Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Emily Spiegelman: 5 Stories to Read about the California Drought

President Barack Obama tours a field with farmer Joe Del Bosque, his wife Maria, and California Gov. Jerry Brown in Los Banos, Calif., Feb. 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
At the end of last month, I traveled with a few Storey colleagues to Ventura, California, for the Craftcation Conference. This wasn’t my first trip to the conference in the seaside town, nor was it the first time I traveled south from Ventura to Los Angeles — not on freeways but on smaller roads through agricultural towns with encampments of field laborers, rows of citrus trees, and dusty fields sprouting kale, broccoli, and rainbow chard. Farm country.

We were there mere days before Governor Brown imposed the first mandatory statewide water restrictions in California history, but the lack of water was already (obviously) on everyone’s minds. Restaurants did not provide water to patrons unless we asked for it. Watching television one night in the hotel, I’d seen a lengthy news segment about harvesting rainwater using methods similar to those author Laura Allen describes in her book, The Water-Wise Home.

In the last week alone, there’s been lots of drought coverage and ample debate over which corner of California’s agricultural industry is most guilty of making things worse. Here are five of the more interesting stories I’ve come across in my online wanderings. What are you reading this week? We’d love to know.

Water, Technology, and Western Hubris (via Pacific Standard)
The technological prowess that has enabled us to live so comfortably in dry places is also at the mercy of the drought.

708 Gallons of Water Were Used to Make This Plate (via Los Angeles Times)
Want avocado on that soy burger? How about a glass of wine? This interactive infographic allows you to see just how much water goes into producing what’s on your plate.

Making almonds the drought’s scapegoat? That’s nuts (via Grist)
I’ll admit that I thought about cutting walnuts out of my diet after reading about how much water it takes to grow a single nut. But this piece argues that during a drought, planting high-value crops like nuts makes good sense.

A New Water Paradigm for California (via Civil Eats)
Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin is the epicenter of a massive drought. It also happens to be the continent’s top farm region. In 2007, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan gave farmers a choice between using their yearly allocation of water to produce food or fiber, selling the water, or banking it for future use. Could a similar model work for California?

Apocalyptic Schadenfreude (via Medium)
Is a bias in media coverage shifting our gaze away from the role the rest of our country plays in creating California’s drought?

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