Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Rice farmer Don Bransford walks along a berm in one of his rice fields near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A farmer plows a field in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Irrigated fields near Chico in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Cracked dry earth in the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A crop duster dives over a flooded rice field near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Water bubbles up from a pump flooding a cornfield in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Pelicans wade in the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Rice grows in a watery field on Don Bransford's farm near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A lateral canal flows off the Glenn-Colusa Canal near rice fields and nut orchards near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A lateral canal flows off the Glenn-Colusa Canal near rice fields and nut orchards near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

Countless insects swarm along a road near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A dusky sky is reflected in a flooded rice field near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A grain silo is silhouetted against the evening sky near a flooded rice field near the city of Williams in the Sacramento Valley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

A flooded rice field, left, reflects the rising sun alongside the Glenn-Colusa canal in the Sacramento Valley near the city of Williams.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

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Drying up the delta: 19th century policies underlie today's crises

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Drying up the delta: 19th century policies underlie today's crises

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Drying up the delta: 19th century policies underlie today's crises

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Drying up the delta: 19th century policies underlie today's crises

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Drying up the delta: 19th century policies underlie today’s crises

A shallow inland sea spreads across more than 160 square miles, speckled with egrets poking for crayfish among jewel-green rice shoots.

The flooded fields could be mistaken for the rice paddies of Vietnam or southern China, but this is Northern California at the onset of severe drought.

The scene is a testament to the inequities of California’s system of water rights, a hierarchy of haves as old as the state.

Thanks to seniority, powerful Central Valley irrigation districts that most Californians have never heard of are at the head of the line for vast amounts of water, even at the expense of the environment and the rest of the state.

The delta’s native fish are hovering on the brink of extinction. Its waters are tainted by farm and urban runoff and infested with invasive species. Most problematic, biologists say, is the chronic shortage of what defines the delta: fresh water.

Year in and year out, so much is diverted by farms and cities upstream in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins and pumped from the delta itself that the average volume of flows out to San Francisco Bay is about half what it once was.

2 Comments

  1. March 24, 2014, 11:23 am

    What, are you nuts you better take a trip and have a look at the area you write about. Someone has filled your head with garbage, sad part is you sat and listened and soaked like a sponge. Your wrong with what you write and the L.A. basin takes more of the water then we use here in the north.

    By: fmhunt@comcast.net
  2. March 24, 2014, 3:16 pm

    Why does California still furrow irrigate? Why are segments of irrigation ditches remain unlined? Why doesn't agricultural irrigation systems have a stronger water loss control program? Water practices suggest there isn't any drought.

    By: barrybws

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