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Wine Trumps Salmon in War Over Water

Wine Trumps Salmon in War Over Water
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Vineyards wrap the hills and march in straight lines along the highways and side roads of California’s wine country. Sonoma Countyalone draws visitors from around the world.

That is where the problem lies. Forests of oak, Douglas fir and redwood once anchored the soil and helped create a healthy habitat for coho salmon. Then logging cleared space for agriculture. Orchards gave way to vineyards. As the wine industry expands its reach in Sonoma County, more wildlife corridors are disrupted, and biodiversity is lost. Endangered coho and threatened steelhead trout compete for water with thirsty vines.

Writing in the New York Times (an article reposted on The Bay Citizen Web site), Jacoba Charles describes the struggle pitting the wine industry against fish. Permits for new wineries continually expand the acreage planted in vines. What is missing in the process is adequate assessment of water supplies or environmental impact.

Area residents and environmentalists report levels in streams and wells fluctuate as vineyards draw down water for irrigation. A new method to reduce losses from frost “involves spraying plants with 50 gallons of water per acre, per minute.” Nearby tributaries sometimes run dry.

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Photo from Deb Harkness via Flickr Creative Commons

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35 comments

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2:34PM PST on Nov 18, 2011

Interesting. Thanks for the post.

8:46PM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

Alcoholics unite! Go sober!

5:24AM PDT on Sep 3, 2011

BTW - to those portraying all Californians as selfish uncaring "nuts", don't paint us all with the same brush. There are many different people who live out here, and we tend to be some of the most conservation minded people around. AND just like anywhere, we are plagued by corporate interests. Don't just boycott California wines, boycott BIG California vineyards like Beringer, Sutter Home, Gallo, Franzia, etc. Many of these wineries are subsidiaries of companies like Procter and Gamble and Coca Cola. Here is the site with the big names. You would not recognize their umbrella company names, but read through and you'll recognize the individual wines.

http://www.winebusiness.com/wbm/?go=getArticle&dataId=54412

It's about conscious consumership, not blind buying or boycotting. Support small, local biodynamic wineries!

5:16AM PDT on Sep 3, 2011

I live two valleys over from Sonoma Co., and it is disappointing to see Sonoma Co, which is famous for it's environmental attitudes and preservation minded communities, try to compete with the hoity toity Napa Valley which you know is gobbling up water, and dumping chemicals right and left (I don't care how pretty the valley is, there are very few organic/biodynamic wineries in the region, and I know it is becoming a toxic cesspool). I do have faith that the sensibilities of people who want Sonoma Co. to stay focused on conservation will win the day - they usually do.

One of the biggest culprits is Beringer Wines - their vineyards are EVERYWHERE, and they have this very foreboding energy about them. No matter what remote little valley I drive through in Lake, Napa or Sonoma County, I almost always come across their plantings. Boycott Beringer! And research other wineries they may own - I just recently became aware that these little mom and pop wineries and vineyards have all been bought up by the big boys like Beringer, Sutter Home, etc. and they care little for the environment - just looking wealthy and making money. It's disgusting.

I like a good glass of red wine as much as the next person, but I do my best to buy organic, and from local wineries that are doing it right. We have a local bio-dynamic winery in Lake Co called Beaver Creek Winery - owned by some delightful gents from Czechoslovakia, and I love the way they operate. Support them!!

9:25PM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

I think we should ban LAWNS- that would leave enough water for both vineyards and salmon!

8:49PM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

Wildlife and biodiversity be given the more consideration!

7:44PM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

Nature first, profits last!

1:34PM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

Actually wildlife should be ABSOLUTE NUMBER ONE.

11:31AM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

part of farming is loss do to frost hail and other natural desasters. farmers need to learn to deal with it and leave the water for the fish. Irrigation needs to be strictly limited

10:56AM PDT on Sep 2, 2011

My guess is that this is pushed by vegans who don't want people to eat fish. Good job.

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