243 people have gotten sick and about 20 percent were hospitalized. Those numbers may not sound like much — especially when you consider a half-million Americans get regular shigellosis each year. So what's the big deal? Well, this strain of Shigella is resistant to the go-to drug for the bacteria: ciprofloxacin.  "If rates of resistance become this high, in more places, we'll have very few options left for treating Shigella with antibiotics by mouth," says epidemiologist Anna Bowen, who led the study. Then doctors will have to resort to IV antibiotics. Shigellais incredibly contagious. It spreads through contaminated food and water. "As few as 10 germs can cause an infection," Bowen says. "That's much less than some other diarrhea-causing germs." From May to February, the Cipro-resistant strain popped up in 32 states, with large clusters in California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Bowen and her team linked several of these outbreaks to international travel, including trips to India, the Dominican Republic and Morocco.

Flint, Mich.: State Water Control Hard to Swallow - Nappier, known to most as Jackie, always had thick hair, which she wore long during her childhood. But suddenly she was losing her hair — and she was far from the only one. Across this shrinking Rust Belt city, residents’ hair and eyelashes began falling out. One woman confessed that she cried every time she cleaned the thick strands out of her shower drain. At Nappier’s home, she and other family members continued to get sick, even though they heeded the series of boil-water advisories the city issued over the summer after E. coli and other bacteria were detected in the water system. Her daughter Glenda Colton returned to Flint from Ohio in the fall and promptly broke out in a rash across her neck and chest. In December and early January, Nappier’s grandchildren started vomiting and having diarrhea, she said, and they complained that their skin was itchy after showering. One day she ran a bath, and the water was the color of tea. The whole family switched to using bottled water for drinking, cooking and sometimes even bathing. In January she and the rest of the city’s nearly 100,000 residents received a letter explaining that water testing revealed high levels of trihalomethanes, a group of chemicals known as THMs. Byproducts of the chlorination process, THMs have been linked to increased rates of cancer, kidney and liver failure and adverse birth outcomes. It later emerged that the city knew since the previous May that the THM levels were high — in some places, twice the maximum allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. A few weeks later, Nappier returned home from the senior center where she volunteers and ate a bowl of beef vegetable soup her daughter had mistakenly prepared with tap water. A few days later, she was so dehydrated from constant diarrhea that she asked to be taken to the Hurley Medical Center.

Global Week of Actions against GMO Trees in Brazil Ends in Success -- Thursday morning 300 peasants organized by La Via Campesina occupied the meeting of the Brazil National Biosafety Technical Commission (CTNBio) in Brasilia, which was convening to discuss the release of three new varieties of transgenic plants in Brazil including a request by FuturaGene to legalize their genetically engineered eucalyptus trees. The CTNBio meeting was interrupted and eventually cancelled. Earlier this morning, 1,000 women of the Brazil Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) from the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais occupied the operations of FuturaGene Technology Brazil Ltda, a subsidiary of Suzano timber corporation, in the municipality of Itapetininga, in São Paulo.  This location is where transgenic eucalyptus, known as H421 is being developed and tested. During the protest, the MST destroyed the seedlings of transgenic eucalyptus trees there and denounced the potential impacts that would be caused by the release of transgenic eucalyptus if approved by CTNBio.  According to Atiliana Brunetto, a member of the National MST, the impending historic decision of CTNBio regarding GE eucalyptus trees must respect the Brazilian legislation and the Biodiversity Convention to which Brazil is a signatory. “The precautionary principle is always ignored by CTNBio. The vast majority of its members are placed in favor of business interests of the large multinationals at the expense of environmental, social and public health consequences,” he says.

GMO Trees Approved in Brazil in Violation of National Law and International Protocols - Today the Brazilian Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) formally approved an industry request to release genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees. The application was made by FuturaGene, a company owned by Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano. This is the first approval for commercial release of GE trees in Brazil or Latin America. Organizations in Brazil are exploring legal avenues to stop the commercial release of GE eucalyptus trees, pointing out that this decision violates national law. An  email from CTNBio member Paulo Pase de Andrade to the Campaign to STOP GE Trees dated 8 April, stated that the decision to approve GE eucalyptus was already made, indicating that today’s meeting was merely a technicality where FuturaGene’s request would be rubber stamped.  World Rainforest Movement’s International Coordinator Winnie Overbeek stated, “CTNBio’s approval of GE eucalyptus trees was no surprise. Over the years, CTNBio has made many decisions in favor of releasing GMO crops in Brazil, ignoring – as also happened in this case - protests from a wide range of groups of society. In this case they also ignored protest letters signed by more than 100,000 people.” He continued, “The Commission systematically disregards the precautionary principle, including the urgent need for detailed studies of the various impacts of this dangerous technology, even though this violates the 2008 decision on GE trees made by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD), to which Brazil is a signatory.”

