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

It Is Time to Modernize Our Water Supply Infrastructure

April 21, 2020 in CFWC Blog, Releases

It Is Time to Modernize Our Water Supply Infrastructure

“Today’s letters by over 150 agricultural organizations and water interests to President Trump and Congress underscores the need for investments in our water supply infrastructure to protect the nation’s food supply

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how much we all depend on a reliable food supply chain. Making sure farmers are prepared to feed the country tomorrow is only possible if we make smart investments in our water supply system today.”

“Simply put, farmers need water to grow the food we all depend on. Many of the facilities that supply water to farms, rural, and urban communities were built more than 50 years ago and are unable to meet the needs of an increasing population without investments to keep them operating.”

 

Statement by Water and Agricultural Interests

(Washington, D.C.) – A coalition of 150 organizations representing water and agricultural interests in the western U.S. urged Congress and President Trump today to address aging Western water infrastructure as further measures are considered to help the U.S. economy recover from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
“The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of safety and stability provided by domestic food production,” the groups stated in separate letters to Congress and the president. “As this crisis has pointed out, a stable domestic food supply is essential and of national security interest. For farmers and ranchers to survive, and for food to continue to be produced here in the American West, a stable water supply is a necessary part of any conversation about our national food security.”
 
President Trump has stated his belief that renewed efforts to meet the systemic infrastructure demands of the nation will be an important step in combating the long-term impacts of the pandemic.
 
“We strongly agree,” the organizations stated in the letter to the White House. “In particular, we urge you to advance critically needed investments that address the shortcomings of our aging Western water infrastructure.”
 
Existing water infrastructure in the West needs rehabilitation and improvement. Most of the federally funded water infrastructure projects that benefit the large cities, rural communities and small farms in the West were built more than 50 years ago. As hydrological conditions in the West change and populations continue to expand, failure to address water security has become increasingly critical.
 
“Failing to improve water infrastructure and develop supplies will inevitably result in additional conflict as pressure grows to ‘solve’ urban and environmental water shortages,” the groups stated in the letter to Congress. “Moving water away from Western irrigated agriculture will surely contribute to the decline of our national food security.”
 
The coalition letters-spearheaded by the California Farm Bureau Federation, Family Farm Alliance and Western Growers-emphasize that water conservation, water recycling, watershed management, conveyance, desalination, water transfers, groundwater storage and surface storage are all needed in a diversified management portfolio.
 
“If and when additional infrastructure funding is discussed as part of a larger economic stimulus package, we need your help to ensure that federal dollars flow to the water infrastructure needs mentioned above,” the letters conclude.

Funding Shovel-Ready Water Projects Can Help California Recover More Quickly

April 15, 2020 in CFWC Blog

Funding Shovel-Ready Water Projects Can Help California Recover More Quickly

As the news cautiously turns to a discussion of getting back to work, we’re all trying to envision, and plan for, what our new world will look like.

In California, one issue we still must deal with is ensuring an adequate water supply for people, farms and the environment.

And while there are hopeful signs of a new, cooperative path forward between all water users, putting a new policy structure in place is just part of the solution. The good news is, there are things that can be done to improve our existing infrastructure that could produce benefits now.

As the federal government considers another round of stimulus legislation one of the things on the table is a list of shovel-ready water projects. Californians are used to thinking of water projects as massive undertakings that could be in process for decades. And while these larger projects are still important, there are a host of smaller projects, ready to go, that could make an immediate difference in the state’s water supply – if only they had funding.

Much of our existing water infrastructure is aging and in need of repair. Some of the fixes would be small in overall dollars when you consider the breadth of the federal stimulus effort, but significant in terms of benefit.

Install Concrete Canal Linings

Many of our canals that move water around the state were built decades ago. California loses a significant amount of water when it seeps out of these aging conveyances. Lining canals with concrete could save thousands of acre-feet of water. One proposed project estimates that lining 10,000 linear feet of canal would save 5,000 acre-feet of water every year. That’s enough water to meet the household needs of 60,000 people or produce 166 million salads.

Repair Cracks in Tunnels

Tunnels have carried water throughout California for more than a century and are another example of water conveyance in need of repair. As they age and develop cracks, we can lose significant amounts of water. Repairing those existing tunnels can be accomplished relatively quickly and could save a lot of water that would otherwise simply be lost.

Fix Gates and Other Water-Control Mechanisms at Dams and Reservoirs

Water stored in reservoirs is managed with gates and valves that regulate its flow. But when the parts of these structures begin to wear and start leaking, that leaked portion of our water supply is no longer efficiently managed. Making overdue repairs to ensure this vital infrastructure doesn’t leak is just common sense.

