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CFWC Blog

Governor Newsom’s 15% Voluntary Water Use Reduction

July 9, 2021 in CFWC Blog

A mature orchard lies dead west of Firebaugh, California because water supplies had been cutoff due to the drought

Governor Newsom’s call for a 15 percent voluntary water use reduction is one more reminder of what scientists have been telling us – California’s drought is deepening and we need to do more to capture surplus supplies in response to the new normal of wetter wet years and drier dry years. With adequate planning and political will, we can prevent the shortages we’re seeing now, just a few short years after the State almost lost Oroville Dam during an exceptional flood.

It’s also a reminder that more and more of the state is facing the consequences of this year’s water supply shortages.

This tomato field and others in the vicinity of Mendota, California, were left unplanted due to a zero water allocation due to the drought

In February 2019, eighteen trillion gallons, or 55 million acre-feet, of rain and snow fell on California, a full one-third more than the water needed for all farm and domestic purposes for an entire year. Had we been able to capture and store more of that water, we could have mitigated the devastating consequences now facing us. And now that another drought has arrived in full force, we’re lamenting the fact that more wasn’t done to build the kind of smart storage projects we need to capture more water the next time flood stories inundate the news.

 

Since 1980, California farms have reduced water usage by double digits while at the same time increasing production by 38 percent. Still, many are receiving 0% of their normal water allocation this year, resulting in crops going unplanted and mature orchards being bulldozed.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What state and federal leaders must do now is fund smart water storage projects, repair aging infrastructure so we can reliably deliver water to farms, homes, and businesses, and fund conservation and watershed

One field survives and another is headed for the chipper when farm water supplies are insufficient to irrigate all of California’s productive farmland

programs that will help build resilience into the water supply system for California’s future generations.

California farmers are committed to supplying the safe, healthy, locally grown food supply we all count on. However, just as homeowners and businesses need water to function, so do farmers. Everything we do takes water, and our leaders need to step up and take the necessary actions to mitigate future shortages.

Farm Tours Give Bloggers a Look at How Our Food is Grown

July 1, 2021 in CFWC Blog

CFWC’s Annual Blogger Tours are an opportunity for us to give bloggers an in-depth look at how our food is grown in California for them to share with their followers. Food and lifestyle bloggers are a trusted source of information for hundreds of thousands of their followers. They help spread a positive message about California farmers, the food they grow, and the water needed to do it. Each tour highlights a different region of California’s agriculture. The focus of this year’s event was on winter farming in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys. To comply with social distancing, we took the tour virtual!

Our Guests

We were joined virtually by food and lifestyle bloggers from across the state. Liren Baker is a food blogger based out of San Francisco. She has always enjoyed food and transformed this affection into her blog Kitchen Confidante. The second is Chelsea Foy of Lovely Indeed based out of Modesto. Her blog has blossomed over the years into a full lifestyle theme, including motherhood, travel, shopping, and of course, food. We were also joined by Whitney Bond, a food blogger out of San Diego. Whitney shares approachable recipes made with fresh ingredients to brighten your week.

Taking It Virtual

Our team traveled to the region to film videos and interviews of romaine, broccoli, artichoke, and brussels sprout harvest. After diving into this footage, the bloggers had the chance to ask the farmers questions on a Q&A Zoom call. Despite the distance, we all had a great time and are excited to see the blog posts and recipes the bloggers create!

Meet the Farmers

Ocean Mist artichoke harvest in the Coachella Valley

Adrian Zendejas
Ocean Mist in Coachella, California
Artichokes & Brussels Sprouts
Artichoke Video: https://vimeo.com/554079683
Brussels Sprouts: https://vimeo.com/554079283

Brent Peterson
LaBrucherie Produce in El Centro, California
Romaine Harvest
Video: https://vimeo.com/554078395

Fresh-picked romaine, El Centro

Thomas Cox
Lawrence Cox Ranches in Brawley, California
Broccoli Harvest
Video: https://vimeo.com/554077900

Ellen Way
California Women for Agriculture in Coachella, California
Video: https://vimeo.com/554078945

Sharing Their Experience

This tour gave our bloggers a great introduction to how food is grown and deeper topics like water efficiency, labor, and the challenge of unexpected weather. It started a great conversation about the pride of California’s farmers in growing fresh and safe food that feeds Californians, Americans, and even people across the globe.

