STATEMENT: Water allocation is good news; but does not end drought or restrictive regulations

Water Allocation is Good News, But Doesn’t End Drought

The following is a statement by Executive Director Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition in response to the DWR announcement of 10 percent water allocation from the State Water Project.)

“Today’s announcement that the State Water Project will deliver an initial allocation of 10 percent of contracted amounts to its contractors is good news, but it does not signal an end to the drought or environmental regulations that have resulted in low deliveries to farms, homes and businesses. As indicated by DWR Director Mark Cowin, that number could fluctuate depending on the months ahead and how much rain and snow fall in our state.

“The State Water Project delivers water to nearly 1 million acres of farmland. Another 2 million acres is serviced by the federal Central Valley Project, which delivered zero percent of contracted amounts in 2014. Farmers receiving water from the CVP must wait until early next year to learn if the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will deliver any water.

“Farms, homes and businesses have experienced water cutbacks for 20 years because environmental regulations have prevented water from being delivered. Yet, no studies have provided proof that water directed for these environmental purposes has provided any benefits. It is time to rework these onerous regulations that are harming our citizens.”

On the Abandonment of Federal Drought Legislation

Drought Impacts

On the Abandonment of Federal Drought Legislation

“California’s Central Valley has shouldered more Federal Drought Legislationthan its share of the pain brought on by reduced water deliveries and the drought. For more than 20 years, misguided environmental policies have drained California of over 20 million acre-feet of water – water that was originally intended to grow food. These regulations have flushed enough water out of the system to fill Lake Shasta five times.

That might make sense if dumping massive amounts of water was actually helping the ecosystem but it’s not. Threatened and endangered fish continue to languish. The supporters of those failed policies continue to press our elected leaders to do nothing rather than find a balanced solution that serves people at the same level that we serve the environment.

It’s these regulations that Senator Feinstein was attempting to modify; To deliver more water to our communities without harming the protections in the Endangered Species Act. But that didn’t happen.

When we look around the Valley we see unemployment, long lines at food banks, failed businesses, portable showers for people without water and almost half a million acres of fallowed farmland. It’s reliable water that enables that land to produce the food that fills grocery shelves across the state and around the world. We are eroding our ability to feed ourselves and employ our people.

Without needed reform there are two certainties we can count on: The situation for Valley residents isn’t going to improve and neither will the situation for the environment.”


Mike Wade
Executive Director
California Farm Water Coalition

UC study provides look at consequences from water shortages

california drought

Below is a statement by Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition.


An updated study released today by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences provides a glimpse of the consequences of water supply shortages for the state of California. These effects will be felt as escalating unemployment, substantial economic loss and ongoing future water supply shortages.

“We expected the numbers to increase from the previous report released in May,” said Executive Director Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition. “As the growing season continues, the numbers may go even higher.”

Updating the previous report, researchers underscored the importance of having sufficient surface water deliveries to replenish the groundwater being utilized by farmers to survive this unprecedented drought.

Increases in estimates of drought-related unemployment bring levels to approximately 2.5 times those experienced in the drought of 2009. The report also raised estimated losses to the state economy to more than $2.2 billion in 2014.

Impacts will be primarily focused in some of the state’s most vulnerable regions, particularly those regions serviced by the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project.

The report also warns that there is a better than 50 percent chance that water supply shortages may continue into next year, regardless of potential El Nino weather events.

Farmers are being forced to dip into groundwater savings, as well as turning to water transfers to weather these shortages.

“Farmers would prefer to be using the surface water they are paying to receive, but they have been forced to turn to groundwater supplies to offset the loss of 6.6 million acre-feet of water from surface supplies curtailed by drought and regulations,” said Wade. This loss of water illustrates the failure to upgrade a water storage and delivery system that was built when California’s population was only 23 million. We must prepare today for the growth we know is coming.

“Farmers, are using all the tools they have available, and have also turned to water markets to purchase available water. This water is coming at prices that are climbing toward $2,000 per acre-foot; instead of the normal $100-200 per acre-foot cost.

“California cannot withstand future years of drought without an improvement in its water infrastructure. At the same time, more common sense must be applied to regulations that keep water away from farms, people and businesses.”


UPDATE 5/19/14: UC economic report reveals significant impacts caused by drought

central valley drought

“A University of California, Davis economic study that estimates a $1.67 billion loss to agriculture and ag-related industries in the Central Valley will result in a $3.4 billion hit to the state’s economy, based on widely used economic models. The negative effects of the ongoing drought on our farms will create a ripple effect throughout all segments of California.

“Researchers are estimating that 400,000 acres will remain unplanted but added that the numbers will be revised in an updated report expected next month. Earlier surveys conducted by the Coalition doubled that amount of unplanted acreage but recent increases in water deliveries by State and federal projects, along with an increase in pumping from aquifers, have resulted in the lower number.

“This is good news for some farmers as well as consumers that the increased water supply since earlier this year will result in more acres being planted than originally estimated. It still means that almost 15,000 workers will lose their jobs, a unavoidable impact from the drought.

“Consumers can expect food price increases within the expected range normally seen from year-to-year, according to the report. Over 75 percent of the surface water lost due to the drought has been replaced by groundwater pumping, a practice that cannot continue indefinitely. Unless a long-term solution to California’s water supply is developed, including new surface storage, the flexibility brought about by groundwater pumping will be lost, increasing the likelihood that consumer price protections won’t exist in the future.

“An increasing concern is the number of citrus trees that are now being removed from the east side of the San Joaquin Valley. Talks by the Coalition with individual water districts indicate that 4,000 acres of mature citrus trees are being removed and that number could go up. Current deliveries from Friant Dam to farmers in a 130-mile swath from Chowchilla to Bakersfield remain at zero.

“Farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley are also at zero percent for their Central Valley Project deliveries. The result has forced water districts to seek transfers of water that come with a price tag that is as high as 10 times the normal cost farmers pay for their water.

“Mayor Sylvia Chavez of the Westside community of Huron expects only 1,500 workers will be employed by surrounding farms, which normally hire as many as 6,000 seasonal workers. Chavez predicts that people will lose their homes and move away, which will further affect Huron’s business community that has already declined by 10-20 percent.

“The drop in water deliveries to farmers in the Sacramento Valley in Northern California is expected to result in one in five acres planted to rice last year will be out of production. This loss of 112,000 acres means ag-related industries such as Button Transportation in Dixon won’t have positions for more than two dozen drivers to haul fertilizer to rice fields. That means less in the way of diesel fuel and oil purchases, fewer parts purchased from the local automotive parts dealer, fewer tires, etc.”

The study can be found at


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3/18/14: Estimate of unplanted acres jumps to 800,000; consumers expected to feel impacts

california drought

The California Farm Water Coalition has upgraded its estimate of acres farmers will leave idle this year to 800,000 acres, up from 500,000, because of a lack of water.

“Farmers are still waiting to the last minute to determine their planting schedules this year in hopes that the water situation will improve,” said Mike Wade, Coalition Executive Director. “But if dry conditions continue the number of unplanted acres will go up and as each day passes the prospects of returning to a normal water year evaporates.”

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2/21/14: Zero Allocation Result of Drought, Broken Water Supply System

This project includes the development of additional water that can be used for irrigation and wildlife enhancement purposes and to improve groundwater recharge in the area.

“Today’s announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation of a zero water allocation for millions of acres of California farmland was not unexpected. The announcement also underscores how broken the state’s water supply system has become and that significant policy decisions and investments must be made to assure food production is a viable part of California’s future.

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