Plowing prairies for grains: Biofuel crops replace grasslands nationwide -- Clearing grasslands to make way for biofuels may seem counterproductive, but University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers show in a study today (April 2, 2015) that crops, including the corn and soy commonly used for biofuels, expanded onto 7 million acres of new land in the U.S. over a recent four-year period, replacing millions of acres of grasslands. The study -- from UW-Madison graduate student Tyler Lark, geography Professor Holly Gibbs, and postdoctoral researcher Meghan Salmon -- is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters and addresses the debate over whether the recent boom in demand for common biofuel crops has led to the carbon-emitting conversion of natural areas. It also reveals loopholes in U.S. policies that may contribute to these unintended consequences. "We realized there was remarkably limited information about how croplands have expanded across the United States in recent years," says Lark, the lead author of the study. "Our results are surprising because they show large-scale conversion of new landscapes, which most people didn't expect." The conversion to corn and soy alone, the researchers say, could have emitted as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as 34 coal-fired power plants operating for one year -- the equivalent of 28 million more cars on the road.

Why the Ethanol Mandate Is Terrible Policy -  It used to be that for every gallon of ethanol blended into gasoline, blenders received a “tax credit” ranging around half a dollar. Foreign imports of ethanol were also subject to a 54-cent tariff. Both of these programs were allowed to lapse at the end of 2011. Still on the books, however, is the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. Like the ethanol tax credit, the RFS came as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The RFS mandates a minimum number of gallons of different types of ethanol that must be blended into U.S. gasoline each year. The minimum amount is set to rise over time, and blenders are subject to fines if they do not comply.  The peculiar nature of the RFS has led to some absurd unintended consequences. For example, cellulosic ethanol (which is made chiefly from grass) isn’t commercially available in the necessary quantities to meet its RFS. Blenders have therefore wound up getting fined for not using a product that doesn’t exist. Similarly, because the formula used to set the RFS greatly overestimated the number of miles Americans would drive, blenders were required to use more ethanol than could be safely blended into all the gasoline used in American cars. The problems with the ethanol mandate, however, go beyond poor legislative drafting.  The ethanol mandate has led to the conversion of millions of acres of grassland and wetlands into cornfields. The environmental costs from these conversions swamp any reduced emissions from using ethanol-diluted gasoline. And while oil imports have indeed fallen in recent years, this has been the result of the boom in unconventional oil and gas production, rather than the substitution of biofuels.

New Report Debunks ‘Myth’ That GMOs are Key to Feeding the World - The biotechnology industry "myth" that feeding billions of people necessitates genetically engineered agriculture has been debunked by a new report out Tuesday by the nonprofit health organization Environmental Working Group. The report, Feeding the World Without GMOs (pdf), argues that investment in genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has failed to expand global food security. It advocates more traditional methods "shown to actually increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production." Over the past 20 years, the report notes, global crop yields have only grown by 20 percent—despite the massive investment in biotechnology.On the other hand, it continues, in recent decades "the dominant source of yield improvements has been traditional crossbreeding, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future." As the report states, "seed companies' investment in improving yields in already high-yielding areas does little to improve food security; it mainly helps line the pockets of seed and chemical companies, large-scale growers and producers of corn ethanol." After examining recent research on GMO crop production, the report also found:

Genetically modified crops—primarily corn and soybeans—have not substantially contributed to global food security and are primarily used to feed animals and cars, not people.

GMO crops in the US are not more productive than non-GMO crops in western Europe.

A recent case study in Africa found that crops that were crossbred for drought tolerance using traditional techniques improved yields 30 percent more than genetically engineered varieties.

