Should Farmers Meter Their Wells Now for SGMA?

Prepping for SGMA Regulations

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

With the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is closing in on growers throughout California, there are many questions. One big one: should growers go ahead and put a meter on their pumps?

Helping the farming industry comply with SGMA, is Chris Johnson owner of Aegis Groundwater Consulting located in Fresno. He recommends that growers put flow meters on their wells. But he does understand the hesitation.
It’s pretty straightforward. Instrument your wells, and monitor them, including water levels, flow rates, electrical use. It’s good for growers to be able to manage wells as assets

Johnson thinks growers are afraid to put flow meters on their wells. They believe it may provide a mechanism where someone can measure, record, and evaluate how much water they’re using, that’s going to go against them. “And the reality of it is that somebody might very well do that, but they’re better off knowing that going in. They’re better off understanding and being able to manage and represent for themselves upfront.

And while the local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies have created the Groundwater Sustainability Plans, Johnson noted that the GSPs are the deliverable that the groundwater sustainability agencies are tasked with.

“But we need to understand that the lack of data that we have to work with and be able to make decisions. And as a consequence, what so many different GSAs are forced to do is to either accept existing data at face value, or they have to interpret what the data might be in the absence of actual functional information,” noted Johnson. And so, it may very well misrepresent what the basin as a whole has to go through, and regulators may put restrictions on farmers and growers based on that. That’s where having your data helps you defend and protect yourself.

2020-06-29T08:42:40-07:00June 29th, 2020|

Action Needed to Amend SB1

Urge your Representatives to AMEND SB 1

From California Citrus Mutual

This week the Assembly will consider Senate Bill 1 by Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins.

SB 1 proposes dangerous changes to how the state implements the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and will have devastating impacts on how water is managed in California.

The bill seeks to preserve environmental regulations against perceived rollbacks by the Trump Administration by empowering state agencies to immediately adopt the “baseline” standard in place before January 19, 2017 (the day before President Trump was inaugurated).

As currently written, SB 1 would lock in the existing biological opinions that determine how much water must flow out of the Delta to protect native fish species. This directly influences how much water is available to ALL water users south of the Delta.

The State and Federal agencies are currently in the process of updating the biological opinions, which will result in lower flows and more water for communities and agriculture. But, by locking in the existing biological opinions, SB 1 prohibits State from using the best available science to manage how water moves through the Delta.

Recent amendments do not go far enough to address the ESA provisions.

California Citrus Mutual and many other agricultural and business-sector groups have proposed constructive amendments to address these concerns.  The Pro Tem’s office, however, did not make substantive changes to the bill before it was passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday despite pressure from the Governor’s Office.

The Legislature will adjourn next Friday and it is imperative that SB 1 be amended THIS WEEK.

We are calling on our Assembly Members and Senators to urge the Senate Pro Tem to accept amendments to the ESA section.

Please click on the link below to send a letter to your representatives asking them to support amendments to the ESA section in SB 1.

California Citrus Mutual Action Center

2021-05-12T11:05:02-07:00September 4th, 2019|

Jim Patterson on Governor Newsom’s High Speed Rail Project Admissions

Patterson: “They Never Had the Land, They Never Had the Money”

News Release from Assembly Member Jim Patterson

Governor Newsom put the final nail in the coffin of high speed rail recently. His admission that this project will never go from Los Angeles to San Francisco as voters intended echoes what I have been warning about for years. The results of the audit I requested provided indisputable proof that there is no way forward. They never had the land, they never had the money, and now we know that it will never be a reality.

Jim Patterson

Governor Newsom also confirmed today that if California doesn’t finish the Bakersfield to Madera portion of the track, we will be forced to repay $3.5 billion in federal funds.

With this stunning turn of events, Central Valley rail supporters and skeptics, must band together to make sure we are left with a functional track. After tearing up prime Ag land and ripping up the heart of our cities, we must ensure that we aren’t left with the unfinished scraps of a failed project.

