Recession slowed city sprawl in Valley

July 19, 2012

New research this week says the air, water, soil and other parts of the environment in California's Central Valley have improved over the last five years, but not fast enough.

That's not what caught my eye in this study from the nonprofit Great Valley Center and UC Merced's Sierra Nevada Research Institute.

For me, the interesting news was that the recession slowed city sprawl over prime farmland, a precious part of this region's No. 1 industry.

The study urges leaders to plan smarter, more compact city footprints that will result in less driving and reduced air pollution.

The study also includes thoughts from one the nation's cutting-edge water researchers, UC Merced Professor Roger Bales. He is designing a high-tech system to measure far more precisely how much water is coming out of the Sierra Nevada, source of two-thirds of the state's water.

Bales says it is important to provide a secure supply of water for the future. But no matter how many water supply solutions are found, it will be important to find out exactly how much water is coming from the Sierra, he says.

Overall, this study looks at progress from 2006 to 2011 in the Central Valley -- which includes both the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. The subject is familiar to me only because I've been covering the issues.

But it's worth your time to look at it. Planners, politicians, bureaucrats, scientists and wonks will get a lot out of the research. I think it makes interesting reading for the rest of us, too.