Monsanto’s “Discredit Bureau” Really Does Exist --- Reuters is reporting that Monsanto is demanding a sit-down with members of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This international scientific body is being called on the carpet for reporting that Monsanto’s most widely sold herbicide, which is inextricably linked to the majority of their genetically engineered products, is probably carcinogenic to humans.  In a DO-YOU-KNOW-WHO-WE-ARE moment, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory affairs Philip Miller said the following in interview: "We question the quality of the assessment. The WHO has something to explain." Evidence for the carcinogenicity of Glyphosate comes from a peer-reviewed study published in March of 2015 in the respected journal The Lancet Oncology. Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate   Recently, I attended a talk by Monsanto’s Dr. William “Bill” Moar who presented the latest project in their product pipeline dealing with RNA. Most notably, he also spoke about Monsanto’s efforts to educate citizens about the scientific certainty of the safety of their genetically engineered products. The audience was mostly agricultural students many of whom were perhaps hoping for the only well-paid internships and jobs in their field.  One student asked what Monsanto was doing to counter the “bad science” around their work. Dr. Moar, perhaps forgetting that this was a public event, then revealed that Monsanto indeed had “an entire department” (waving his arm for emphasis) dedicated to “debunking” science which disagreed with theirs. As far as I know this is the first time that a Monsanto functionary has publicly admitted that they have such an entity which brings their immense political and financial weight to bear on scientists who dare to publish against them. The Discredit Bureau will not be found on their official website.

Scientism and the Secret “Science” on Roundup - Three Chinese citizens are suing the government trying to force it to disclose the secret information it has on Roundup and the process by which it approved Roundup. We see how the Chinese government is at one with those of the US and EU in wanting to help Monsanto and other corporations keep the actual evidence about the severely toxic and cancer-causing effects of chemicals like Roundup secret from the people. What’s more, these corporations and governments evidently hold to an entirely new concept and paradigm of “science” under which the alleged scientific evidence is to be kept secret from the people, and research materials themselves made available to researchers only under corporate supervision. Instead, government and media elites are to publicly release whatever information the corporations see fit to publicize, this is to be christened as “science”, and the people are supposed to believe it on faith. This is a significant departure from previous scientific practice and in direct contradiction of the self-image and propaganda of today’s capital-S “Science” (i.e., scientism). Yet evidently the mainstream of the STEM and academic establishment supports this new concept and practice of secret alleged science. Therefore, today’s scientific establishment is nothing more or less than an authoritarian cult.

Fields of Toxic Pesticides Surround the Schools of Ventura County - Food and Environment Reporting Network: Oxnard and surrounding Ventura County grow more than 630 million pounds of strawberries a year, enough to feed 78 million Americans. But that bounty exacts a heavy toll: strawberries rank among California’s most pesticide-intensive crops. The pesticides that growers depend on—a revolving roster of caustic and highly volatile chemicals called fumigants—are among the most toxic used in agriculture. They include sixty-six chemicals that have been identified by the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as the most likely to drift through the air and cause harm. Studies in laboratory animals and humans have linked many of these chemicals—including the organophosphate chlorpyrifos and fumigants 1,3-Dichloropropene (1,3-D), metam sodium, methyl bromide and chloropicrin, all used in strawberry production—to one or several chronic health conditions, including birth defects, asthma, cancer and multiple neurodevelopmental abnormalities.  By 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, more than 29 million pounds of these chemicals—more than half the total used in the state—were applied in just 5 percent of California’s 1,769 census ZIP codes. In two ZIP codes that Zuñiga knows well—areas that include the Oxnard High neighborhood where she trained and south Oxnard, where she lives—applications of these especially toxic pesticides, which were already among the highest in the state, rose between 61 percent and 84 percent from 2007 to 2012, records at the California Department of Pesticide Regulation show. Both are among the ten ZIP codes with the most intensive use of these pesticides in California. And both have sizable Latino populations—around 70 percent—thanks, in part, to the large number of farm jobs in the area. The great majority of the people who work in the strawberry fields in Oxnard, which hosts the largest population of farmworkers in Ventura County, come from Mexico.

The American West Dries Up -  Getty Images photographer Justin Sullivan traveled to lakes and reservoirs in California, Utah, and Arizona to capture the following scenes of an increasingly waterless West.

