Feds track record Central Valley groundwater depletion


California’s Central Valley, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

‘The Central Valley has many areas where recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historical low …’

Staff Report

Farmers in California’s Central Valley pumped more groundwater than ever during the state’s ongoing drought, causing aquifers to drop to new record low levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency recently launched a website to help track Central Valley groundwater depletion and land subsidence. A new paper released about the same time shows geographical nuances in the decline. The biggest changes are in the southern Central Valley, where farmers have shifted from planting annual and seasonal crops to perennial plants. Continue reading

UN report shows staggering cost of land degradation

Shifting to sustainable land use practices would boost global economy and help address global warming


Unsustainable land use practices, exacerbated by climate change, could result in mass migration of 50 million people within 10 years. Photo courtesy UN.

Staff Report

Unsustainable land-use practices are a $6.3 trillion drain on the global economy, according to a new report from the United Nations University, which assesses the value of ecosystem services provided by land resources such as food, poverty reduction, clean water, climate and disease regulation and nutrients cycling.

That figure is equal to about 15 percent of global GDP, the researcher said, adding that unchecked land degradation could force up to 50 million people to migrate away from affected areas within the next 10 years.

Effectively addressing land degradation could help avert that humanitarian crisis and add US $75.6 trillion to annual world income, according to the report, “The Value of Land”, produced by The Economics of Land Degradation Initiative.

Continue reading

UN report says global deforestation is slowing down


Scientists say forest conservation and restoration efforts should be stepped up. @bberwyn photo.

Tropical forests in poor countries still taking the biggest hit

Staff Report

Global forest conservation efforts are improving, but the world is still losing trees at an unsustainable rate — especially in the tropics, according to the UN’s latest Global Forest Resources Assessment.

Since 1990, total forest area has decreased by about 3 percent, an area about the size of South Africa. The report shows that, while the pace of forest loss has slowed, the damage over the past 25 years has been considerable.

Continue reading

Upper Colorado River Basin states buy ag and municipal water to shore up Lake Powell storage


A pilot water purchasing program could help preserve storage in Lake Powell, Photo via NASA Earth Observatory.

‘Forbearance’ of water use eyed as new tool in race to avoid water crisis

Staff Report

FRISCO — Water allocation in the Colorado River Basin may be entering a new era, officials said last week as they announced finalization of 10 pilot projects that will allow farmers, municipalities and other water users to voluntarily and temporarily forego use of their water in exchange for compensation.

The pilot projects, including one in the Yampa River Basin, are the result of a cooperative effort by Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico to shore up declining reservoir levels if the 15-year drought that has plagued the Colorado River continues into the future. Continue reading

Winemakers eye native American grape species as a way to reduce pesticide use


Wine without pesticides?

Chemical analysis informs potential hybridization efforts

Staff Report

FRISCO — As the widespread and disastrous consequences of heavy pesticide use become ever-more apparent, wine-makers and grape growers are trying to figure out ways to make their grapes more resistant to bugs and fungi without using toxic chemicals.

The answer may lie in crossing the domestic grape species used in most wine production — Vitis vinifera — with native wild American grapes, like Vitis californica, which make terrible wine but are pest-resistant. Continue reading

Environment: Wild bees are critical to pollination


Wild bees need love, too. @bberwyn photo.

‘protecting a wide variety of our wild bees is crucial …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new bee tracking study shows that protecting wild bees may be just as important as tackling the decline of domesticated honeybee colonies.

After tracking bees around the world, researchers concluded that only two percent of wild bee species pollinate 80 percent of bee-pollinated crops worldwide.

That means there’s a powerful economic rationale for conserving wild bees. It calculates the value of wild bee pollination to the global food system at $3,000 per hectare of insect-pollinated agricultural land, amounting to billions of dollars globally. Continue reading

Opinion: Climate, drought and the political Bizarro-land of the House Natural Resources Committee

Right-wingers frame drought as battle between environment and people; Colorado could avoid similar showdown with good planning


Delta smelt, via USFWS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Apparently, the lack of water in California has hindered the ability of some of the state’s elected officials to think straight.

Completely ignoring the facts that California’s precipitation has been well below average for four years in a row, and that the state’s temperatures have running at or near record highs, some Republican congressmen are calling the Golden State’s current dry spell a “man-made drought.” Continue reading


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