“The only way this bureaucracy works is by keeping the pressure on. Today’s turn of events is proof of that.

2019-02-13T16:52:57-08:00February 13th, 2019|

Temperance Flat Denied Funding

All Hope Dries Up

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Again, it came down to fish, specifically Chinook salmon, that forced the proposed Temperance Flat Dam out of the race for Proposition 1 funding for building new water storage projects.

Mario Santoyo and Temperance Flat Denied Funding

Mario Santoyo fought hard for Temperance Flat Dam funding.

For more than 20 years, the Temperance Flat Dam proposal was passionately advocated with unwavering support by Central Valley cities and the San Joaquin Valley Infrastructure Authority (SJVIA) who were behind the application. Temperance Flat came crumbling down Wednesday at the California Water Commission (CWC) meeting in Sacramento on the second day of discussion.

On Tuesday, CWC staff members assigned to crunch the Public Benefit Ratios for the project were solidly encased in concrete, refusing to grant the project any consideration for its ecosystem restoration benefits. The Dam would provide critical cold water to flow down the San Joaquin River, thus helping the salmon spawn.

CA Water Commission kills Temperance Flat funding

CA Water Commission denied funding for Temperance Flat Dam.

And while the official public benefit calculation came up short today, proponents already saw that the project was already on life support Tuesday, with a dire prognosis.

“Stunned is an understatement,” said Mario Santoyo, executive director of the SJVIA, who has worked for more than 18 years on the project. “Temperance Flat is the most critical water project ever proposed for the Central Valley, which is ground zero for significant water shortages that will not go away.”

It all boiled down to the Ecosystem Diagnosis and Treatment (EDT) model that was approved by Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources. Despite both approvals, that model did not jive with the Commission staff’s model, which undervalued the project’s public benefit ratio, killing the opportunity for Temperance Flat Dam to receive funding of more $1 billion for construction.

“We are working in an area of great uncertainty in professional judgment,” Bill Swanson, vice president, Water Resources Planning & Management for Stantec, a global planning and engineering firm, who presented data for the SJVIA. “We do not have fish in the river. We do not have empirical data. The only issue available to us is a comparison of how the system would respond to changes in flow, temperature and habitat,” Swanson said.

“That’s the reason we used the EDT model, the same model that the Bureau of Reclamation has used in their models of flow,” Swanson explained. “The SJVIA’s challenge was how to take the results of that model and analyze them to a level of detail that distinguishes the precision that we might want to have around the results,” said Swanson.

Bill Swanson

Stantec’s Bill Swanson advocated for Temperance Flat Dam funding.

“I’m very disappointed with the way they scored a great project that needed to be built,” noted Santoyo. “And I am not happy about one commissioner from Orange Cove who stabbed us in the back and scolded us on why we did not meet the Public Benefit Ratio. We did meet and exceed that ratio, but the CWC disagreed with our ecosystem restoration model that had been used by both the state and the feds.”

Several Water Commissioners publicly wrangled with their staff on how they could make the project work. They sought areas to increase the project’s cost-benefit evaluation to get it funded.

Commissioner Joe Del Bosque read the ballot text of Prop 1, approved by California voters by 67 percent in 2014. He reminded those present that voters expected a water storage project to be built, adding, “We need to find more certainty in order to get Temperance Flat built.”

Commissioner Daniel Curtain distinguished two parts to the discussion—physical and monetary. “Take a look and see if there is a physical benefit for ecosystem restoration. Finding a potential benefit and attaching a potential monetary benefit could be helpful,” he said.

The project was also short on points for recreation opportunities on what would be a new lake behind the 600-foot high dam east of Fresno, behind Friant Dam. Commissioner Joseph Byrne said he hoped for more thought given to the recreation cost benefit. “Intuitively, zero benefit does not make sense. We need a higher level of confidence in the estimated recreation cost-benefit,” he said.

CWC staff stipulated that while the newly created lake behind Temperance Flat Dam would accommodate boating activity, the lack of camping, hiking, and other activities within the existing San Joaquin River Gorge neutralized any recreation benefits.