NOAA Projects 60 Percent Chance El Niño Lasts All Year As California Fries --The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a 60 percent chance that the El Niño it declared in March will continue all year. An El Niño is a weather pattern “characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.” Robust El Niños are associated with extreme weather around the globe. They also generally lead to global temperature records, as the short-term El Niño warming adds to the underlying long-term global warming trend. El Niños are typically California drought-breakers, but as the top graph shows, that hasn’t been the case so far. As I discussed last week, some climatologists believe that we may be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures — a jump that could be as much as as 0.5 °F. It already appears likely that March will be hot enough to set yet another global record for the hottest 12 months on record (April 2014 through March 2015) and a global record for hottest start to a year (January through March) ever.  NOAA released its “consensus probabilistic forecast” of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) for the rest of this year, from its Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and Columbia University’s International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society. Note that the ENSO state — El Niño, neutral, or La Niña — is generally based on the sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly in the NINO3.4 region of the Equatorial Pacific.

'Warm blob' in Pacific Ocean linked to weird weather across the US -- An unusually warm patch of surface water, nicknamed 'the blob' when it emerged in early 2014, is part of a Pacific Ocean pattern that may be affecting everything from West Coast fisheries and water supplies to East Coast snowstorms. The blob is just one element of a broader pattern in the Pacific Ocean whose influence reaches much further -- possibly to include two bone-chilling winters in the Eastern U.S.A long-lived patch of warm water off the West Coast, about 1 to 4 degrees Celsius (2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal, is part of what's wreaking much of this mayhem, according to two University of Washington papers to appear in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. "In the fall of 2013 and early 2014 we started to notice a big, almost circular mass of water that just didn't cool off as much as it usually did, so by spring of 2014 it was warmer than we had ever seen it for that time of year," said Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the UW-based Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, a joint research center of the UW and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Bond coined the term "the blob" last June in his monthly newsletter as Washington's state climatologist. He said the huge patch of water -- 1,000 miles in each direction and 300 feet deep -- had contributed to Washington's mild 2014 winter and might signal a warmer summer. Ten months later, the blob is still off our shores, now squished up against the coast and extending about 1,000 miles offshore from Mexico up through Alaska, with water about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal. Bond says all the models point to it continuing through the end of this year.

Governor Orders Water Cuts Amid Record Low Snowpack -- We are officially in uncharted territory — in more ways than one. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which typically supplies nearly a third of California’s water, is showing the lowest water content on record: 6 percent of the long-term average for April 1. That doesn’t just set a new record, it shatters the old low-water mark of 25 percent, which happens to have been last year’s reading (tied with 1977). Things are so bad that Governor Jerry Brown decided to slog into the field for the manual snow survey on Wednesday morning. He didn’t need snowshoes but he did bring along a first-ever executive order mandating statewide water reductions. “We’re in a historic drought and that demands unprecedented action,” he told reporters who made it to the Sierra survey site off of Highway 50. The 31-point program is wide-ranging, though direct actions are focused on urban water consumption, aiming for a “mandatory” 25 percent reduction compared to 2013 levels. It will be up to the State Water Resources Control Board and more than 400 local water agencies to work out how to implement and enforce the mandates. The initiative also includes new incentives for replacing lawns with drought-friendly landscaping, consumer rebates for water-saving appliances, and special assistance for residents whose wells have run dry. While the state’s Department of Water Resources does monthly snow surveys during the winter season, the April 1 survey is the benchmark for assessing the season as a whole. That’s when snowfall is reckoned to have peaked and the runoff season gets underway. Six percent on April 1 is essentially saying there’s next-to-nothing to show for an entire winter’s snow accumulation.

