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Wine Trumps Salmon in War Over Water

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One group objecting to the spreading vineyards is Friends of the Gualala River, who argue vineyards are environmentally disastrous and their water use unsustainable. They point to a long-established vineyard in Annapolis that tried dry farming. When yields proved unprofitable, the operation returned to irrigation. The Friends group writes, “When it comes to grape and wine, water = profit.”

Work is underway to consider a more integrated approach. The U.S. Geological Society’s California Water Science Center collected data from the Sonoma Valley and found a “fairly small” 9 percent decrease in water storage, along with localized water-level declines. The Sonoma County Water Agency is currently seeking public input “on proposed strategies for addressing long-term water supply problems presented by regulatory requirements, endangered species and changing weather conditions.”

Agriculture needs water. The wine industry needs water. Fish need water. The supply is, however, finite. The fish were there first, but in the competition for profits, they are first to lose out. Sonoma County is a small dot in the global water picture, but decisions made there can be models for responsible water management or for continual drawing down of an essential public resource.

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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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