Increase Storage Capacity of Existing Structures

Californians have witnessed the shifting weather patterns in our state. When precipitation does come down, we’re seeing a tendency towards more rain and less snow. And our water years tend to boomerang between very wet and very dry, making water storage even more critical. Capturing water in wet years for use when it gets dry is something the public supports, and it can take decades to plan and build the infrastructure we need. While larger projects are in process, there are things we can do to increase storage now. One of them is increasing the storage capacity of existing dams, which is cost-effective and can bring quicker results.

Fish Screens and Other Environmental Protections

Increasing our ability to protect fish allows us to more safely move the water so desperately needed by all Californians. The science behind fish screens shows us they work and installing them on rivers is an investment in both water supply and the environment.

California farmers produce more than 50 percent of the nation’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables and we’ve seen throughout the coronavirus pandemic how critical it is to keep our food supply moving from farm to grocery store. Supporting these cost-effective, timely, common-sense measures will help make our water supply more reliable for all Californians. And that’s something we can all get behind.

Moving Forward With Modern Science and Smart Management- Biological Opinions in 2020

March 11, 2020 in CFWC Blog, Water Supply

Moving Forward With Modern Science and Smart Management- Biological Opinions in 2020

New Federal Biological Opinions Utilize the Latest Science to Benefit Fish and Other Water Users

One thing all Californians know for certain is that our current system of managing water isn’t working for anyone.

Over the past decade, struggling fish populations have continued to decline, farms have been forced to fallow land, and cities and towns face ever-tightening restrictions.

Meanwhile, endless lawsuits tie up progress in court, further locking our failing system into place.

In an effort to break the policy logjam, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently updated federal biological opinions (BiOps) which are rules that exist to protect endangered, and threatened species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region while also meeting the water supply needs of Californian’s farms, businesses and our people.

Let’s be clear – because the old rules are based on science that is now over a decade old, these failed rules badly needed updating. We must act now to adopt smart solutions, and modern science to prepare for our changing world.

It’s past time to update our policies and take actions that can produce a more secure water future for all Californians.

Here are a just a few reasons we should all welcome this policy update:

Embraces modern science and provides the ability to continuously update the science and use it to adapt rules as necessary

Science has been steadily progressing while the old rules were in effect. However, the process to incorporate new findings into existing rules simply didn’t exist. The new BiOps not only incorporate 10 years of study, they put in place adaptive management to help keep the rules up to date as we go. To keep us from once again letting rules get outdated while struggling species suffer, the new Biological Opinions allow for ongoing scientific review as well as independent evaluation by outside experts.

Adopts smart, data-based tools to help struggling species, using real-time monitoring rather than an arbitrary calendar date

Would you rather have a doctor treat you for symptoms they see or provide medication simply because the calendar says it’s flu season? Exactly.

Under the old rules, a calendar dictated when water was moved through the system or withheld. This rigid, arbitrary approach that often ignored what was actually happening in California’s delta. Under the new BiOps, scientists will monitor conditions, and officials must account for fish needs in real-time and base pumping decisions on the actual conditions witnessed. Plus, there is a commitment to reduce pumping when sensitive species are present. We believe this new approach will provide better protection for fish and is part of a broader strategy to improve their chance of a full recovery.

Pays for new tools to help fish thrive

One of the things science has taught us over the last decade is that water is just one of many factors impacting the health of fish populations. Improving habitat, increasing food supply, and enhancing predator control also play significant roles.

Under the new biological opinions, $1.5 billion will be spent on fishery improvements that scientists have shown can benefit our native species. That includes investments in habitat, restored spawning grounds and side channels in rivers and streams that are important to the salmon life cycle. Other measures will be put in place specifically for Delta smelt.

Not only did the old rules provide none of this assistance, they were not even allowed to consider these critical factors.

In terms of water, the new rules will increase the amount of cold water stored behind Shasta Dam in order to maintain healthy temperatures for spawning salmon in times of drought.

Provides more supply to California’s water users AND better protects struggling fish

Opponents claim that the new rules are bad simply because they provide more water for farms, businesses, cities and towns. But as with the existing BiOps, that is an outdated way of viewing the situation. Water supply in California does not have to be a zero-sum game. Thanks to improved science we have found better ways to protect fish while also providing additional supply to other water users.

Why all Californians should care about these rules

Getting these rules right impacts the entire state. Water from the federally-run Central Valley Project delivers enough water to meet the needs of 1 million California households, over 3 million acres of some of the most productive farmland in the world and over a million acre-feet of water for fish and wildlife and their habitat, including state and federal wildlife refuges and wetlands. The State Water Project serves the water needs of 750,000 acres of productive farmland and part of the domestic water supply for two-thirds of all Californians.