California drought: Will the Golden State turn brown? -  California is facing a catastrophic environmental disaster. America's erstwhile Golden State is in the midst of a severe drought which shows no sign of letting up. Even the threat of earthquakes seems to fade in comparison to the water crisis, now in its fourth year. Nasa scientists have projected that reservoirs could run dry within a year and there is growing pressure on ground water supplies, which are dwindling rapidly. The drought is a problem of epic proportions and it could - many say should - result in a seismic shift in attitudes towards water. "Hopefully people will look at a green lawn and find it as annoying as second-hand cigarette smoke," says Nancy Vogel of the California Department of Water Resources.Last week the state's governor, Jerry Brown, announced mandatory water rationing on scale that California has never experienced before. The goal is a 25% reduction in usage. But the governor's plan has been criticised for not requiring similar rationing for farmers, who make up the large majority of the state's water usage. Meanwhile, local authorities and individuals have been put on notice that beautifully manicured green lawns should go. Homeowners will not be forced to remove them, although many cities have introduced limits on the number of days irrigation systems can be used. And cities have been ordered to stop watering ornamental grasses in the median areas of highways. "For the average Californian the easiest and quickest way to save water is to turn sprinklers off," Ms Vogel says. "Just let the lawn go brown or replace it with drought tolerant landscaping."

Scary Times For California Farmers As Snowpack Hits Record Lows -- The water outlook in drought-racked California just got a lot worse: Snowpack levels across the entire Sierra Nevada are now the lowest in recorded history — just 6 percent of the long-term average. That shatters the previous low record on this date of 25 percent, set in 1977 and again last year. And it has huge implications for tens of millions of people who depend on water flowing downstream from melting snow — including the nation's most productive farming region, the California Central Valley. Last year was already a tough year at La Jolla Farming in Delano, Calif. Or as farm manager Jerry Schlitz puts it, "Last year was damn near a disaster." La Jolla is a vineyard, a thousand-or-so acres of neat lines of grapevines in the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. It depends on water from two sources: the federal Central Valley Project and wells. Until last year, Schlitz says, wells were used to supplement the federal water. "Now, we have nothing but wells. Nothing. There's no water other than what's coming out of the ground," he says. Last year, one of those wells at La Jolla dried up. The farm lost 160 acres — about a million dollars' worth of produce, plus the wasted labor and other resources. This year, the outlook is no better: The Central Valley Project, which decides where and when to release what water is left in California's reservoirs, has already warned that most farmers downstream won't get any water for the second straight year.

California Olive Growers Cutting Down Orchards - “My grandfather planted our first olives in about 1945-1950,” says David DePaoli, an olive grower whose family started farming in California about 100 years ago. When DePaoli took over from his father, he increased their original 20 acres of olives to 40, then 60 acres. In 2010, he started tearing those trees out. “The last 20 acres that I still have, my father planted anywhere from 1957-1972,” DePaoli says. “It’s a family tradition and it’s hard to remove those trees.” At 61 years old, DePaoli has literally grown up with the same orchard that he’s now contemplating tearing down. “But within the next two or three years those trees will probably have to come out, too.”Though California growers recognize that farming is a business, it doesn’t mean there’s no sentiment involved when it’s time to move on. In the case of olives—a tree that can live well over 500 years and still bear fruit—farmers are losing history as well. “Olives have been around since the start of civilization,” DePaoli says. “It literally hurts to pull them out.” Unlike growers who live in areas suited to only one crop, California’s olive growers have many other lucrative options to choose from.  The most popular option is almonds, whose price has climbed from less than a dollar in 1999 to more than $3 a pound today. “Almond trees are really good money,” says Burkett. Not only do new trees start producing within three years (compared to eight for another nut like pistachio), the harvesting process is mechanized, cutting down on annual labor costs. “In the table olive business, harvest can take over 50 percent of the farmer’s gross income,”

California, by the Nuts - In response to the four-year-old California drought, Governor Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent cut in water use by municipalities across the state last week. The edict has led to a familiar ring of selective fault-finding that displaces a major system failure—such that California public officials bear responsibility for—onto the collective backs of society. Is the drought the fault of the lifestyle at large? No, it’s not. Are we all in this together? Not a chance. The New York Times ran a front-page feature, though, pondering if this was the end of the California dream. “California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth,” the headline proclaimed, before going on to breathlessly wonder how Hollywood and Silicon Valley would survive if, in the future, “people are forbidden to take a shower for more than five minutes.” California’s largest newspaper decided to point the finger at individual members of the one percent. Noting that cities including Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Newport Beach use significantly more water than more plebian places like, well, Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times gave space to one Stephanie Pincetl, who was identified as having “worked on the UCLA water-use study.” Her take: “The problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich.”  The common theme? California sybarites are responsible for their water woes. Barely mentioned was the fact that the clueless wealthy might just as well go ahead and turn on the taps—let ten thousand golf course bougainvillea bloom. They aren’t the problem, or not much of the problem.  Listen up: California’s agricultural sector uses about 80 percent of the state’s water. As Mother Jones reported, it takes one gallon of water to grow a single almond, and nearly five gallons to make a walnut edible.

