Western Agricultural Coalition Warns of Rural Economic Upheaval Without Effective Deployment of Drought Response Funding

Seven organizations offer the federal government immediate assistance in implementing the $4 billion set aside in the Inflation Reduction Act

In a letter sent to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton, a coalition of agricultural organizations offered their support, assistance and counsel for the immediate implementation of drought funding from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Key coalition principles include:

The Bureau of Reclamation should quickly release a Notice of Funding Availability with guidance to water managers currently developing drought response proposals and urgently deploy that funding to address the most critical needs.

As the Bureau of Reclamation develops a plan to deploy drought funding, they should work with local water managers, set goals focused on driving the voluntary participation needed, and keep the process, selection criteria and any necessary agreements simple and transparent.

Any program designed to temporarily reduce agricultural water use must recognize the value of lost production, the extended impact on the rural community and the cost of developing incremental new water supplies. It is also important to avoid any actions that result in permanent disruptions to our long-tern capacity to produce the food and fiber that is relied upon in the U.S. and across the globe.

Agriculture should not be the only sector expected to reduce water use for the benefit of river systems. Urban planners and water users must also seriously address growth and reduce overall use or diversions to protect these systems.

Here is the letter:

Dear Secretary Haaland and Commissioner Touton:

Throughout the Western United States, dire challenges are being faced by agricultural water users in the Colorado River Basin, California’s Central Valley, the Klamath Basin, the Columbia River Basin and its tributaries in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, the Rogue River Basin in southern Oregon, and the Great Basin. We could dedicate reams of pages describing the agonizing plight faced by the farmers and ranchers and the rural communities in these areas. 

As you know, Western water managers are actively responding to extreme drought. This is forcing unprecedented actions by local water purveyors and agricultural producers to react to significant water shortages. In the Colorado River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation recently declared the first ever Tier 2a shortage and is calling for a total of 2 to 4 million acre-feet to protect critical levels in Lakes Mead and Powell. In recent months, many of our local producers and water managers with senior water rights have been engaged in a thoughtful effort to develop plans to protect the Colorado River system. 

Like you, we were pleased to see that Congress recognized the dire situation by appropriating $4 billion to respond to the ongoing Western drought. We now urge the Biden Administration to move quickly to implement the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other available drought funding to use on the ground. 

Beyond the urgency of the dire hydrologic situation faced in many Western watersheds, this prompt action is essential for a variety of other reasons. Significant time and effort are being put into the development of response plans. For those to result in meaningful progress, it is essential to understand the key factors that will be considered by the Department in providing any future financial assistance. The ability of agricultural producers to participate in any voluntary, compensated water reduction program becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, if not initiated and implemented soon. This is due to the timeframes associated with contracting, purchasing, and planting of crops for the coming year. This is particularly important in areas like the Imperial Valley in California and Yuma, Arizona, where large-scale winter-time agricultural production occurs. The process and timing for distributing drought response funding must recognize and be responsive to this reality. 

We write today to encourage you, as a first step, to work with our organizations and members to quickly release a Notice of Funding Availability with guidance to water managers currently developing drought response proposals and quickly deploy that funding to address the most urgent needs. As you develop a plan to deploy drought funding, we also encourage you to consider the following:

  • Work with local water managers to articulate the considerations and approaches to utilizing funding so that the modification or development of viable plans results in desired and defensible outcomes for all engaged; 
  • In basins where voluntary water reductions might occur, any program should set goals focused on driving the participation needed to produce measurable volumes of wet water. Local water managers should also be enabled to decide what management actions will be taken to achieve targets;
  • Keep the process, selection criteria, and any necessary agreements simple and transparent. Requiring prescriptive, complicated, or overly restrictive requirements or agreements will slow progress and reduce participation in programs;
  • Any program designed to temporarily reduce agricultural water use must recognize the value of lost production, the extended impact on the rural community, and the cost of developing incremental new water supplies. It is also critical to avoid any actions that result in profound, long-term economic damage to Western communities as well as the long-term capacity to produce food and fiber that is relied upon across the globe. There are a limited number of places where the climate, soil, and open space overlap. We must ensure that any water solution does not lead to a food supply problem for our nation; and Agriculture should not be the only sector expected to reduce water use for the benefit of river systems. Urban planners and water users must also seriously address growth and reduce overall use or diversions, as opposed to per capita reductions, to protect these systems. The government must also reevaluate the true environmental water needs of river systems in light of projected ongoing drought conditions throughout most of the Western U.S.

