Food Grows Where Water Flows

For more than 25 years, the California Farm Water Coalition has been working with our members to share information about farm water issues, and reminding Californians that "Food Grows Where Water Flows."

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CFWC Blog

CFWC Statement on Voluntary Agreements Presented to the State Water Board on its Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan

December 12, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Farm Water in the News, Releases

CFWC Statement on Voluntary Agreements Presented to the State Water Board on its Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan

“Water users and the State of California have brought to the table almost 1 million acre-feet of water and almost $2 billion in funding to implement an unprecedented set of ecosystem restoration goals. It is a comprehensive, system-wide plan that will start showing progress in 2019 with restored habitat, functional water flows, improved temperature for fish, and floodplain improvements that are proven to grow stronger, healthier salmon on their journey to the ocean. We hope the Water Board will choose this more collaborative approach to its water quality control plan rather than a set of forced rules that will harm communities and the economy and that haven’t worked in similar efforts to help fish populations in the past.”

Learn more about the proposed voluntary agreements at: https://water.ca.gov/-/media/DWR-Website/Web-Pages/Blogs/Voluntary-Settlement-Agreement-Meeting-Materials-Dec-12-2018-DWR-CDFW-CNRA.pdf

Countdown: 1 Day to Drought

November 6, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Fisheries, Food Production, Regulations, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Salmon, Water Management, Water Rights

Countdown: 1 Day to Droughthourglass with dripping water close-up

On Wednesday, the State Water Board will vote to remove enough water from the system to irrigate over 200,000 acres of farmland or meet the domestic needs of 2 million people every year. If approved, this action will lead to one of the most predictable droughts California has ever faced.

Is a Compromise Still Possible?

UPDATE: Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom sent a letter late on November 6th requesting the State Water Board postpone action on the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan until December 12, 2018. View the Letter HERE.

Until the Board votes, it’s not too late.

Farmers, irrigation districts, large cities, small towns, schools, sanitation officials, economic development agencies, large industries, small business owners and millions of Californians who have implored the Board to reconsider are ready to sit down today, as we have been for years, and work out a compromise plan.

And we come armed with up-to-date science, real world data showing demonstrable results and a willingness to work for a sustainable solution that serves all Californians. The alternative serves no one and the devastation it would cause has been well documented – $3.1 billion in lost economic activity, according to local experts, thousands of jobs gone, land fallowed, loss of water to urban and disadvantaged rural communities alike, negative impacts on schools, local sanitation, and more.

Insufficient water means lost crop production.

 It’s also been well documented that decades of following this same water-only policy has had no effect – fish have continued to decline. And now, the benefits of trying another, more holistic approach are also documented.

A California future that includes healthy rivers and fish as well as jobs, fresh local produce and water for schools, businesses and homes is in front of us if the Board will allow it.

Countdown: 2 Days to Drought

November 5, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Fisheries, Regulations, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Salmon, Water Management, Water Rights

Countdown: 2 Days to Droughthourglass with dripping water close-up

On Wednesday, the State Water Board will vote to remove enough water from the system to irrigate over 200,000 acres of farmland or meet the annual domestic needs of 2 million people every year. If approved, this action will lead to one of the most preventable droughts California has faced.

How Will This Impact Our Food Supply?

Simply put, less water for farms will mean less of the fresh, local produce our families depend on.

California farmers have proven incredibly resilient in drought situations, employing the latest technology to do more with less. However, while you can grow food with less water you can’t grow it with no water.

In conjunction with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, as much as 1 million acres statewide may be fallowed due to the combined impact of these two overlapping regulations. Just ONE acre of land can yield almost 100,000 pounds of tomatoes or 36,000 heads of lettuce. Imagine the impact on California-grown tomatoes, lettuce, oranges, avocadoes, apples, strawberries, grapes, almonds, peaches and more if we have one MILLION acres less to grow our food? You can’t support California’s world-class orchards without reliable water supplies from year to year. The Water Board’s answer? Grow different crops. But farmers grow the crops people want, not the ones the State Water Board’s policy dictates.

U.S. orchard land.

Will there be less produce available, higher prices, fruits and vegetables that are less fresh because they must be shipped in, or all three? It’s hard to know exactly at this point, but the impacts for California consumers will be measurable and will not be limited to freshness and availability.

Our food has to come from somewhere, right? So, if we have less California produce available, then what? If we decrease our capacity at home, we put the safety and reliability of our fresh food supply in the hands of other countries that do not grow food under the same strict regulations that we follow in California.

