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California: Despair flows as fields go dry and unemployment rises
Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times
San Joaquin Valley farms are laying off workers and letting fields lie fallow as their water ration falls.
Reporting from Mendota, Calif. — Water built the semi-arid San Joaquin Valley into an agricultural powerhouse. Drought and irrigation battles now threaten to turn huge swaths of it into a dust bowl.
Farmers have idled half a million acres of once-productive ground and are laying off legions of farmhands. That’s sending joblessness soaring in a region already plagued by chronic poverty.
Water scarcity looms as a major challenge to California’s $37-billion agricultural industry, which has long relied on imported water to bloom.
(6 July 2009)
Tucson rainwater harvesting law drawing interest
Arthur H. Rotstein, Associated Press
TUCSON, Ariz. — Long dependent on wellwater and supplies sent hundreds of miles by canal from the Colorado River, this desert city will soon harvest some of its 12 inches of annual rainfall to help bolster its water resources.
Under the nation’s first municipal rainwater harvesting ordinance for commercial projects, Tucson developers building new business, corporate or commercial structures will have to supply half of the water needed for landscaping from harvested rainwater starting next year.
Already, the idea has become so popular that at least a half-dozen other Arizona communities are looking to emulate Tucson’s approach.
“What we learned frankly is that we’re wasting a lot of water. It’s been our tradition here to shove it into the streets and get rid of it as soon as possible,” said David Pittman, southern Arizona director of the Arizona Builders’ Alliance.
Rainwater harvesting is also catching on nationwide, with Georgia, Colorado and other states legislating to allow or expand use of various types.
(6 July 2009)
Australian Town Bans Bottled Water
Steve Aquino, Mother Jones
Residents of Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia have voted to ban the sale of bottled water in their rural town—probably the first in the world to do so. Only two voters opposed the ban. Why?
Bundanoon’s battle against the bottle has been brewing for years, ever since a Sydney-based beverage company announced plans to build a water extraction plant in the town. Residents were furious over the prospect of an outsider taking their water, trucking it up to Sydney for processing and then selling it back to them. The town is still fighting the company’s proposal in court.
In other words, bottling water wastes an incredible amount of resources—natural and capital. (Producing the bottles for the American market requires 17 million barrels of oil; three liter of water are needed to produce a liter of bottled water.) So officials in Bundanoon will install more drinking fountains and encourage residents to use them to fill reusable water bottles for free…
(9 July 2009)