NPR Spotlights California Water Issues

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NPR’s Morning Edition launched an “occasional series” on California’s water woes this morning. Veteran correspondent John McChesney begins with the impact on agriculture in the Central Valley’s Westlands Water District, the nation’s “biggest irrigated region.”

KQED’s Central Valley Bureau Chief and Climate Watch contributor Sasha Khokha will have three stories in the series, two of which will debut on The California Report in the weeks ahead:

WATER METERS: Many California cities are preparing for or implementing mandatory water rationing this summer. But there are still cities and towns, particularly in California’s Central Valley, where water can’t be rationed because residents don’t even have water meters.  Residents are charged a flat rate for any amount of water they use. Khokha looks at the city of Fresno, where water meters will be phased in, but not until 2013.

MENDOTA PROFILE: The town of Mendota in California’s Central Valley is at the heart of the economic crisis spawned by drought and the loss of farm jobs.  Sam Rubio grew up here, the son of a Mexican farmworker.  He went off to college, and was planning to become a doctor, but instead has returned to this town to teach biology, mentor local kids, and run a café that’s become a haven for the farmworker youth.

AG ADAPTING TO DROUGHT: California farmers are facing an increasingly uncertain water supply, brought about by drought, environmental restrictions on pumping, and climate change. How will farmers adapt? Some of them are yanking out water-intensive crops and replacing them with more drought-tolerant ones. But others are trying to keep growing the same crops with improved technology. We’ll follow a new tech start-up that’s helping farmers use water more efficiently by tracking how much moisture reaches each plant in their fields–and sending a satellite message to their cell phones. We’ll also talk with a researcher who says there are ways California can grow some key crops, like oranges and nuts, using less water.