If built, the Temperance Flat Reservoir would contain 1.26 million acre-feet of new water storage above Millerton Lake, northeast of Fresno. Temperance would have helped provide a more reliable supply of fresh drinking water for disadvantaged Valley communities. It would have enabled below-surface groundwater recharge, addressed extreme land subsidence and provided critical help to farmers facing severe groundwater restrictions due to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

Santoyo said the SJVWIA spent more than $2 million on the California Water Commission application, utilizing what he said were the most qualified engineers to develop the technical data required by Commission staff. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which administers California’s Central Valley Project for the U.S. Department of the Interior, has invested more than $38 million in studying the project. Santoyo said those studies supported the finding that the selected Temperance Flat site is the most preferred location for such a crucial project.

2018-05-03T15:42:58-07:00May 3rd, 2018|

Letting GSAs or State Decide Sustainability

Who Decides What is Sustainable Pumping?

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Local groundwater sustainability agencies, also known as GSAs are quickly being developed to draw out specific plans on how to prevent groundwater overdraft in the areas of the state, particularly in the central San Joaquin Valley. It’s all part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) that could forever change the face of agriculture, as we know it today.

Keith Freitas farms lemons on the east side of Fresno County, and he knows of many farmers that are getting together to fight SGMA.

“They’re going to take it to the courts and the judicial. They’ll be filing injunctive orders,” Freitas said. “You’ve got perishable crops you’re dealing with, so the injunctions can come really quick, they can last for long time, and for many years. There’s a possibility the way this thing is structured legally, if we put a legal defense program together and a plan, the plan could push this thing out another 10, 15, 20 years.

And sustainable pumping is the linchpin of SGMA.

The local GSAs are formed to make your basin sustainable, and the state says the GSAs in control.

“Well, how could we be in control of our own sustainability if the states laying the ground rules and setting the criteria for what’s sustainable, and what’s not?” Freitas said.

So, if the Central Valley GSAs, for example say that they believe pumping water down to the 2600 foot level underground is sustainable, “Then suddenly the state’s going to say: ‘well, no, that’s not even close.’”

“You draft the aquifer down to a thousand feet, all the buttons and bells and whistles go off, and you’re no longer sustainable,” Freitas said. “Well, wait a minute. What happened to that we choose what’s sustainable?”

2017-10-27T16:47:00-07:00October 27th, 2017|

Farmers Frustrated Over SGMA

CA Department of Water Resources Rolls Out SGMA Regulations at Meeting

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

The California Department of Water Resources held a recent workshop in Clovis, CA, to lay out the key components and regulations for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as SGMA. It’s thought that SGMA could forever change the face of agriculture in the central San Joaquin Valley, as it will limit the amount of groundwater that can be pumped.

turlock irrigation canal

If surface water was available for growers, the SGMA law would not have been created.

This entire approach of the Department of Water Resources is not sitting well with most farmers. Keith Freitas, who farms lemons on the east side of Fresno County, was at that recent workshop. “How can you call a program fair, but the stakeholders you bring to the table, before they enter the room to negotiate the deal, you cut their legs off?” Freitas asked.

“That’s basically what we have. We have a foot race here, but our legs have been cut off before the race even starts,” he said

And here’s the problem – there’s six deadly sins: lowering ground water levels, reducing ground water storage, increasing sea water intrusion, causing unreasonable water quality degradation, causing land subsidence and depleting surface water supplies that would have a significant and unreasonable adverse impact on beneficial uses of the surface water.

“The reason there’s six deadly sins is ’cause they’re all about the sins of the farmer. Not one of those sins is environmental,” Freitas said. “You think about it. We already have a subsidence and they know it, they don’t blame the environmentalists for subsidence, they blame farming.”

Farmers feel that if environmental water restrictions were not in place, there would be no overdraft of ground water or subsidence.

“How do you think we’re going to sustain overdraft pumping,” asked Freitas, “if they don’t have surface water to recharge the ground basin?”

