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Zero Water: Can California Agriculture Survive?


Mandatory Water Restrictions

On April 1, Gov. Jerry Brown of California announced the first ever statewide mandatory water reductions. "Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow," Brown said after visiting a manual snow survey in the Sierra Nevada. "This historic drought demands unprecedented action."

The new water restrictions require the state’s 400 local water supply agencies to reduce water usage by 25% overall. While a few smaller farms may be directly affected, the vast majority of farms that obtain their water from sources outside local water agencies will not fall under these new restrictions. Instead, they will be required to make detailed reports on their water usage to state regulators.

Dead Trees in San Joaquin Valley
Dead trees await collection in California's San Joaquin Valley, victims of the record-breaking drought. (photo credit: deltacouncil.ca.gov)

Zero Water for Agriculture

The news for larger farms remains roughly the same as last year: zero water available. For the second year in a row, many won't receive any water from the Central Valley Project, which allocates water from the state's reservoirs. Farmers continue to respond to these shortages by fallowing vast tracts of land, by purchasing water allotments from their neighbors, by improving their irrigation techniques and by drilling new, deeper wells. According to one UC Davis study last year, California's farmers have been replacing about three-fourths of lost rainfall with water pumped from these wells. Unfortunately, underground aquifers are not simply refilled. Not only are farmers losing a crucial buffer against future droughts, but in some areas in the Central Valley the land itself is actually sinking a foot per year due to aquifer depletion.

In contrast, surface water lagoons and reservoirs provide both water supply and flood management benefits by capturing water whenever it is available and storing it for use when needed. In October last year, one California farmer constructed a 40 acre irrigation reservoir as part of a strategy to save his trees during the prolonged drought. The reservoir, equipped with a unique RPE liner that resists UV degradation and prevents water loss through seepage, allowed him to capture and store water during the brief stormy periods last winter. Prior to construction of the new reservoir, he pumped over 500 acre feet of water into an old reservoir which leaked faster than he could fill it. This year, the new reservoir is full to overflowing with only 385 acre feet. This represents a significant savings of available water plus substantial electricity savings from pumping water.

BTL's 40 Acre Irrigation Reservoir
A 40 acre irrigation pond lined with BTL's RPEL-30 allows this farmer to store water at a substantially lower cost. (photo credit: BTL Liners)

Investing in Surface Water Storage

"BTL is conducting a comprehensive cost analysis to determine when this investment will pay for itself in its entirety. Preliminary indications show a significant cost-savings that will more than justify the client’s investment,” reported Michael Baron, President of BTL Liners. Those farmers who make wise investments in water management infrastructure are positioning themselves not only to survive the current drought with the least damage, but to improve their resilience for future periods of drought or even flooding. California’s agricultural industry should not ask “how much can we harvest per acre?” The question should be, “how much can we harvest with an acre-foot of water?”

“We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation,” Governor Brown warned in January, “At some point, we have to learn to live with nature, we have to get on nature’s side and not abuse the resources that we have.”

If you are a land owner or manager interested in learning more about the construction of irrigation reservoirs and farm ponds using impermeable reinforced polyethylene liners, please visit us online at http://www.btlliners.com or contact our project experts at 541-447-0712.

California Drought Intensifies

An Intensifying DroughtThe news for California citizens, farms and industries continues to worsen as the drought enters its fourth year. The state’s “wet season” typically runs from December to February, and while there were some stormy periods in December and February, January was the driest on record. In fact, in most of northern and central California, rainfall in 2015 has been [...]

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BTL's RPEL-30 Liner Ideal For Drought-Stricken Farms

Prineville, OR (PRWEB) March 25, 2015BTL Liners has introduced a reinforced polyethylene liner with high tolerance for sustained UV exposure—RPEL-30. RPEL-30 is ideal for use in situations in which water levels are expected to vary, such as irrigation ponds for drought-stricken farms. BTL offers a full 20 year warranty for exposed use, which is unique in the industry and promises a dependable [...]

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Are We Nuts to Rely on Proposition 1?

In November, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1, officially known as the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014. Of the $7.5 billion measure, $2.7 billion is devoted specifically to water storage improvements, dams and reservoirs. This is good news for many farmers and municipalities across the states that want larger storage facilities, but who have historically found [...]

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Growth Anticipated within Geomembrane Market

According to a new research report by reportsonreports.com, the overall geomembranes market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.16% through 2019. Significant opportunities are seen both in waste management and water management, but the mining industry, in particular, demonstrates huge growth potential as the world economy begins to recover and commodity prices rise. Governments around [...]

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Can Irrigation Reservoirs Save Our Farms?

Ponds are a common sight on farms and ranches across the country, and are usually used for stock watering, fish farming, or simply landscape beautification. Farmers and ranchers are beginning to view these traditional features in a new light today, as modern agriculture practices and the mounting effects of climate change require them to consider new options for providing water [...]

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BTL’s Record Breaking Irrigation Reservoir

360,000 sq ft of liner was installed on day 1 BEFORE LUNCH! We’re on our way to a record breaking installation for this 1.6 million sq ft project!BTL has developed a reputation for both innovation and leadership in the RPE liners industry since the 1980s when we pioneered the development of heavyweight reinforced polyethylene liners. We continue to introduce exciting [...]

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Stormwater Management Innovation

Stormwater retention ponds can be beautiful and valuable additions to a community.In our last blog, we discussed the basics of stormwater management, including explanations for traditional and “green” stormwater treatments. We received several follow-up questions from people who were wondering what we believe will be next in the development of stormwater technology. The world has [...]

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Stormwater Management

A traditional method of stormwater management involves diverting water as quickly as possible away from where it falls. In Las Vegas, where it rains only occasionally but heavily, the huge volumes of fast-moving water can be dangerous and destructive.BTL’s interest and involvement in the stormwater industry has been well established over the years, so we [...]

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The Two Bulls Fire and Water Retention Ponds

In the Deschutes National Forest, just west of our neighboring community of Bend, Oregon, a large forest fire, named Two Bulls Fire, has burned over 6,900 acres in the past week; the fire has spread very close to the town and prompted hundreds of evacuations. A pall of smoke continues to cover the area as [...]

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Since 1981, BTL has designed, fabricated and constructed liners and containment systems for projects all over the world!

Applications include: Recreational Pond liners & Lake Liners & Containment Systems, Energy Industry Liners & Containment Systems, Ranch & Farm Tarps, Liners & Containment Systems, Environmental Covers, Containment Systems, Pits and Conservation Solutions, Commercial Containment Liners, Waterscape Projects, Storm Water Containment, Government Projects, Hazardous Containment Projects and more!