Don't Do It (DDI): as drought worsens, California farmers paid not to grow crops

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https://phys.org/news/2021-10-drought-wo...-paid.html

INTRO: Green fields of alfalfa and cotton rolled past as Brad Robinson drove through the desert valley where his family has farmed with water from the Colorado River for three generations. Stopping the truck, he stepped onto a dry, brown field where shriveled remnants of alfalfa crunched under his boots.

The water has been temporarily shut off on a portion of Robinson's land. In exchange, he's receiving $909 this year for each acre of farmland left dry and unplanted. The water is instead staying in Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, to help slow the unrelenting decline of the largest reservoir in the country.

Robinson and other growers in the Palo Verde Irrigation District are taking part in a new $38-million program funded by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and other water agencies in Arizona and Nevada. The farmers are paid to leave a portion of their lands dry and fallow, and the water saved over the next three years is expected to translate into 3 feet of additional water in Lake Mead, which has declined to its lowest levels since it was filled in the 1930s following the construction of Hoover Dam.

"Honestly, I think I could make more money farming. But for the sake of the Colorado River, I think it's the right thing to do," Robinson said. "The river's going through a bad time right now."

The arrangement is one of a growing number of programs that are springing up along the river to find water-savings in agricultural areas. As reservoirs continue to decline, managers of water districts are looking to start or scale up similar land-fallowing programs in other areas, paying farmers not to farm temporarily on some fields and using the water to ease shortages... (MORE)
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