“My perspective is that like Westlands Water District, who decided to turn down the twin tunnels – that decision was made I think in parallel to the overall consensus of farmers saying that if it’s going to be this way, if these are the rules that you’re going to set and these are the game rules, then we have no choice but to fight back,” Freitas said.

2017-09-29T16:22:43-07:00September 29th, 2017|

SGMA Workshop Features GSA Updates

SGMA Workshop Sept. 20

Clovis Veterans Memorial District

Join the Department of Water Resources (DWR) staff for an interactive workshop to discuss DWR Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation efforts and key components of Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) development.

The workshop will feature groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) formation updates, assistance & engagement information; guidance, data, and tools overviews; interactive forums on Groundwater Sustainability Plan development; and information booths on the Proposition 1 Sustainable Groundwater Planning Grant Program (SGWP).

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet DWR’s SGMA Program and Region Office Staff! Information booths will open at 12:30 P.M.

The workshop will be held on September 20, 2017, from 1 PM to 5 PM at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District, 808 Fourth Street, Clovis, CA 93612.

Please RSVP for the workshop by clicking here.  Registration is not required but is appreciated to ensure suitable accommodations for all attendees. This workshop is free of charge and is open to all interested persons and the public.

2017-09-08T16:56:14-07:00September 8th, 2017|

Supporting Temperance Flat to Increase Groundwater Recharge

Building Above Ground Water Storage Enables Groundwater Recharge

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Dramatically helping to recharge groundwater storage is one of the major benefits of the proposal to build Temperance Flat Dam behind Friant Dam, located to the north and east of Fresno. The new dam would triple the storage that is currently available with Friant Dam. Mario Santoyo, the executive director of the San Joaquin Water Authority, is helping the organization prepare the package to submit to the Water Commission by the August 14 deadline.

“We will be making timed releases to various water districts and amenities that will have groundwater recharging basins,” Santoyo said. “First, we need storage and then some time to move above ground water to underground storage. This is a physics necessity and directly counters those who argue we should not build above ground infrastructure if we need only underground storage. Well, if you don’t have above ground water storage, you ain’t putting any below. It is as simple as that.”

Water in Friant-Kern Canal

Water in Friant-Kern Canal

“There are two water conveyances from Friant and [the proposed] Temperance Flat Dams: the Friant-Kern Canal – the longest of the two primary canals – and the Madera Canal. Friant moves water south to Bakersfield, and Madera conveys it north to Chowchilla.”

“We will have one of the strongest applications to receive monies,” said Santoyo, assuring that the water authority will receive the package on time.

Now this is important,” Santoyo stressed. “A new video, ‘Build Temperance Flat,’ is now on YouTube. The video aims to educate Californians on the importance of building Temperance Flat Dam.” Santoyo urges those who are on social media to send the URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f30o_dQNmn8  “to as many people as you can!”

2017-08-04T16:16:06-07:00August 4th, 2017|

Water Diversion Plan for Fish, Part 2

Grober: It Won’t Help to Vilify People

Part 2 of 2-part Series 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

California Ag Today conducted an extensive interview with Les Grober, assistant deputy director, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB, Water Board) Division of Water Rights. We published Part 1, “Water Board’s Point of View on Increasing San Joaquin River Flows,” on November 28, 2016.

http://yn2.000.myftpupload.com/increasing-san-joaquin-river-flows/

Grober explained the Water Board’s water diversion plan to adjust the flow objectives on the San Joaquin River to protect fish and wildlife. The plan, specifically, is to divert 40 percent of water flows from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers that flow into the lower San Joaquin River. 

California Ag Today: We asked Mr. Grober to explain how the Federal Water users on the Westside of Fresno and Kings Counties were granted a mere 5 percent allocation this year, and why many did not receive their full 5 percent.

Grober: The 5 percent allocation is due to the junior water rights of those growers and to the interconnections of so many things — priority of right, hydrologic conditions, and minimal protections or fish and wildlife. Anyone who thinks it’s all due to fish is simplifying a very complex situation. 