In addition, our environment will suffer. Importing food to replace what we don’t grow at home means more ships, moretrucks, and more pollution.

There’s still time to adopt compromise plans supported by water districts, scientists, education officials, health departments, farmers, farm workers, cities, economic development officials and others ready to implement solutions that science tells us will help.

Countdown: 3 Days to Drought

November 4, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Fisheries, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Salmon, Topics, Water Management, Water Rights

Countdown: 3 Days to Drought

hourglass with dripping water close-up

On Wednesday, the State Water Board will vote to redirect enough water in the system to irrigate over 200,000 acres of farmland or meet the annual domestic needs of 2 million people every year. If approved, this action will lead to one of the most preventable droughts California has ever faced.

Is This Just Fish vs Farms?

Absolutely not. The negative impacts of this policy are broad and deep. Education officials are concerned about water supplies for schools, water experts worry this will stall groundwater replenishment, health officials are troubled by potential impacts on sanitation, cities large and small don’t know how they will replace the lost supply, Bay Area experts are alarmed by potential cuts to water supply, lost jobs and lost economic activity, and the list goes on and on, including some unexpected consequences. In a recent article from Breitbart News, Joel Pollak writes, “Leslie McGowan, the CEO of Livingston Community Health, said local hospitals saw the impact of water shortages — in the rising number of indigent patients, and in the rise of opioid use and other forms of substance abuse.”

Read about additional consequences in the words of those impacted:

“Let us be clear. The detrimental impacts of the Board’s plan will be felt strongly by the children that we serve. . . it is unclear why you have not taken the time to study the financial implications to school districts that would be forced to provide bottled water and portable toilets, or relocate schools entirely, as wells go dry. . . Access to drinking water and water for sanitation is a basic requirement for us to fulfill our mandate to provide quality education to the children of our districts.”

Steven Gomes, Merced County Superintendent of Schools
Tom Changnon, Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools

 “Many communities in the Merced area are already experiencing well production problems and drinking water quality issues . . . Over 800,000 people live in the two counties [Stanislaus and Merced]. Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for the majority of the local population. The plan sorely understates the devastation this recommendation will cause. As an Interim Director of Environmental Health, I am required to ensure that safe, adequate, and dependable water supplies are available for domestic use.”

Vicki Jones, Interim Director of Environmental Health
Merced County Department of Public Health

“The consequences of these cutbacks potentially could cripple our Bay Area economy. Our initial economic analysis of the first iteration of this plan forecast up to 51 percent rationing, resulting in 140,000 to 188,000 jobs lost in the Bay Area.”

Harlan L. Kelly Jr., General Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
Nicole Sandkulla, CEO and General Manager, Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency. 

 

There’s still time to adopt compromise plans supported by water districts, scientists, education officials, health departments, farmers, farm workers, cities, economic development officials and others ready to implement solutions that science tells us will help.

Countdown: 4 Days to Drought

November 3, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Fisheries, Regulations, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Salmon, Water Management, Water Rights, Water Supply

Countdown: 4 Days to Drought

hourglass with dripping water close-up

On Wednesday, the State Water Board will vote to redirect enough water in the system to irrigate over 200,000 acres of farmland or meet the annual domestic needs of 2 million people every year. If approved, this action will lead to one of the most preventable droughts California has ever faced.

 

Who will Benefit?

Sadly, no one. The Board claims that withholding this water from the human population will help fish. However, they are basing their assumptions on outdated science.

Water districts and farmers working with conservationists, government agencies and others have spent millions in the past decades studying the ecosystems of our rivers and ways to make them healthier. The resulting science has revealed a more complete vision of the problem and a holistic approach to solving it. There is growing agreement among scientists that fish need more than water to survive and thrive. We need to restore habitat, increase food supply and decrease the number of predators.  In addition, we’ve learned that more important than the amount of water in the system is the timing of adding water to the system. These “functional flows” release water when, where and how it makes sense from a biological perspective.

Decades of following the water-only approach favored by the Board has had no effect – fish have continued to decline. And now, the benefits of moving away from exclusively focusing on the amount of water in the river and towards a more comprehensive approach have been documented and this strategy is now supported by our state’s most prominent water experts.

 “Frankly, I think we have to get away from this notion of trying to do the math based on this much water for this many fish. That just doesn’t work. . . there is an argument that [more water] won’t make a significant enough difference unless you deal with all the other problems.”