Farmers Use Water. Get Over It. -  Farming takes lots of water. There’s really no way around that. So I was a little surprised at how appalled many people seemed to be when I mentioned earlier this week that agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of California’s water use and 2 percent of its gross domestic product. To me this feels a little like complaining that California’s motion picture industry uses up 97 percent of California’s actors yet generates only 2.8 percent of GDP. Different industries require different inputs, and there is nothing per se wrong with farmers using a lot more of California’s water than its city dwellers do.  There is also nothing wrong with growing crops in California. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of “consumptive water use” nationwide, so California’s dependence on irrigation isn’t anomalous. Easterners have this weird fixation with California being the artificial and immoral colonization of a desert. There are definitely communities in Southern California that exist only because of water hauled in from hundreds of miles away, and I’ll leave it to you to judge whether that’s immoral. But New York City couldn’t survive without water piped in from mountain reservoirs 100 miles away. Large human settlements are by definition unnatural. So is farming. That said, California’s Central Valley, where most of the state’s farming gets done, has always had tons of water. It doesn’t all come in the form of rain, especially not in the southern half of the valley, but it does flow through as runoff from the snowmelt and rainstorms of the Sierra Nevada and other mountain ranges. When California became a state in 1850, the Central Valley boasted two mighty rivers, each navigable by steamboat for hundreds of miles, and the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi.

Beneath California Crops, Groundwater Crisis Grows - Even as the worst drought in decades ravages California, and its cities face mandatory cuts in water use, millions of pounds of thirsty crops like oranges, tomatoes and almonds continue to stream out of the state and onto the nation’s grocery shelves.But the way that California farmers have pulled off that feat is a case study in the unwise use of natural resources, many experts say. Farmers are drilling wells at a feverish pace and pumping billions of gallons of water from the ground, depleting a resource that was critically endangered even before the drought, now in its fourth year, began.  In some places, water tables have dropped 50 feet or more in just a few years. With less underground water to buoy it, the land surface is sinking as much as a foot a year in spots, causing roads to buckle and bridges to crack. Shallow wells have run dry, depriving several poor communities of water.Scientists say some of the underground water-storing formations so critical to California’s future — typically, saturated layers of sand or clay — are being permanently damaged by the excess pumping, and will never again store as much water as farmers are pulling out.“Climate conditions have exposed our house of cards,” said Jay Famiglietti, a NASA scientist in Pasadena who studies water supplies in California and elsewhere. “The withdrawals far outstrip the replenishment. We can’t keep doing this.”

OID, SSJID defy federal fish flows - The Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts defied the federal government Wednesday by diverting some Stanislaus River water to a local reservoir, where it might help thirsty crops, rather than releasing it down the river to benefit fish. The move follows an announcement Tuesday that the irrigation districts are willing to go to extraordinary lengths, including a court battle, to protect water they believe belongs to farmers. A planned 10-day surge in the river level to help fish, called a pulse flow, began at 1 a.m. Wednesday with an increase of water released from New Melones Dam near Jamestown. Rather than letting it flow downstream through Tulloch and Goodwin dams, which are controlled by the districts, carrying young fish on down the river toward the Delta and ocean, the districts sent the extra water to their Woodward Reservoir north of Oakdale. “We don’t know whose water that is,” OID General Manager Steve Knell said. “We want to make sure it’s not farming water, so we decided to divert it.” Related Federal officials blinked first in the short standoff, reducing New Melones releases to normal by 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, followed by a conference call involving the districts and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Both will meet Thursday with leaders of the State Water Resources Control Board and National Marine Fisheries Service “in hopes of resolving this complicated and challenging issue,” Knell said.