California Ag Today: Regarding the water hearings that are scheduled over the next few months, is the Water Board trying to give information to farmers and others would be affected by the decreased water should the Water Board’s proposal go through?

Grober: The ultimate goal is to make people even more prepared to provide comments to the Board at the scheduled hearings. It’s part of a public process where, if we did not get our economic figures right, we want [accurate] information from the stakeholder to make it right.

We thought we did a good job in an economic analysis on how we thought the proposed taking of 40 percent water would affect the communities and farmers. We clearly heard from many people who thought we did not do a good job, and my response is: Good, show us why, make a proposal and take it to the Water Board hearings, and then we can adjust it.

California Ag today: The Water Board has a 3,100-page report all about saving the salmon.

Grober: The reason we have a big report is because we are making a proposal and we’ve shown our work. Although it is work for people to look at it and review it, we have tried to make it easy so that people can see if we have made mistakes, if there are things that are left out or if we have made an incorrect assumption. That’s why we’ve shared it with everybody and here’s your opportunity for setting us straight.

It won’t help to vilify different people who are making good use of the water or to vilify or disparage the implementation of our laws and what we are required to do. We have a great process I think, as hard as it is, a public process where we can work these things out in the open, just to use it and deal with each other professionally.  
-Les Grober, assistant deputy director, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB, Water Board) Division of Water Rights

 

California Ag Today: We are sure you are getting a lot of information from farmers and city leaders about this not being a good use of the water.

Grober: These problems are not so simple that they could be reduced to a sound bite. I think we would have solved the salmon problems by now, but because we are in the drought situation, we are dealing with a precious resource, which is water. Everybody wants the water but there’s not enough to do all the things we would like to do with it. 

California Ag Today: But there are many people in California who feel that more water for fish instead of farmers is reprehensible.

Citrus Tree devastated by drought.

Citrus Tree devastated by drought.

Grober: It won’t help to vilify different people who are making good use of the water or to vilify or disparage the implementation of our laws and what we are required to do. We have a great process I think, as hard as it is, a public process where we can work these things out in the open, just to use it and deal with each other professionally. 

California Ag Today: But we’ve heard from experts that have been studying this, that the increased flows have not really helped these species. Do you have proof that they have?

Grober: It’s hard to show proof one way or the other because recently we have not increased flows to see what effect it would have. That seems to be a notion that is out there, that we have somehow done something to increase flows in recent years, and that’s simply not the case.

If anything, flows have gone down. And in the recent drought years, as I said, even the minimal flows that were required were adjusted downward. You would have to show me that evidence that flows have gone up and there has been no response to those higher flows. I do not believe that there is any.

California Ag Today: So, the Water Board wants 40 percent of unimpaired flows?

Grober: When we say the requirement is 30 percent to 50 percent of unimpaired flows, it is 30 percent to 50 percent of that amount, which means just the opposite. It means that 50 to 70 percent of [flows] for February through June would be available for consumptive use.

That is frequently misunderstood and turned around. That is still from February through June, so it means more than 50 to 70 percent since other times of the year this water is available for consumptive use.

California Ag Today: Is the Water Board looking at the fact that if the water is needed for the species, it is going to force these growers to use more groundwater? That is a direction in which we do not want to go, especially in a region that has not yet had critical overdrafts. How does the Water Board look at that domino effect forced on these growers in order to survive, stay in business and produce the food in this major Ag production region?

Grober: Implementing that 30 to 50 percent of unimpaired flows would mean less surface water available for diversion. So our analysis of the potential environmental effects and overall effects of the program, based on recent drought information and other information, shows we would see increased groundwater pumping.

California Ag Today: Is the increased pumping weighted at all in the proposal, because overdraft groundwater pumping is not sustainable?

Grober: By our analysis, the area is already in overdraft.

California Ag Today: What? Why would there be overdraft pumping in an area that has great irrigation districts such as Modesto and Oakdale Irrigation Districts delivering surface water? We did not think growers in those districts would be overdrafting.

