ARCHIVE

What Toledo’s Water Crisis Reveals About Industrial Farming

As you may have heard, about half a million people in the Toledo, Ohio area lost their municipal drinking water supply on Saturday because of possible microbial toxin contamination from Lake Erie. A combination of heavier spring rains, exacerbated by climate change, and runoff of phosphorus from fertilizer applied to crops is the likely cause. The good news is that farmers can adopt better practices to eliminate this problem. The bad news is that the agriculture industry, and the public policies that it lobbies for, work against these solutions. Read more

California Falls Short When Helping Farmers Save Water

California’s ongoing drought is expected to have a devastating impact on Central Valley agriculture this year, to the tune of $1.7 billion and 14,500 jobs lost. Even at the start of the summer, farmers are already being forced to dip into their ‘savings accounts’ — groundwater reserves — to make up for reduced surface water deliveries.

Meanwhile, the California legislature is in the midst of a mad rush to get a passable multi-billion-dollar water bond on the November ballot.

It’s not like we haven’t been here before, or won’t be here again. California has a long history of drought, and climate change models suggest farmers should get used to dealing with water scarcity. Read more

As California’s Drought Goes On, What Can Farmers Do?

This is the third and final post of our series on the California drought. Read parts one and two of this series.

 

As we are all very much aware, California is now faced with an historic drought. Farmers generally have two choices when it comes to watering their crops: Surface water, which comes from sources like streams, rivers, and storm runoff, and groundwater, which is generally accessed through wells. At the moment, farmers in California have much less of the former, but may be unable to sufficiently and sustainably substitute groundwater. There are, however, many things farmers can do save water, or practice good ‘water stewardship’ practices to optimize farm production, save money, and benefit people and the environment. Read more

Water is the Enemy, Gatorade Mobile Game Tells Youth

UPDATE January 11: IAB Mixx Bronze winner Gatorade (for strategies and objectives in mobile advertising for their Bolt! mobile gaming integration) has completely disappeared from the IAB Award Winners Gallery.

If you thought Big Soda’s decades-long “War on Water”–part of their strategy to increase sales of soda and other bottled drinks–couldn’t get any worse, you were wrong. The latest assault, courtesy of PepsiCo, is in the form of a mobile game for youth that brands water as the enemy of athletic performance. Read more

Coca-Cola’s Assault on Tap Water

While public health advocates have sung the praises of tap water for years, Coca-Cola has been focusing on its own covert assault on the affordable, healthful, and refreshing beverage. Unbeknownst to many in the nutrition and public health world, the soft drink giant launched a  “Cap the Tap” program–aimed at restaurants–in 2010, described in the following manner on the Coke Solutions Web site: Read more

Protecting Water at the Source

One of the big challenges facing the globe in the next century will be access to clean water.

In America, federal agriculture policies are putting drinking water used by millions of people at risk. Perverse incentives such as farm subsidies and ethanol mandates have ushered in an era of fencerow-to-fencerow planting of chemical-intensive commodity crops, even as funding to protect water sources has been repeatedly slashed.

The result is that water running off poorly managed fields that have been treated with chemical fertilizers and manure is loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus, two potent pollutants that set off a cascade of harmful consequences.

Troubled Waters, a new Environmental Working Group report released on April 12, examines the water pollution caused by farm runoff in the upper Midwest and demonstrates that treating the problem after the fact is increasingly expensive, difficult and, if current trends continue, ultimately unsustainable. Because most farm operations are exempt from the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and states have little authority to compel farmers to control water contamination, the burden of cleaning up agricultural pollution in drinking water falls mostly on municipal treatment systems – and the taxpayers who pay for them. Read more

What Dow Chemical Doesn’t Want You to Know About Your Water (VIDEO)

Earlier this year, I was contacted by a PR firm working for Dow Chemical to contribute a 60-second video for The Future We Create virtual conference on water sustainability the company launches today. As a vocal advocate for strict regulation of toxic chemicals—especially for food and farming—I was surprised the company would approach me. Dow is the country’s largest chemical maker, and profits handsomely from developing some of the world’s most polluting products, many of which are widely used in industrial and consumer goods as well as agriculture.

In the video I submitted, which you can watch below, I stress that one of the greatest threats to clean water is chemical contaminants—and that Dow Chemical has a long history of water pollution. The PR representative e-mailed to say “unfortunately we can’t use your video,” but that she would be happy to include me, still, if I would consider re-recording it. When we discussed what that would mean she said, no “fingerpointing;” they wanted a “positive, inclusive discussion.” Read more

Wading into Deep Waters: On California Water Stewardship with Dave Runsten

Last week while savoring the last of the stone fruit and the first crisp apples here in California, I worried about water. If you eat fruits and vegetables, you, too, should be very worried about water. This is because California, the state that supplies vast quantities of our nation’s produce, is running out. The culprit? Urban development gone wild, climate change, and generations of water transfer in a state with a high percentage land in the desert.

Reading excellent coverage of the farmers vs. fisherman water issue here on Civil Eats piqued my interest. Then, last week I heard a roomful of water experts discuss how our water issues impact food and farming. Presented by Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), along with San Francisco Professional Food Society and Les Dames des Escoffier, the panel discussion made me more nervous and confused. What was true? After the panel I caught up with Dave Runsten, who heads up CAFF’s work with the California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiative, to seek clarification.  Runsten’s July 2010 report Why Water Stewardship for Agriculture was published July 2010 and outlines some relevant points of the debate on water issues facing the state’s urban dwellers, farmers and the food system. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: The Farmer and the Fisherman Talk Water

It is impossible to build a sustainable food system without addressing the issues surrounding water. The struggle over water in California is more than a century old and continues today with an $11 billion water bond, Proposition 18, proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger for November’s ballot.

Some portray California’s water problems as a farmer vs. fisher battle, but this is a simplistic, inaccurate depiction. Small and midsized farmers are just as concerned about the ecological health of the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta as the fishermen and women whose livelihoods have been devastated by the reduction in fish populations over the past several years. Additionally, many feel that continuing the status quo through the development of more dams on California’s rivers will benefit large-scale corporate agribusiness, not the family farms that serve local and regional markets. Anyone who advocates for sustainable agriculture in California needs to know about the state’s water politics.

Join us for the next Kitchen Table Talks in San Francisco on Tuesday, July 20, where we will bring together a fisherman and a farmer to share their stories and provoke thoughtful conversation about the ties between our water and our food. Read more

Water, Water, Everywhere…But at What Cost?

The sale and consumption of “bottled water” continues to grow at an astounding rate throughout the world. This is especially so in the USA. If you have ever traveled well off the beaten path in a third world country, the lack of safe and reliable water for drinking, bathing, and cooking is always a concern. And with good reason—for much of the world, this is a very real problem that leads to countless cases of disease and even death, the likes of which you would not expect in this country. Read more