Half of urban California’s water is used to water the grass - Los Angeles has been urging residents to cut back on watering their lawns.  As California searches for ways to dramatically cut its water use, the lawn may have to go, or at least shrink. About half of water usage in the state’s urban areas goes for landscaping, said Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California and a water expert. “We have a lot of room in the urban sector to adjust,” and the most obvious place is in landscaping. Reducing the amount of water devoted to lawns won’t have a major negative impact on the economy or on lifestyle, he said.  On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered statewide water reductions of 25% for the first time ever, as California’s drought worsens. Previously he had sought voluntary cuts of 20%. The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to decide on new regulations over the next month. Brown’s announcement said campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes will have to make significant cuts in water use. But it did not mention residential lawns. PPIC says outdoor residential use accounts for one-third of urban water use, twice that of commercial and institutional landscapes, including golf courses and cemeteries.

Carly Fiorina blames environmentalists for California drought -  Carly Fiorina is blaming liberal environmentalists for what she calls a “man-made” drought in California. “It is a man-made disaster,” Fiorina, who is “seriously considering” a run for president in 2016, told the Blaze Radio on Monday.   “California is a classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology. It’s a tragedy.”  The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, a Republican, ran for a California Senate seat in 2010 against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer and lost. Now, the state is facing a devastating drought in its fourth year. On Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order to restrict water usage. The directive orders California’s State Water Resources Control Board — which supplies 90 percent of Californians with water, according to The New York Times — to reduce its supply by 25 percent.  Republicans have blamed California’s protections for endangered species for the drought. In December, the House passed a bill to pump water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California, a move that environmentalists said would harm endangered fish species. The Obama administration threatened to veto the bill.

More on pricing water - The use of moral suasion to encourage conservation is not unique to California. Public appeals for reductions in energy and water use are ubiquitous. And it is easy to see why. For political and jurisdictional reasons, it is often easier to mount a conservation campaign than raise energy or water prices in times of scarcity. But what impact do these interventions actually have on energy and water consumption? A new E2e working paper explores this question in the context of electricity. More than a year after the Fukishima earthquake, several of Japan’s nuclear power plants were still out of commission and electricity supply was tight. Policy makers were looking for ways to reduce electricity consumption during critical peak times. Koichiro Ito and his co-authors set out to test the relative effectiveness of an increase in critical peak electricity prices versus “moral suasion”:  a polite request for voluntary reductions in consumption. Customers who volunteered to be part of the study were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

A price treatment: Higher electricity prices during critical peak hours. Customers were charged prices ranging from $0.65/kWh – $1/kWh (up from a base rate of approximately $0.25/kWh).

A “moral suasion” treatment: Courteous day-ahead and same-day requests for electricity demand reductions during critical peak days.

Control group: No notification of/price increases during critical peak events.

It probably will not shock you to learn that the price treatment had a much larger impact on consumption as compared to moral suasion.  ... These qualitative results are compelling – and pertinent to a crisis we are currently facing here in California. An executive order issued last week signals a move in this direction.  The order  imposes mandatory water restrictions designed to achieve a 25 percent reduction in potable water use by urban residents.

If you told me the Governor was going to limit my water use in the future -- I'd start filling up gallon jugs today:  At a time when Californians need to be conserving water the most, many are doing the opposite: Water use in the midst of a severe and worsening drought declined by only 2.8 percent in February. The dismal figure — brought about in part by some Southern Californians actually increasing their water use — set off new waves of concerns among state officials struggling to curtail water consumption. That was the lowest conservation number since the state began gathering these figures in July 2014. The 2.8 percent reduction is in comparison to February 2013, the year the state is using as a baseline. via www.nytimes.com  OK, I know that this is not a response to expectations of changes in the future but what caused some people to use more water when every Californian knows there is a drought?

Dust Bowl 2.0: California's Historic Drought About To Get Even Worse As "Snowpack Melts Early Across The West" -- It has been a bad year for California whose drought is rapidly approaching historic proportions: according to the i, which cites climatologist Michael Anderson, "you’re looking on numbers that are right on par with what was the Dust Bowl." And it is about to get even worse. According to the USDA, the west-wide snowpack is melting earlier than usual, according to data from the fourth 2015 forecast by the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). "Almost all of the West Coast continues to have record low snowpack," NRCS Hydrologist David Garen said. "March was warm and dry in most of the West; as a result, snow is melting earlier than usual."  Historically, April 1 is the peak snowpack. This year, the peak came earlier. There was little snow accumulation in March, and much of the existing snow has already melted. A consequence of the early snowmelt is that Western states will have reduced streamflow later this spring and summer.  In Western states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply, information about snowpack serves as an indicator of future water availability. Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm in spring and summer. National Water and Climate Center scientists analyze the snowpack, precipitation, air temperature and other measurements taken from remote sites to develop the water supply forecasts.