Grober: Sure. Within those irrigation districts themselves, they are not overdrafting. That’s why the analysis we do goes into that level of detail. The irrigation districts that already have a source of surface water actually apply much more water than they need just for the crop, so they are recharging groundwater within those districts, and even with this proposal, would continue to recharge groundwater. It is all those areas outside of those districts that don’t have access to surface water that are pumping groundwater.

California Ag Today: There is a lot more pumping of groundwater on the east side near the foothills.

Grober: Based on the information that we have, the total area — not just the districts that have access to surface water — but the total area, is already overdrafting groundwater. And there are many areas on the east side of these districts now, up into areas that were previously not irrigated, converting now to orchard crops. So with the information we have, there are large areas of production using water from the basin. The entire area is to some extent pumping more groundwater than there is recharge.

California Ag Today: We’ve been concern about this.

Grober: That’s why the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is going to be good, because the local areas are going to have to get on top of that information and on top of the management.

2016-11-30T10:25:24-08:00November 29th, 2016|

Water Board’s Point of View on Increasing San Joaquin River Flows, Part 1

Les Grober Explains Increasing San Joaquin River Flows

This is part 1 of a 2-part series.

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

California Ag Today conducted an extensive interview with Les Grober, assistant deputy director, State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB, Water Board) Division of Water Rights, regarding the Water Board’s proposal to adjust the flow objectives on the San Joaquin River to protect fish and wildlife. The plan, specifically, is to divert 40 percent of water flows from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers that flow into the lower San Joaquin River. 



Hearing on the Potential Changes to the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay-Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta Estuary: San Joaquin River Flows and Southern Delta Water Quality and on the Adequacy of the Supporting Recirculated Draft Substitute Environmental Document.

Hearing begins at 9:00 a.m. on the following dates:

November 29, 2016   Joe Serna Jr. CalEPA Headquarters Building, Byron Sher Auditorium, 1001 I Street, 2nd Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814

December 16, 2016  Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium, Main Hall, 525 N. Center Street, Stockton, CA 95202

December 19, 2016  Multicultural Arts Center, 645 W. Main Street, Merced, CA 95340

December 20, 2016  Modesto Centre Plaza, Tuolumne River Room, 1000 K Street, Modesto, CA 95354

January 3, 2017  Joe Serna Jr. CalEPA Headquarters Building, Coastal Hearing Room, 1001 I Street, 2nd Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814



California Ag Today: At a recent public workshop in Sacramento, Les Grober, you cited some statistics that show the Water Board really has not done a lot—or much of anything particularly—in the San Joaquin River in terms of helping salmon. Is this accurate?

Grober: Yes. I did not discuss specifically the flow benefits or the fish benefits, but I did explain there are times between February and June when flows are critical for salmon. During the months of March and April, especially, less than 10 percent of the water flows than would be there normally if you were not storing it or diverting it.

Water Board proposes water diversions for fish from three San Joaquin River tributaries: Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers

Water Board proposes water diversions for fish from three San Joaquin River tributaries: Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers (Map Source: WorthYourFight.org)

California Ag Today: So the Water Board proposes taking 40 percent from the rivers to help the salmon?

Grober: I posed the question, “If there is a species that has adapted to 100 percent flow, how likely would it be that it could be successful with less than 10 percent of that?” If you look at the overall statistics between 1984 and 2009 for the three tributaries (Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers), the average flow during the February through June period was 40 percent on the Stanislaus, 21 percent on the Tuolumne, and 26 percent on the Merced.

California Ag Today: So you need water from all three tributaries to accomplish the objective?

Grober: Currently, there are flow objectives only for the San Joaquin River at Vernalis where the San Joaquin River flows into the Delta. The current objective skews the flows so they are coming from just the Stanislaus River, which has problems achieving those flows at all times because it is all coming from one location. It also does not achieve the fish protection goals because it’s all coming from the same location.