Michael George, Delta Watermaster

“Large-scale habitat improvements in the south and central delta are key to improving salmon survival. Higher flows alone won’t be successful.”

Peter Moyle, Professor Emeritus, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology and
associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences, UC Davis

“Simply increasing river flow represents a “sort of a scientific laziness related to the ‘fish-gotta-swim’ theory of environmental flows, like the more water you give them, the more of them there are going to be to swim.”

Jay Lund, Director, Center for Watershed Sciences, UC Davis

“Is the goal more water or is the goal more fish? If it’s about fish, there are better solutions.”

Doug Demko, President of Fishbio, environmental consulting firm

And Doug is correct – there are better ways. The Board’s own estimates say that the $100 million in annual community costs (local experts say the cost will be much more) will produce an additional 4,139 salmon.  That’s almost $25,000 per fish. Science shows us we can do better with less devastation.

There’s still time to adopt compromise plans supported by water districts, scientists, education officials, health departments, farmers, farm workers, cities, economic development officials and others ready to implement solutions that science tells us will help.

6 Things You Should Know About the Recent Presidential Order Streamlining Water Delivery

October 23, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Farm Water in the News, Federal Legislation, Fisheries, Groundwater, Water Allocations, Water Supply

6 Things You Should Know About the Recent Presidential Order Streamlining Water Delivery

On Friday, October 19, President Trump signed an order streamlining the federal process that governs much of California’s water-delivery system.

While this is definitely great news for California farmers, it’s also good news for all California water users. Let’s look at a few of the things Californians should know about this order.

  1. Breaking the bureaucratic logjam governing water policy is good for California folks, farms and fish.

For decades, multiple federal agencies have exercised control over California water policy leading to conflicting regulations and uncoordinated regulatory actions which all lead to delay and increased costs. During his tenure, President Obama pointed out the obvious problems with one federal agency having control over salmon in fresh water and another when the fish is in salt water.

The President’s order directs the agencies involved to streamline the process and remove unnecessary burdens. Ending this bureaucratic chokehold will make water delivery more reliable for all Californians.

Read more. https://bit.ly/2yQe5aA

  1. Mandating that policy decisions be based on current science is just common sense

Science helps us understand how our ecosystems function and how to best balance the needs of all. It’s just common sense to make decisions impacting all California water users on the best, most current, science. In 2010 a federal judge noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was using “sloppy science and unidirectional prescriptions that ignore California’s water needs.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals largely concurred.

Las week’s presidential order mandates that the agencies involved base decisions on the most current science, again benefiting all water users.

Read more. https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-california-water-relief-1539991035

  1. Reaffirming our commitment to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and providing more water to wildlife provides important environmental benefits.

Many people are not aware that California’s San Joaquin Valley is rich with birds, plants, animals, fish and insects. Its rivers, streams and wildlife sanctuaries host millions of waterfowl, Tule elk, turtles, cranes, deer and many other species that call the San Joaquin Valley home. Much of California’s richest farmland also hosts important wildlife refuges.

The president’s order specifically reaffirms the importance of the ESA in developing policy and sets timelines for environmental reviews. In addition, by freeing up water for the Central Valley it will bring water to wildlife refuges that are a critical component of the Pacific Flyway and have had insufficient water to meet the needs of millions of ducks, geese, shorebirds, songbirds and endangered animals.

Read more. https://bit.ly/2n41FHb

  1. Removing barriers to building new storage projects helps all Californians.

No large State or federal water storage projects have been built in California since 1979. Having more ways to store water in wet years for use in the dry ones, just makes sense for all of us.

This order will speed the review process for storage and other important water infrastructure projects, greatly contributing to a secure water future for California.

  1. Preserving California’s ability to grow healthy food benefits us all.

California farmers do a lot with the water they have. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, agricultural water use in the Golden State is down 15 percent since 1980 but production is up more than 60 percent. If we curtail their ability to grow safe, healthy food we’ll have to import more from other places. That’s both a national security issue and a food safety issue. It’s also bad for the environment to outsource our food production – Importing food to replace what we don’t grow at home means more ships, moretrucks, and more pollution.

  1. This order is not about fish vs farms – it’s about making a reliable water supply more accessible to all Californians.

As the California Farm Water Coalition pointed out in its press release, “It’s not about farms vs fish. It’s about making smart decisions, using modern science so we can accommodate all California water uses.”

Watch the video https://bit.ly/2Cx7ky8