STORIES IN THIS SERIES

WESTERN WATER

It was 'Land of the Free.' Then the water disappeared

MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. — Breakneck agricultural development by well-heeled out-of-staters has upended conservative orthodoxy in this parched rural county.

"We were the 'Land of the Free' for the longest time," state Rep. Regina Cobb (R) said recently at a Republican forum. "We wanted to be able to put wells where we wanted to. We didn't want monitoring. We didn't want metering. We didn't want government coming in and telling us what to do."

"Until," she told an audience where many wore "Make America Great Again" hats, "we saw the number of wells that were being put into the ground."

Five years ago, there was virtually no farming in Mohave County. CONTINUE READING >>>

WESTERN WATER

Is former Olympian a bully or savior in geothermal fight?

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — Plans to boost clean energy production could have catastrophic impacts on this resort town known for world-class ski runs and stunning scenery.

At least that's what Pat Hayes, the area's water manager, wants you to think.

Hayes has launched a million-dollar fight against Ormat Technologies Inc.'s bid to double production at a nearby geothermal plant..

CONTINUE READING >>>

WESTERN WATER

Farmers tap free-market ideas in bid to rescue aquifer

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. — A debate has raged for decades over the true price of water in the parched West.

Edgar Terry's answer: Let the market decide.

The farmer is on the cusp of launching the country's most robust groundwater trading market: cap and trade for water.

"We all deal in markets every day," Terry said during a recent tour of his vegetable fields. "What makes water any different than oil? If you have oil under your ground, you get to pump it and sell it. And it becomes an asset on the balance sheet. Why can't water become an asset?" CONTINUE READING >>>

ABOUT THIS SERIES

E&E News examines the West's mismanagement of groundwater, an unseen environmental disaster that threatens to send America's food system into meltdown.

JEREMY P. JACOBS covers Western water, weather and legal issues for Greenwire, where he has worked since February 2010. He has written about the Supreme Court, as well as a wide range of issues including the Clean Air Act, Superfund and chemical policy.

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WESTERN WATER

Thirsty vineyard, Big Ag test landmark aquifer law

CUYAMA VALLEY, Calif. — When Roberta Jaffe and her husband planted their small vineyard, one factor trumped all others: groundwater.

Knowing that this isolated valley in south-central California relies on a depleted aquifer, the couple "dry farmed" their Condor's Hope Ranch, using 5 percent or less of the water required by a conventional vineyard.

"For us, it is very much about farming in a way that is harmonious with the environment," Jaffe said. "This is what we see as what this environment can handle."

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