Food Grows Where Water Flows

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CFWC Blog

Brussels Sprouts Recipe – Lamb Loin Chops with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and a Mustard Mint Sauce

May 21, 2019 in CFWC Blog, Recipes

Brussels Sprouts Recipe – Lamb Loin Chops with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and a Mustard Mint Sauce

While many people associate Brussels sprouts with fall and holiday meals, Californians are lucky to have these local and healthy veggies available fresh all year round. Spring and summer are a great time to bring Brussels sprouts to your barbecue!

RECIPE:  Lamb Loin Chops with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and a Mustard Mint Sauce

Recipe by: California Grown

Ingredients

Lamb Chops:

  • 8 lamb loin chops
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T. fresh chopped thyme
  • 2 T. butter
  • Salt & pepper

Brussels Sprouts

  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts, sliced in half
  • 1 leek, white portion thickly sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Sauce

  • 3 T. whole grain mustard
  • 2 T. white wine vinegar
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/3 c. chopped mint leaves

Directions

  1. Add the mustard, vinegar, honey and mint leaves and stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside
  2. Preheat oven to 450. Toss the Brussels sprouts and leeks with salt and pepper in the olive oil. Roast for 15-20 minutes until crisp and bright green.
  3. Add 1 T. olive oil to a cast iron skillet and heat to super hot.
  4. Add 4 lamb loin chops to the pan. Let it sear for about 3 minutes without moving. Turn over and sear for an additional 3 minutes. Add half the butter and half of the broth mixture. Cook about 1 more minute or until desired doneness.
  5. Cook the other batch of lamb loin chops in the same manner.
  6. Place the Brussels sprout on a platter, top with the seared lamb loin chops (top with a little butter if desired) and serve alongside the Mustard Mint Sauce.

 

If You’re Concerned about Climate Change and Water Supply, California Farms Can Help Show the Way

May 17, 2019 in CFWC Blog

If You’re Concerned about Climate Change and Water Supply, California Farms Can Help Show the Way

In a 2018 Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) survey, 80 percent of respondents said climate change is a serious threat to California’s future. And 72 percent cited water as a concern, with drought and water supply named most frequently as our biggest environmental issue. If you see yourself in these statistics, you should be cheering the efforts of California farmers.

All Californians have been called upon to conserve. Urban users tripled their water efficiency overall and some regions have done even more. Farms and water districts invested billions in water-saving technology for decades including drip, micro-sprinkler and subsurface irrigation; sensors that monitor water use; recycling irrigation water; lining canals; utilizing technology to prevent leaks, and more.

The impacts have been stunning. San Luis Canal Company in the San Joaquin Valley saves 5 billion gallons of water each year and sees greater savings coming. Cooperation among three neighboring water districts lead to water-savings of 8.1 billion gallons annually. On Los Banos Creek, more than 10 billion gallons of water are being added to water supplies annually through improved conservation practices.

And yet, as effective as conservation is, we also know its limits. Even with unprecedented efforts, our latest drought clearly showed conservation is just one tool in the box, and we not only need every existing tool, we must invent more.

This is particularly true if you are among the Californians concerned about climate change. Some scientists tell us that one of the biggest changes in store for California is to expect more rain in place of our historic winter snowpack.

This year is a good example of what may lie ahead. An estimated 18 trillion gallons of precipitation fell on California in February alone. And yet, with many reservoirs at capacity, California will not be able to save much of that water. If you’re concerned about climate change, then it’s important to recognize that new water storage is the first building block. Additional storage will help capture rain and fast-melting snow, assist in ground water recharge and help avoid flooding. The good news is that several projects that have been studied for decades are ready to go and simply await funding. Californians should whole-heartedly give their support.

To those who say we can’t put all our eggs in the storage basket because it takes time and climate change won’t wait, we say again, farmers are leading the way.

Farmers have been working with government agencies, community leaders and conservationists to restore and expand floodplains. Providing flood water an alternate path rather than just running out to sea provides habitat for the base of the food chain in addition to contributing to groundwater recharge. The largest public-private floodplain restoration project in the state is at Dos Rios Ranch in Stanislaus County. River Partners, a non-profit that manages the project says, “Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots and climate-protection powerhouses.”

Restoration, as well as planting cover crops on farms, helps combat climate change in multiple ways. According to a recent state report, farms and forests could absorb as much as 20 percent of California’s current level of carbon emissions. Despite massive benefits, California has been slow to support these efforts at the same level as other strategies.  In 2017 California spent more than 20 times on electric car rebates than it did on helping farmers adopt new climate protection technology.

Farmers share California’s passion for our environment. In many cases, the land they’re protecting has been home for generations. So, in preparation for our shared future, it makes sense to look to California farms for a smart, productive roadmap.