Having the new rules in place will provide greater flexibility within the entire system, producing greater reliability of supply for all.

Where do we go from here?

As exciting and forward-looking as the new BiOps are, they are one piece of a very complicated water puzzle. Federal, state and local governments must continue to work with all water users to bring our entire water management system up-to-date.

Statement by Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition on the Initial Allocation Announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation

February 25, 2020 in CFWC Blog, Releases, Water Allocations, Water Supply

Statement by Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition on the Initial Allocation Announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation

February 25, 2020

“Today’s announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation of a 15 percent initial allocation for water supplies south of the Delta is clearly the result of the dry hydrology California is experiencing. February is shaping up to be possibly the first time in recorded history without any measurable precipitation. That alone is evidence that California may be on the leading edge of another drought.

“These dry conditions are similar to what we saw in 2009. For months farmers were not given an allocation amount and told they may get zero water. In April of that year, well past the time to make effective planting decisions, the allocation was set at 10 percent.

“The new biological opinions implemented last week are already making a difference by allocating 15 percent in February. We’re obviously hopeful that allocations will rise, but we’re pleased to be off to a better start than we were under the old operating rules.

“Had the new biological opinions been in place last year we believe an additional 1 million acre-feet of water could have been stored for use this year, delivering more water and offering better species protection, based on what we’ve learned over the past 10 years studying the Delta and its tributaries.

“That kind of operational flexibility is essential for California to remain the nation’s leading farm state and to continue to produce more than half of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the U.S. as well as vast amounts of dairy, beef and nursery products.”

Statement on the Adoption of the New Biological Opinions

February 19, 2020 in Endangered Species, Releases

Statement by California Farm Water Coalition Executive Director Mike Wade on the Adoption of the New Biological Opinions

“For the first time in more than a decade, the federal rules known as Biological Opinions are being updated. These rules exist to protect threatened species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region while also meeting the water supply needs of farms, businesses and people.

“The new Biological Opinions, based on more than 10 years of scientific study, will allow California to manage water in real-time using the latest science rather than relying on an arbitrary calendar approach that takes years to recognize updated research. The decade-old rules are based on outdated science and have failed to help Delta smelt, Chinook salmon and other threatened species. And to keep us from once again letting rules get outdated while struggling species suffer, the new Biological Opinions allow for ongoing scientific review as well as independent evaluation by outside experts.

“Getting these rules right impacts the entire state. Water from the federally-run Central Valley Project delivers enough water to meet the needs of 1 million California households, over 3 million acres of some of the most productive farmland in the world and over a million-acre feet of water for fish and wildlife and their habitat, including state and federal wildlife refuges and wetlands. The State Water Project serves the water needs of 750,000 acres of productive farmland and the domestic water supply for two-thirds of all Californians. We applaud the Trump Administration as well as California leadership including Representatives Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes for their part in making this a reality.

“To be clear, this is just one piece of a very complicated puzzle that we hope includes new Voluntary Agreements on water. We support the Newsom Administration’s efforts to make water policy work better for all Californians.”

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Newsom on California Water Future & Voluntary Agreements

February 4, 2020 in CFWC Blog, Regulations, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Voluntary Agreements

Newsom on California Water Future

On January 29, 2020 Governor Newsom spoke on the topics of energy, wildfires and climate change to an audience with PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California.) He was asked about his strategy for California water.

 

Check out these quotes, or watch the full video below.

"These are real human beings whose lives are being torn asunder because of the scarcity of water.

...That's why I think we can do more with flexibility, working together."

"You're not bringing that back by getting in seven years of lawsuits where nothing gets done. That's why I'm pursuing voluntary agreements..."

"When we talk about fallowing land, that is real people, real lives, and I have to look them in the eyes.

It may be an intellectual thing for some who are sitting on the coast, with all due respect, reading the newspaper and talking about the aggregate and saying "well our economy is doing fine"- but what about that poor damn mother that literally can't take care of that kid because they can't get that work anymore?"

"You don't do that to someone. You don't destroy that community... ...We have got to be held accountable."

"I want everyone to calm down. ...Just give us a chance."

"I have one of the best EPA directors we have ever had. He's one of the great champions of the environment. I have one of the best water folk... Wade Crowfoot and the team he's assembled- These are real, great human beings that care deeply about the environment, and they think it's right to reach out to ag and work with these guys."

"The world is changing - We have to change with it - flexibility. Putting the old binaries aside; getting off our high horse; recognizing that we need each other.

There's no leak on your side of our boat, we need each other."

Watch the full video of Governor Newsom at PPIC on YouTube: LINK

Skip to his comments on water: LINK