Adhering to the recommendations provided above will help ensure that agricultural water users can be meaningful partners in our collective effort to manage water supply and protect important supply systems in exceptionally dry times like those we face now, from the headwaters in the upper basin to the last user in the lower basin.

In addition to focusing on critically needed, near-term steps to endure the current drought, it is essential that we also continue to advance solutions that will improve water management in the long-term. These opportunities include forest restoration activities that improve the health and productivity of our watersheds that are severely out of balance, robust conservation and efficiency measures, and augmentation of supply ranging from groundwater development and recycling to new conveyance and storage, where appropriate. To this end, the immediate deployment of IRA drought response funding will perfectly complement longer-term investments made by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), IRA Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service funding, and other programs. Together, these opportunities present an integrated approach that will boost short, medium, and long-term drought response, preparedness, and resilience for both farms and communities across the West.  

Lastly, we urge you to continue to bring all water users together to develop solutions and ensure agriculture has a place at the table. There has been an unfortunate narrative lately that demonizes irrigation and minimizes the importance of domestic food production. Recent letters and comments by some in the West are clearly designed to encourage moving significant volumes of water offfarm for other uses. These unfortunate portrayals fail to recognize that in many cases their proposals will make senior water rights available as a mechanism to benefit junior water users by preventing cuts that would otherwise be required under water laws. 

This also comes at a time when agricultural water users are busy developing voluntary proposals to help respond to these dire drought conditions that will result in financial losses for many individual family farms, and the rural communities in which they live, if proper compensation is not provided. In addition to the many Western communities and cultures that sustain the American food supply being at risk, we are also jeopardizing the highest labor, crop protection, and food safety standards in the world while simultaneously exacerbating climate change and food insecurity by increasing our avoidable reliance upon imports. 

Protecting the agricultural economy, Western urban and rural communities, and a healthy aquatic environment not only benefits the West, it benefits the entire Nation. For that reason, our members across the West are stepping up, at their own expense, to provide solutions for the viability of their basins and the communities those basins serve. In many cases, that means making senior water rights voluntarily available in order to benefit junior water users. This prevents cuts that would otherwise be required under water laws and, in most cases, would provide immediate measurable protections for the water supply system as a whole. Urban, agricultural, and environmental water users would all benefit from such efforts in the short and long-term. 

Our organizations look forward to working with you further to advance the recommendations included in this letter. 

If you have questions or concerns about this letter, please do not hesitate to contact Dan Keppen (dan@familyfarmalliance.org).

Sincerely,
Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona
Arizona Farm Bureau Federation
California Farm Bureau
Colorado Farm Bureau
Family Farm Alliance
Oregon Farm Bureau
Western Growers

2022-08-29T15:52:23-07:00August 29th, 2022|

Ag Organizations Praise Newsom’s Water Supply Strategy

Western Growers Praises Gov. Newsom’s Bold Water Supply Strategy for California

In response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Water Supply Strategy that was announced , Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia issued the following statement:

“We applaud Governor Newsom’s bold and comprehensive water infrastructure and management strategy. Our farms are in distress due to water insecurity, increasingly placing millions of Californians in our agricultural regions at great risk of economic harm. To adapt to climate realities, the Governor’s plan recognizes the urgent need to build new and improve existing infrastructure and to streamline and improve the practicality of the regulatory processes that govern them. Critically, that means new and expanded surface and groundwater storage to capture wet year flood flows that are too infrequent to be missed. While we have only seen this plan for the first time today and are certain to have many questions about it, Governor Newsom has given us reason to move forward with optimism. This is clearly not just nibbling around the edges. We echo the Governor’s sense of urgency and look forward to working with his administration in good faith to turn this plan into action.”

California Fresh Fruit Association Comments on California Water Supply Strategy Plan

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) reacted to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Water Supply Strategy Adapting for a Hotter, Drier California proposal, and is appreciative his Administration is taking action to address the state’s ongoing drought and help increase water supplies.

CFFA President Ian LeMay stated “We appreciate the efforts the Newsom Administration has taken to address the critical need for water investments to guarantee the continued sustainability of California agriculture. This plan recognizes the need to expand on existing surface and groundwater infrastructure while streamlining the process to get construction started on new storage projects. Every person in our state, nation and world relies on agriculture, and the Association appreciates Governor Newsom’s action to ensure that California continues to be able to have a safe and resilient food supply. Our state and industry cannot survive without a reliable water resource.”

CFFA looks forward to working with the Newsom Administration to implement this vital water action plan to address our state’s water supply and prepare for future drought years.

