Author: Peyton Fleming
Published In: National Geographic, August 6 & 12, 2014
Summary: This series looks at how California businesses are innovating to mitigate the effects of the state’s devastating drought.
Why We’re Highlighting These Articles: This story are part of a series exploring how California’s companies are innovating to protect depleting groundwater supplies. They are solid solutions journalism pieces because they both focus on programs that are attempting to solve a serious societal problem, both rely heavily on data, and in each, the author, Peyton Fleming, refuses to paint the “solution” as a silver bullet, instead including important caveats to the programs’ effectiveness—most importantly that at their current scale, they’re too small to make any meaningful difference.
The first article explores how Driscoll berry producer is encouraging its farmers to reduce water usage in their fields.
Fleming puts the problem in context, noting the severity of the drought and the implications it could have on farming in the future. He then explains how the changes have reduced water usage, helped farmers save money, and produced the same quality of berries as before the changes were implemented. Farmers around the valley are implementing technology like drip irrigation, water moisture probes, and more efficient water pumps, and saving on their electric bills for the water that they don’t have to pump anymore. Fleming is careful, however, not to paint the efforts by the farmers as something that is solving the water crisis. These changes aren’t negating the effects of the state’s drought:
“Water-saving actions by all of the region’s farmers are no match for getting only a few inches of rain in all of 2013 and below-average rainfall so far this year.”
Still, the behavior change is having a significant effect. Fleming cites data showing that pumping in 2013 was the same as what was pumped in 2008, “despite there being significantly less rainfall.” He also notes the importance of the lessons learned by these initiatives—namely that collaborative efforts and locally oriented solutions will have to play a larger role in statewide efforts to reduce water use. It’s not just about what’s working in the Central Valley, but what can work throughout the state to have the most meaningful impact. [Read more...]