"California Officials Assure Residents There Still Plenty Of Other Natural Resources To Waste" -- With residents struggling to adjust to newly imposed restrictions on water usage amid the state’s continuing drought, California officials assured citizens Monday there are still plenty of other resources available for them to waste. “Although we as a state must take serious and difficult steps to conserve water, we want to make it clear that residents are still welcome to keep squandering every other resource as usual by leaving TVs on in empty rooms or throwing out perfectly good food,” said Department of Water Resources spokesman Mark Aronow, adding that, while it is crucial that Californians observe constraints on decorative water features and other nonessential uses of water, individual residents and businesses should feel free to continue their regular practices of putting recyclable containers into the trash, paving over soil to expand parking areas, and leaving storefront doors open with the building’s air conditioning turned up. “As long as you’re not using excess water, there are no government regulations stopping you from driving your car a handful of blocks to the convenience store and leaving it idling outside while you head in to buy bottled water or a styrofoam cup of coffee. We just ask that, afterwards, you make sure you hand-wash your vehicle using a single bucket of water instead of spraying it off with a hose.” Aronow added that if residents did their part and focused on wasting other resources for the time being, then the state’s water table could recover, and future generations of Californians would be able to know the joys of poorly setting up a lawn sprinkler that directs the majority of its water onto the roadway and sidewalk.

WSJ Survey: California Water Rules Won’t Dry Out Growth -- The new water restrictions put in place in California will have only a small impact on that state’s economy, said economists surveyed in April by The Wall Street Journal.  On April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown mandated water restrictions in response to the ongoing drought in the state.  The target is a 25% savings in potable urban water consumption over the next nine months.  Agriculture was exempt from the restrictions. Bloomberg News recently estimated that if the Golden State were its own country, its economy would be the seventh largest in the world. The question is whether mandatory cuts in water use will curb some of the state’s economic activity. A slim majority, 51%, of the forecasters who answered the special questions on California said the drag from the restrictions will be too small to show up in economic data such as income growth, employment and retail activity. Another 44% thought the drag would be small but measurable in the data. Sean Snaith of University of Central Florida echoed a sentiment voiced by a few economists that there would be “a much greater impact if the restrictions are extended to agriculture.”  If so, the California economy would show a greater slowdown and consumers across the U.S. could see higher food prices. “The larger issue is what restrictions today do to growth going forward,” said Diane Swonk of Mesirow Financial, “It is yet another cost of being in California.”

Why the California drought will be worse than everyone thinks  — We’re told by economists that the California drought is no cause for concern to the nation. The agriculture industry isn’t being forced into additional cuts. Food prices will increase only slightly.  Stephen Levy, director and staff economist at the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto argues that the market will correct a water imbalance. The state can eventually draw from new sources — desalination plants, diversions from Canada, and Washington and Oregon, to name a couple states. Some state crops including cotton and alfalfa will likely be phased out.  As for prices, “the big price moves have had to do with housing and energy,” Levy said. “Food is a relatively small impact when moving the index [Consumer Price Index, or CPI].”  Likewise, Daniel A. Sumner, an economist at the University of California, Davis, doesn’t think price increases are imminent. He points out that California agriculture is just a part of the national food supply and that food prices are subject to much shifting global demand. He also notes that farmers have invested in wells to offset shortages. It’s working as a stopgap for price increases in a gap that’s growing shorter.  “Even a 10% price increase — larger than I think is likely — the effect on the CPI will be very small,” Sumner said.  It all sounds very reassuring. After all, so what if a quart of strawberries that used to cost $5 now costs $6?  No big deal — unless these economists are wrong. And, frankly, there’s a pretty strong case that should the drought persist, say another two to three years or more, prices will skyrocket. Remember, California is the biggest farm state in the nation, producing more than Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota combined.

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