The drought across much of the Western U.S. is now in its fourth year. In California — where it's the most intense — farms are not under the same strict orders to conserve as cities are.

And inside the agriculture industry, farmers are quietly debating how best to respond to the drought. Given uncertainty around pending state regulations, some say there may be an incentive to not invest in water-saving technologies right now.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

In Kern County the oil industry and the world of farming are working hand in hand, but not everyone is happy about that. As Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports there are growing concerns over the use of oil field wastewater used to irrigate prime farmland.

Brown Revises Bay Delta Water Plan, Faces Criticism

May 1, 2015

California Governor Jerry Brown has revised his plan to restore habitat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, much to the dismay of environmental groups. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the plan also includes design changes for the proposed twin tunnels that would carry water south.

Governor Brown sold his plan to build two tunnels in the Delta with the promise that habitat would be restored. The number most commonly mentioned was 100,000 acres. Brown says that was just an “idea” with no way to pay for it.  He now proposes 30,000 acres.

New Heat Regulations Aim To Protect California Workers

Apr 28, 2015

With summer approaching, the state California is implementing new rules to protect outdoor workers. Revised heat safety regulations from Cal-OSHA take effect May 1st. Among the regulations, workers must have easy access to free, cool water. And supervisors and workers must also be trained to recognize and react to signs of heat illness.

Amy Martin is Chief Counsel of Cal-OSHA. She says the rules also require that shade be made available when the temperature reaches 80 degrees, which is five degrees cooler than the previous requirement.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Every summer and fall, PRIMA brand peaches and grapes from Fresno-based Gerawan Farming can be found in supermarkets across the country. But the workers who pick that fruit are currently at the center of one of California’s biggest labor conflicts. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports that the stakes for both the company and the United Farm Workers are high.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

The latest survey of California's endangered Delta Smelt has turned up just one fish. While the population has been in decline for years, UC Davis biologist Peter Moyle says the drought has stressed the species to the brink of extinction. 

Moyle: "I've been tracking these fish for years including in my own surveys, and we've been seeing this long term decline, but still I was quite startled."

He blames a number of factors for the almost complete collapse, but says the drought is a big factor.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This past weekend a group of computer coders courted a group of farmers in Fresno County to create phone apps for their farms. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports.

If you’ve been on the popular dating application Tinder, then you’ve done this before.  Swipe right for a potential date or swipe left to reject someone. But here at the first “Apps for Ag” hackathon at West Hills Community College in Coalinga, Tinder meets the world of invasive pests with a new app.

Slow Progress In Congressional Water Talks

Apr 16, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

When it comes to California drought relief legislation, it’s been a dry year so far on Capitol Hill. As Kitty Felde reports from Washington, Central Valley politicians and farm interests have been in Congress this week to remind lawmakers about the dire situation back home.

Drought relief legislation this year has gotten off to a slow start on Capitol Hill - unlike last year, when bills were floated in both the House and the Senate.

Mendota Mayor Robert Silva, who spent the week meeting with members of Congress, says things are moving…underground. 

You may have heard by now that it takes one gallon of water to produce just one almond. And those are considered fighting words in drought-stricken California, which produces 80 percent of the world's supply of the tasty and nutritious nut.

So when almond grower Daniel Bays hears that, he just shakes his head.

Tensions Appear Amidst Dwindling Water Supply

Apr 9, 2015
Jerry Brown
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown says it’s time for California to pull together to get through the drought. It’s a message aimed at people with competing water needs. And, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, that’s created some tension.

There are more than 400 local water agencies In California. There are also agriculture, business and environmental interests. And as the drought continues they are all competing for a dwindling resource.