2022-08-12T08:37:32-07:00August 12th, 2022|

State Water Board delivers $3.3 billion to California communities to boost drought resilience and increase water supplies

By State Water Resources Control Board

Seizing a generational opportunity to leverage unprecedented state funding to combat drought and climate change, the State Water Resources Control Board provided an historic $3.3 billion in financial assistance during the past fiscal year (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022) to water systems and communities for projects that bolster water resilience, respond to drought emergencies and expand access to safe drinking water.

The State Water Board’s funding to communities this past fiscal year doubled compared to 2020-21, and it is four times the amount of assistance provided just two years ago. The marked increase also comes as a result of last year’s $5.2 billion three-year investment in drought response and water resilience by Governor Newsom and the legislature under the California Comeback Plan, voter-approved Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 funds, and significant federal dollars invested through the state revolving funds.

“The accelerating impacts of climate change have given us all a sense of urgency,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “Bold investments by the administration and legislature, plus $2 billion in federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law dollars expected over the next five years, are evidence that California has the kind of leadership and support it needs to respond to climate change and focus our collective attention on securing a common water future. For our part, the board is proud to have its Division of Financial Assistance serve as the engine for that response through efficient and responsible funding.”

About 90% of the assistance provided this fiscal year took the form of loans to major water‑resilience and drinking water projects. The board provides loans with terms and interest rates that applicants could not receive from a traditional lender, making capital-intensive projects more affordable for communities. This past fiscal year, the board funded 30-year loans at rates between 0.8% and 1.2%.

Almost $270 million in grants were also distributed for drinking water and wastewater projects in disadvantaged communities. Those grant funds will not have to be repaid.

The board has launched an online dashboard that breaks down this fiscal year funding across several categories, including county, disadvantaged status, type of project, and assembly or senate district.

Building sustainable supplies through water recycling

The board prioritized funding for recycled water, which can be generated from wastewater or stormwater and is a sustainable and energy-efficient water source. Direct potable reuse regulations set to come before the board next year expand the potential of recycled wastewater as a source of drinking water, and will help the state reach its goal of increasing recycled water use to 2.5 million acre-feet per year, enough to supply 833,000 three-person households, by 2030.

The board distributed over $1.2 billion across 15 funding agreements for recycling projects, accounting for nearly 40% of the board’s total financial assistance for the fiscal year. Funding recipients include:

  • Pure Water San Diego, a phased, multi-year recycled wastewater program, which received $664 million in low-interest loans from the board as well as about $734 million from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act program. The city of San Diego estimates that the Pure Water program will provide more than 40% of San Diego’s water supply by the end of 2035.
  • The City of Morro Bay, which received over $45 million to construct a new wastewater facility with advanced treatment, conveyance pipeline and injection wells. The facility will allow the city to replenish the groundwater basin and increase supply reliability.
  • Inland Empire Utilities Agency, which received over $16 million across three projects to increase stormwater and dry-weather runoff to help recharge the Chino, Jurupa, Wineville and Montclair Basins.
  • Coachella Valley Water District, which received over $27 million to increase the use of non-potable, recycled wastewater for irrigation to reduce groundwater overdraft.

Taken together, all 15 projects will produce an additional 75,000 acre-feet of water per year for the state by 2030, or enough to sustain 225,000 households annually.

Assistance for drought emergencies and drinking water infrastructure

Over the past 12 months, the rapid progression of the state’s drought has exposed vulnerabilities in aging drinking water infrastructure and caused nearly 1,400 wells to go dry as water tables dropped. The board responded to numerous communities suffering water outages throughout the state with expert support from Division of Drinking Water staff and over $26 million for emergency repairs, bottled and hauled water deliveries, and technical assistance.

Drinking water emergencies are often symptoms of systemic problems, especially for failing water systems that frequently serve disadvantaged communities. In the case of the city of Needles, a severely disadvantaged community of just over 5,000 residents in eastern San Bernardino County, a burst pipe and lightning strike caused the water system, already contending with contamination issues, to fail completely in 2020. Through its Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) drinking water program, the board provided immediate funding for emergency repairs and technical assistance to help the city define its project needs and apply for funding. This past fiscal year, the board approved a grant for over $13 million in additional funding to construct vital water system infrastructure to address source capacity issues, poor water quality and aging facilities.

“It would have been impossible for us to fix our 80-year-old water system by ourselves,” said Needles city manager Rick Daniels. “Our median household income is only $40,000 per year, and we cannot raise water rates to pay for improvements. We are 140 miles away from the next California town and temperatures here can hit 120 degrees, so the water outage in 2020 threatened our very existence. The technical and financial assistance the state provided gave our city a future.”