STATEMENT: Voluntary Agreement on Water Represents the Future and Deserves Prop 68 Funding

May 1, 2019 in California Water, CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Endangered Species, Fisheries, News Archives, Regulations, Releases, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Salmon, Water Allocations, Water Rights

STATEMENT: Voluntary Agreement on Water Represents the Future and Deserves Prop 68 Funding

By Mike Wade, Executive Director

California Farm Water Coalition

California has always prided itself on cutting-edge ideas. It is the place others turn to for new solutions to old problems. We are currently faced with a choice to continue that tradition of innovation with a fresh approach to water and environmental management or chain ourselves to outdated practices of the past.

Last fall, in a historic first, competing water interests came together to produce a voluntary agreement (VA) that will govern water use, habitat projects, and implement new science-based management practices. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) says the VA would, “increase flows in rivers and the Delta and make major investments in habitat. And perhaps most important, create sustainable funding for these efforts (including fees on water diversions), while improving scientific research on and governance of restoration efforts.”

This agreement is the result of years of collaboration between government agencies, water users and environmental interests, conducting scientific studies and projects that put the new science into practice. The VA takes us out of the slow grind of the existing regulatory process and allows us to use scientific structured decision-making to address problems as we go.

The California Legislature is considering a budget this week with funds specifically earmarked for the VA that could provide additional momentum to this progress. Funding from the voter-approved Proposition 68 will help jump start this science-based process. That would mean choosing science-based rules and voluntary, holistic approaches to problems rather than the outdated regulatory status quo. The PPIC says, “What’s clear is that negotiated solutions to water conflicts are fairer and longer-lasting than top-down regulatory solutions or, worse yet, litigated solutions where judges end up trying to manage water.”

And there’s no reason to cling to the past. It’s clear that the current outdated system isn’t working for anyone. Endangered fish populations continue to struggle; farmers face dwindling water supplies; urban users make continuous cutbacks; groundwater supplies are dangerously depleted; and current policy does not address new challenges we face from climate change.

One of the many things this process has revealed is that helping struggling fish populations takes more than water, which is important, but not the only habitat feature fish need. It takes a combination of water at the right time plus attention to habitat, food supply and predator control.

There are other ingredients essential to this agreement. Under the VA, change happens now. Additional water for environmental purposes and habitat restoration begins immediately. That means we reap the benefits today. The regulatory approach could take decades. Plus, in another important first, agricultural water users will pay fees to implement ongoing environmental projects. While there is a need for initial Prop 68 funding, user fees are critical to long-term success because they are an ongoing source of funding.

In a letter to legislators in support of the VA, a group of statewide organizations, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the Bay Area Council, summed it up this way: “The Voluntary Agreements provide a tremendous opportunity to provide more water for fish, wildlife and habitat restoration and a more reliable water supply for a growing state with climate and water supply challenges. The Voluntary Agreement will replace the policy and legal conflicts that have defined the last three decades. Instead, they rely on a collaborative and adaptive management process that will move the state substantially closer to the coequal goals of providing a more reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the Delta ecosystem.”

California must choose. The Voluntary Agreement represents the future and a new path away from a failed regulatory approach.

We Need Both Wet Winters and Long-Term Planning to Stay out of Drought

April 3, 2019 in CFWC Blog

We Need Both Wet Winters and Long-Term Planning to Stay out of Drought

Groundwater recharge and storage ponds are part of the solution

An online search of “California drought” literally turns up millions of articles, and some of the headlines appear in conflict. One series says California is “drought-free” and others warn we’re still operating at a water deficit.

What’s the real story? Should California celebrate or is not yet time to stop doing our rain dance?

Both sets of headlines are true. We’ve definitely had a wet winter. As of April 2, the Sierra snowpack was 161% of normal and we’ve also had a lot of rain, with 18 trillion gallons falling in February alone. However, we also have depleted groundwater reserves due to the length and severity of our most recent drought. And most experts predict that California is likely to stay on this “boom” or “bust” water cycle for the foreseeable future.

The good news is there are things that can, and are, being done to equip the state to deal with our water and climate reality so Californians aren’t reduced to simply holding our collective breath each winter, waiting to see what Mother Nature decides to serve us. Water districts, government agencies and farmers have been researching solutions and preparing projects for years.

Large water storage projects are critical to our future. They allow us to save water in the wet years on a sizeable scale. Multiple projects are ready to go, with all the necessary research and studies completed and funding in the works. However, these projects obviously take time to build and we also need additional strategies to help us now.

Local water districts are expanding local and regional solutions to improve water management.