Broccoli harvest, Brawley

For the bloggers, this new knowledge will now accompany the incredible dishes they make for their blog using fresh California-grown foods. We are so glad they joined us for the adventure and can’t wait to see where the California Farm Water Coalition Blogger Tour is headed next!

Check out the delicious recipes and experiences the bloggers shared:

LIREN BAKER | @KITCHCONFIDANTE

We’re headed into the most abundant time of the year, when the produce is plentiful. But have you ever stopped to think about where our food comes from in the middle of winter? We often take for granted that we are able to find salad greens in December or broccoli in January – chances are, those veggies are grown in a very unique region in California. Thanks to the Coachella and Imperial Valleys, we have delicious produce, even through the winter! I was able to join my friends at @farmwater for another tour of the farms in my beloved California. We chatted about the abundant variety of produce they grow, their challenges, and the technology that allows them to help them feed us all while conserving the land and its resources.

https://kitchenconfidante.com/broccoli-slaw-with-ramen

CHELSEA FOY | @LOVELYINDEED

As a farmer’s daughter, I have seen first hand how hard farmers work to grow the best crops, use resources responsibly, and get their crops to our tables. California’s agriculture literally feeds the nation, and we’re so lucky here to have access to the fresh foods that farmers grow for us. Next time you’re grocery shopping, take a look and see what farm grew your produce! I’m grateful and proud of the farmers who grow our food, and so thankful for the abundance available to us. P.S. Have you ever seen artichokes being harvested?! It’s fascinating.

https://lovelyindeed.com/easy-artichoke-bruschetta/

WHITNEY BOND | @WHITNEYBOND

Grilled Brussels Sprouts are the surprise summer side dish that will knock your socks off! Thanks to California’s many microclimates, Brussels sprouts are grown year-round, which means you can grill them up all summer long! Serve them as a side dish, as an appetizer with Harissa Tahini Dipping Sauce, on top of a salad, or try all three! You really can’t go wrong!

https://whitneybond.com/grilled-brussels-sprouts/

Updated Map – 2021 Farm Water Supplies Cut Again

June 21, 2021 in CFWC Blog, Drought, Fact Sheets

Updated June, 2021:

California farms are bearing the brunt of this year’s short water supply and have been forced to reduce the acreage of popular California crops, such as asparagus, melons, lettuce, rice, tomatoes, sweet corn, and others.

Water supply reductions mean fewer fresh fruits and vegetables for consumers, massive farm-related job losses, and billions in lost economic activity, impacts that go beyond rural and disadvantaged communities. View the map here.

About 2 million acres of California’s irrigated farmland, or one out of every four acres, has already had its water supply cut by 95 percent or more. More than half of that is getting 0 percent. Another million acres has lost 80 percent of its water supply this year with much of the remaining farmland experiencing cuts of 25 percent or more.

Conditions are similar to those that occurred in 2015. According to a 2015 drought report issued by UC Davis, ERA Economics, and the UC Agricultural issues Center, water supply cuts led to the fallowing of 540,000 acres of farmland, 21,000 lost jobs, and an economic loss of $2.7 billion.

Critical reservoirs, including Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, Millerton, and San Luis combined have reached record lows. They are essential to supplying rural communities with drinking water, irrigating farms, supplying water to wildlife refuges, and recharging aquifers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys where a majority of California-grown food products originate.

It is a distressing time for farmers, farm workers, and businesses that depend on agriculture all across California and illustrates the need to invest in infrastructure that will increase our ability to capture more water during wet years when it is abundant to save for dry years like this. It also puts a strain on consumers who want local, California-grown fresh food choices for their families.

