The Orange County Register ran a 1,200-word story this week on a demonstration project at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine. The project was created to show homeowners how they can control urban runoff, which can wash pesticides, fertilizer and other contaminants into coastal waters and cause unwanted algae blooms.
The article, by reporter Pat Brennan, describes three small buildings made to look like homes centered on three different landscapes -- one that is "typical," which shows the problems with many residential landscapes, one that is "retrofitted," which shows how the typical landscape can be improved with a little effort, and one that is "low-impact," which shows how current technologies can reduce or eliminate contaminated water runoff.
"They're designed so people could see what they could implement to improve water quality," the article quotes Darren Haver, a water quality adviser with the UC Cooperative Extension. "'What are a few things I could do around my home?'"
After California’s dry 2006-07 “rainy season,” ways to soothe water worries are turning up in the media. On the Web site insidebayarea.com, reporter Joan Morris reported that the East Bay Municipal Utility District expects a 15,000 acre-feet water shortfall this summer. The district asked its residential customers to limit irrigation to three non-consecutive days a week. (insidebayarea.com is the Web page for the Oakland Tribune and other local papers in the in the Bay Area.)
Morris went to UC Cooperative Extension horticulturist Bethallyn Black to get advice for Bay Area residents on how to cope with water restrictions. Although making changes in the garden to favor drought-resistant plants may be an excellent long-term goal, Black suggested putting off new planting until the fall.
“Spend this summer planning and prepping,” Black is quoted in the article, “and plant in October, when the winter rains will keep them happy.”
Black suggested gardeners get plants established before next summer’s water restrictions are put in place.
“Although low-water plants don’t require much water once they are rooted in place, newly set plants do,” the article said.
The news media has used quite a bit of ink in recent weeks covering the actions of regulatory agencies charged with cleaning the state's air. The California Air Resources Board voted 20-23 last week to delay cleaning up San Joaquin Valley air 11 years past the current deadline of 2012, according to news reports such as this one on the CBS news affiliate in Fresno. Many newspapers have editorialized against the decision. The Sacramento Bee called it "pitiful." The San Francisco Chronicle joked that valley smog "can also blind state regulators to their duty."
There will be more press to come. On Thursday and Friday, CARB will meet in Los Angeles to discuss a wide variety of measures, including Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposed "early action measures" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the agency's agenda posted online.
Meanwhile, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors continue to help farmers do their part to clean California's air. One in particular is Brent Holtz of Madera County, who has advocated chipping or shredding of orchard prunings as an alternative to burning for 10 years. Here is a 2002 article about his research. Freelance writer Marni Katz went to Holtz for comment on an article she wrote about burning alternatives for the June 2007 issue of Pacific Nut Producer. (The article is not available on the Web.)
Holtz noted in the article that about 2,000 pounds of green almond prunings are removed per acre with each almond pruning -- which could add up to more than 1 billion pounds of green material burned in California.
One challenge with chipping and shredding is the chance that small pieces of wood could be collected with the nuts at harvest. The key is getting chippings or shreddings to stick to the soil rather than be picked up at harvest, Holtz says.
". . . We have advised growers to lightly till or scratch the soil surface in order to enhance wood debris contact with the soil," Holtz is quoted. "We believe soil contact is more critical to holding wood debris in the orchard than the actual size of the wood debris or its decomposition rate."
An article printed yesterday in the Salinas Californian says 40 produce industry leaders, government representatives and other partners began to set the agenda for the new Center for Produce Safety at UC Davis on "Tuesday," which I assume means last Tuesday, June 12. The establishment of the $4.65 million Center for Produce Safety was announced in a UC Davis news service press release on April 11. UC ANR is a partner in the new center and contributed $150,000 to fund educational outreach programs for fresh produce.
According to the Californian article, the primary purpose of the recent meeting was to identify and define strategy and organizational principles for the new center.
"The outcome of the meeting included an agressive agenda and timeline including appointing an advisory board by July 30 and selecting an executive director within 90 days," said the article, which was attributed to "staff report."
Because the article ended with a boiler plate paragraph about the Produce Marketing Association, it appeared to be a press release from the Produce Marketing Association. However, I couldn't find the release on their Web site.
The peripheral canal has been on the backburner for decades, but a comment by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week in Bakersfield has the media buzzing. According to the California Progress Report, Schwarzenegger said, "We need more water. We need more storage. We need to build more storage, and we have to build conveyance, the canal, all of those kinds of things."
The 43-mile peripheral canal would channel Sierra Nevada runoff around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and into the California aqueduct. From there, it could be used for irrigation and to meet some of Southern California's water needs. The idea was killed by a statewide ballot measure in 1982 with 62.7 voters saying "no." Most of the measure's backers were in Southern California; those opposed in Northern California. The idea of a peripheral canal became history.
Even on the UC Water Resources Center Web site, the controversy over the peripheral canal gets mention only in an article about an oral history collection (see Page 8 of the Summer 2000 Currents newsletter.)
Resurrecting the peripheral canal means a renewed need for unbiased, science-based information about California's agricultural water needs and usage, a topic about which UC ANR has much expertise.