This is where local water districts have been stepping up to provide smaller solutions in the near term. By building infrastructure that captures high water flow when available, these projects help prevent flooding as well as direct that water into groundwater recharge areas. Many of these projects are now becoming operational.

One group of water districts known as the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority are currently expanding a pilot project. With funding assistance from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Exchange Contractors, in partnership with the neighboring Del Puerto Water District, built a 20-acre recharge and recovery pilot project in the Orestimba Creek area. Due to its success, the Authority expanded the project to an 80-acre site with funding assistance from the Office of Emergency Services (OES) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The expanded project, operational this year, will capture flood flows from both the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers as well as Orestimba Creek. It will provide a long-term solution to area flooding, as well as provide storage for that water.

An even larger project on Los Banos Creek, a cooperative effort among various water districts, is almost fully operational. It creates nearly 200 acres of additional recharge and storage ponds, 7 recovery wells and harnesses previously evaporating water.

In another approach, the San Luis Canal Company has invested millions in new technology and upgraded infrastructure. SLCC’s new water-regulating reservoirs and other infrastructure improvements allow for on-demand water deliveries. This makes it possible for individual farmers to install water conservation systems such as drip irrigation. The conserved water that results from these efforts helps take the pressure off our groundwater supplies. Similar projects are underway in other water districts as well.

Together, these and other projects provide multiple benefits. They not only conserve and store water, they take the pressure off the need to pump groundwater, help diminish subsidence, contribute to groundwater recharge, prevent flooding and provide a more consistent water supply to critical wildlife habitat as well as farms and people.

And in the end, we will need it all – wet winters as well as small and large projects, capable of capturing and storing the water that comes to us.

Bold Actions for People, Farms, and the Environment

February 6, 2019 in California Water, CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Focus Areas, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Salmon, Water Management

Bold Actions for People, Farms, and the Environment

The United States Bureau of Reclamation is commencing a process aimed at modernizing the operations of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP).  For decades, the approaches to protecting the fish and wildlife dependent on the Bay-Delta watershed and estuary have been species-by-species and stressor-by stressor.  Those approaches have failed.  The effort by Reclamation responds to a consensus view within the scientific community and policy direction from the State of California – that, to improve protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife, comprehensive approaches are required.

The United States Bureau of Reclamation recently completed an important part of that process and issued what is known as a biological assessment.  In simple terms, a biological assessment evaluates the possible effects that a project or action may have on a species listed as threatened or endangered as well as critical habitat protected by the Endangered Species Act. The assessment leads to a set of rules to help protect threatened or endangered species, in this case, salmon, Delta smelt, and other fish dependent on the Bay-Delta. 

Reclamation’s biological assessment advances a proposed operation that responds to science and policy. It seeks to establish new rules that allow for operation of the CVP and SWP to meet the water supply needs of the people in urban and agricultural communities, within a suite of actions that address directly the many physical, biological, and chemical factors that adversely affect the health of the ecosystem.


This biological assessment process is a critical step in protecting our environment and our water supply.  The biological assessment looks back at what we’ve learned and applies it to future measures. In the case of the Bay-Delta, what we have been doing hasn’t worked as the health of the Bay-Delta continues to decline, with important species, like salmon and smelt continuing their death spiral to a point of near extinction.  Without undertaking this process and without the bold step by Reclamation, we remain mired in mistakes of the past.

Release of the biological assessment is one effort of many required to improve conditions for fish and wildlife and make water supply more reliable.  In December, California’s Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Chuck Bonham, and Director of the Department of Water Resources, Karla Nemeth, laid out another effort, a far-reaching plan that incorporates what we have learned from past errors and current studies and establishes an adaptive management program designed to react to new science for the benefit of the ecosystem as a whole. This comprehensive solution provides stable funding for habitat restoration and a more comprehensive approach to fish protection and enhancement, including efforts to reduce predation, eliminate passage barriers, and increase hatchery production. Now, all parties need to commit to moving beyond incremental change and take bold action by finalizing the voluntary agreements.


Governor Gavin Newson is the right person to lead California into a bold new future for people and the environment. He joined former Governor Brown and Senator Feinstein in supporting a comprehensive solution.  The Farm Water Coalition had the opportunity in the not-too-distant past to host a tour into the heart of the San Joaquin Valley for then-Lieutenant Governor Newsom. We were impressed with his grasp of the issues, not only with respect to agriculture but for rural communities that depend on the farm economy and on the wildlife areas that partner with irrigation districts to improve water supply reliability for everyone.

Governor Newsom has been characterized as someone with big ideas and a willingness to take bold action. That’s what California needs as we look ahead to a new, overarching approach to protecting and enhancing the Bay-Delta and the water supplies of those in urban and agricultural areas as well as the willingness of locals to invest in that future.