Learn more:

 

Map Shows 2021 Farm Water Supply Cuts

April 12, 2021 in CFWC Blog, Drought, Fact Sheets

Click here to see the latest map. Updated: June 2021

California farms are bearing the brunt of this year’s short water supply and have been forced to reduce the acreage of popular California crops, such as asparagus, melons, lettuce, rice, tomatoes, sweet corn, and others.

Water supply reductions mean fewer fresh fruits and vegetables for consumers, massive farm-related job losses, and billions in lost economic activity, impacts that go beyond rural and disadvantaged communities. View the map here.

About 2 million acres of California’s irrigated farmland, or one out of every four acres, has already had its water supply cut by 95 percent. Another million acres has lost 80 percent of its water supply this year with much of the remaining farmland experiencing cuts of 25 percent or more.

Conditions are similar to those that occurred in 2015. According to a 2015 drought report issued by UC Davis, ERA Economics, and the UC Agricultural issues Center, water supply cuts led to the fallowing of 540,000 acres of farmland, 21,000 lost jobs, and an economic loss of $2.7 billion.

Critical reservoirs, including Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, Millerton, and San Luis combined have 1.1 million acre-feet less water in storage today than they had at the end of March in 2015, California’s last critically dry year. Levels in these reservoirs are currently at 56 percent of average, compared to 72 percent of average at this time in 2015. They are essential to supplying rural communities with drinking water, irrigating farms, supplying water to wildlife refuges, and recharging aquifers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys where a majority of California-grown food products originate.

It is a distressing time for farmers, farm workers, and businesses that depend on agriculture all across California and illustrates the need to invest in infrastructure that will increase our ability to capture more water during wet years when it is abundant to save for dry years like this. It also puts a strain on consumers who want local, California-grown fresh food choices for their families.

Learn more:

 

What can the 2015 drought tell us about the impacts of a drought in 2021?

April 8, 2021 in California Water, CFWC Blog, Drought, Fact Sheets, Farm Water & You, Food Production, Water Supply

Info Graph – What can the 2015 drought tell us about the impacts of a drought in 2021?

Taking a look back at a similar water year can help us understand what might be in store for us through the rest of this year and possibly beyond.

What can the 2015 drought tell us about the impacts of a drought in 2021?

California is in a critically dry year, the same as in 2015. Water will be extremely tight for thousands of farmers around the state, and many of them have already received notice that their water supplies are being cut by up to 95 percent.

In 2015, water supply cuts of that magnitude led to over half a million acres of land taken out of production. Had there been sufficient water supplies in 2015, the amount of land that was fallowed could have produced:

  • 8.6 billion heads of lettuce, or
  • 594 million cartons of melons, or
  • 54 million tons of grapes, or
  • 27 million tons of tomatoes. 

Instead, because no water was available, those fields produced nothing but weeds.

California is the No. 1 farm state in the nation with tens of thousands of agricultural jobs, with wages at all income levels covering all 58 counties. When farms aren’t growing food for people, it affects jobs, personal income, and their quality of life. In addition, farm-related jobs contribute hundreds of millions of dollars annually to state and local tax revenue which provide services local communities value, like police, firefighters and teachers.

In 2015, a total of 21,000 jobs were lost with an economic impact of $2.7 billion across the state.

Preparing for Drought

Farmers have been preparing for another drought and have invested heavily in water use efficiency projects, including drip and micro-sprinkler irrigation systems, soil moisture monitoring, and computerized irrigation controllers. But the savings achieved by those investments haven’t been enough to avoid wide-scale land fallowing due to the massive water supply shortages farmers are experiencing again this year.

Info Graph – Long Term Impacts on California From Water Supply Cuts

Looking long-term, continuing water shortages will have a devastating effect not only on California farms but also on the farm related jobs throughout our economy.