So, based on the core science, we are proposing to establish objectives on the three salmon-bearing tributaries to the San Joaquin River. This is about reasonably protecting fish and wildlife in the San Joaquin River. 

California Ag Today: So the Water Board is not trying to protect the salmon at any cost, which is the mandate from the Endangered Species Act?

Grober: The proposal is not establishing flows that provide absolute protection. We are establishing flows to reasonably protect species—in this casefish and wildlife.

California Ag Today: The Water Board earlier proposed the need for 60 percent to be unimpaired flows?

Grober: The science developed over the years has shown that if you were not going to consider any other uses of water, like agriculture, drinking water or anything else, the number you would need is 60 percent of unimpaired flow.

California Ag Today: Due to agriculture pushback, the new goal is 40 percent?

Grober: That is why what we are doing now is very hard. We’re doing the balancing that says we have the science that shows the need for increased flows. We have all the information that shows how important the current uses of water are now for agriculture and municipal supply and hydropower. so how do you come up with a balance that takes into account all of that information?

California Ag Today: We have been following closely the extraordinarily increased flows through the Delta and to the Pacific Ocean, which seemed to be No. 1, a total waste of freshwater, and No. 2, at least a few acre-feet could have been pumped into the San Luis Reservoir for cities and farmers.

Grober: It would be interesting to see the numbers that you are citing because, during this recent drought, in particular, there have been greatly reduced flows throughout the system—not in any way—by any stretch—increased flows. In fact, the Water Board approved emergency change petitions not to increase flows, but to do just the opposite.

In general, they have relaxed or shifted downward required flows so there would be more water available to be smartly used for multiple purposes, not just for fish and wildlife, but also to get more water for public interest uses. 

California Ag Today: We know that flood control pulse flows are difficult to capture, but it seems that some of that great volume of water could be pumped southward.

Grober: Many times, people will fail to notice or acknowledge that during periods of high rainfall and high flow, a lot of water goes out because it cannot be captured. So very large quantities of water go out because of flood flows and high flows.

This is not to say that there are no constraints, at times, on what can be diverted or exported to protect fish and wildlife due to objectives, the State Boards, the Water Quality Control Plan, or biological opinions. But much of that water that people look at and say, ‘Why is that all going out?’ — a lot of that is flood flows that cannot be captured. So it ends up looking like a very big number, but it is not a number that can be captured because, as you can imagine during wet years and high flow times, it is almost too much. People can’t capture it. 

California Ag Today: So there is not even an effort to export that water to those who need it — farmers and communities?

Grober: Like I said, there have been constraints on export pumping. But those constraints are intended to provide some protections for fish and wildlife, while at the same time they are opportunities for getting water for other uses. So I see a lot of overstatements.

California Ag Today:  Again, when there are pulse flows, why can’t we collect them and exported them? Why can’t we just turn up the pumps to capture some of the extra water moving through the Delta to export it to farms and cities?

Grober: There are constraints on what are called reverse flows in Old and Middle Rivers (OMR), which is a critical area of Smelt risk. This is part of the biological opinions intended to protect smelt and salmon at critical times that happen to coincide occasionally with higher flow events.

That is one of those times when it’s kind of striking a balance as well. The flows are still not optimal for the protection of the species, but certainly, from the water supply perspective, they are not seen as optimal for the water supply. That makes all of this so very hard. How do you strike that balance?

California Ag Today: You talk about striking a balance. It seems that the environmental side gets nearly 100 percent of what they need and Ag gets nearly zero. 

Grober: Where is Ag getting zero?

California A Today: There are Federal Districts on Fresno County’s Westside that for several years have received zero water allocation. This past season, they were promised 5 percent, but they were not able to get the entire amount.

Grober: If I may, it is clear that you have a certain view on this.

California Ag Today: Absolutely. It just does not seem that agriculture has a seat at the table.  

We’ll continue Part Two of this series tomorrow. We’ll discuss, among other things, that if the proposal goes through, farmers would be forced to use more groundwater.

2021-05-12T11:05:44-07:00November 28th, 2016|
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