Long Term Impacts on California From Water Supply Cuts

The Blueprint Economic Impact Report, available HERE, indicates that over the next 30 years, water supply cuts will lead to the permanent loss of 1 million acres of productive farmland.

Fewer healthy foods will be available from California farms. The report estimates that California will permanently lose:

  • 86,000 acres of vegetables,
  • 130,000 acres of fruit-producing trees,
  • 129,000 acres of wine and table grapes,
  • 327,000 acres of nuts, and much more.

These reductions translate into the permanent loss of 85,000 jobs, half of which are off the farm, such as food processing, transportation, wholesale, retail, and ports. They also mean the permanent loss of over $535 million in tax revenue which, again, is used to provide the services local communities value, like police, firefighters and teachers.

Actions, including better flood management for groundwater recharge, improved conveyance to move water to potential groundwater banking areas, new and enlarged storage projects, and regulatory reform designed to improve in-stream flows for ecosystem benefits while protecting agricultural water supplies can help minimize the effects described above. Federal investments toward improving water supply infrastructure is essential to providing a secure water future to sustain the nation’s food supply, meet urban and suburban needs, and provide for a healthy environment throughout California.

Managing More Efficiently with New Technologies – Precipitation Forecasting

April 5, 2021 in CFWC Blog

Managing More Efficiently with New Technologies – Precipitation Forecasting

Imagine the possibilities if we knew months in advance if the water year was likely to be wet or dry – with the same accuracy as that of a three- to five-day weather forecast.  Growers could make spring planting decisions with reduced uncertainty and water agencies would be able to allocate their resources for optimum efficiency.  Is this just a fantasy or could it be a reality?

PSL Forecast Anomalies 2020/2021

Great progress is being made in improving the accuracy of snowmelt runoff forecasting, through approaches such as the airborne snow observatory technology developed at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, but the lead time of runoff forecasting remains limited because it is based on making forecasts of precipitation already on the ground in the form of snowpack.  Answering the questions of “will this winter be wet or dry?” or “will the rest of this winter be wet or dry?” requires improving precipitation at lead times beyond that of a weather forecast.  Conventional weather forecasts are issued with lead times of up to two weeks but have limited accuracy beyond the first week.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released a report to Congress (https://repository.library.noaa.gov/view/noaa/27408) describing the challenges and opportunities associated with improving sub-seasonal to seasonal (S2S) precipitation forecasts.  S2S forecasts extend beyond a conventional weather forecast, with lead times of up to six weeks (sub-seasonal) to a year or two (seasonal). When NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) conducted a California drought service assessment in 2014, the more than one hundred water managers surveyed overwhelmingly identified an accurate seasonal precipitation forecast as the high-priority service that the NWS should provide.  NWS’ Climate Prediction Center has been operationally issuing S2S precipitation outlooks since the mid-1990s, but their skill for the western U.S. has been minimal, just slightly better than predicting average weather conditions.  Forecasting precipitation at S2S lead times is a scientifically challenging problem, and one that has received little federal research support. 

This experimental forecast made in October for DWR by NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory, for example, has correctly predicted California’s dry winter.

NOAA’s report to Congress recommends a pilot project for improving S2S precipitation in the western U.S. specifically intended to support water management.  There is precedent within NOAA for focused projects designed to meet specific objectives and held accountable for meeting those objectives.  Its Hurricane Forecasting Improvement Project, for example, was designed to improve forecasting the track of Atlantic hurricanes.  The pilot project would take roughly a decade to complete and would entail significantly updating and improving existing NWS dynamical weather models.  The recommended pilot project is not currently funded; NOAA would need a new appropriation for the work. 

In the near term, the Department of Water Resources has been exploring potential approaches to improving S2S precipitation forecasting with researchers partners at NASA, NOAA, and the University of California, taking advantage of tools such as statistical models that could help inform an eventual NOAA pilot project.  This experimental forecast made in October for DWR by NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory, for example, has correctly predicted California’s dry winter.