Established in 2019, the SAFER program utilizes a set of tools, funding sources and regulatory authorities to establish sustainable drinking water solutions in collaboration with water systems and communities. In just the first three years of a 10-year program, SAFER has reduced the number of Californians impacted by failing water systems by 40%, or 650,000.

This past fiscal year, the board provided $984 million, including $118 million through the SAFER program, to advance access to safe and clean drinking water throughout the state. This support funded construction projects, benefitting nearly 8.6 million people, and technical and planning assistance, benefitting 465,000 people

In addition to the water recycling and drinking water assistance described above, the board also provided over $1.1 billion to wastewater and stormwater projects during the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

More information about the Division of Financial Assistance can be found on the board’s website.

2022-07-22T13:41:17-07:00July 22nd, 2022|

American Farm Bureau Drought Survey

By American Farm Bureau Federation

With the West and a growing number of Midwest states continuing to experience severe drought conditions, American Farm Bureau Federation has released a third iteration of their Assessing Western Drought Survey. The survey is open to all members; both those who took previous versions of the survey as well as those who did not. The data collected from this survey will be aggregated and summarized by American Farm Bureau Federation staff economists and be utilized to inform short-term disaster relief needs as well as long-term policy proposals aimed at assisting agriculture with drought preparedness, resilience, and response.

Please consider responding today here.

2022-07-06T14:37:29-07:00July 6th, 2022|

Western Drought Will Impact All Americans

Congress Seeks Solutions

By  Family Farm Alliance

The U.S. is facing yet another record-breaking drought year in the West. Farmers and ranchers in some of these areas are receiving little to no water from federal water projects as they enter the dry summer months.

Meanwhile, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has decreased and destabilized worldwide agricultural commodity production and availability. Rising input costs, combined with the ongoing energy and supply chain crises, continue to impact food supply and demand.

“We’re seeing reports that the war in Ukraine, sanctions and destroyed ports could take nearly 30% of the world’s grain supply out of production or off the market this year,” Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen recently said at a Congressional drought forum hosted by House GOP Members.

All of the above factors have combined to cause significant inflation – food prices alone have increased 9 percent this year – that will impact all Americans.

Loss of Agricultural Water Means Less Food on Grocery Store Shelves

Many Western farmers rely on federal Bureau of Reclamation projects for irrigation water. Over the decades the operations for several of these projects – including the Klamath Project (California and Oregon) and California’s Central Valley Project – have been significantly impacted by government decisions that disproportionately direct water to perceived environmental needs.

Every acre of farmland taken out of production equates to a loss of real food that could help replenish grocery store shelves that may soon run short of once-plentiful food products.

“When people talk about taking millions of acres of California farmland out of production, those are just numbers,” said Bill Diedrich, a fourth-generation California farmer said at the recent Congressional drought forum. “Let me put them in perspective for you. For every acre that is left unplanted because of a lack of irrigation water, it is the equivalent of 50,000 salads that will not be available to consumers.”

Mr. Diedrich also serves as President of the California Farm Water Coalition.

“Our food supply is just as much a national security issue as energy,” he said. “If we fail to recognize that, we put the country at risk.”

Sacramento Valley Farmers and Business Leaders Talk About This Dry Year 

As NCWA President David Guy recently wrote, California farmers are no strangers to drought, although one of the driest years in California has widespread and significant impacts in the Sacramento Valley.

To provide some context for the dry year and the economic impacts, see the recent paper prepared by Dr. Dan Sumner at UC Davis entitled, Continued Drought in 2022 Ravages California’s Sacramento Valley EconomyIn sum, the report suggests there will be 14,000 lost jobs, with $1.315B in impacts for those who rely on agriculture in the Sacramento Valley.

In a recent Ingrained Podcast, Jim Morris was able to catch up with several farmers and business leaders on the west-side of the Sacramento Valley to talk about the dry year and the impacts they will see this year.

“We’re down to 25 percent of normal rice acreage,” said grower Kurt Richter, who farms in Colusa County. “For a westside operation, that figure is actually very high this year. I’m the only person I know who is on the west side who is even planting rice at all.”

We encourage you to listen to the Ingrained Podcast to hear firsthand how the dry year will impact people and businesses in the region.

Water Allotment to Klamath Basin Farmers Hindering Food Production Amid High Market

Many farmers across the Klamath Basin are currently in the stages of planting their crops following the first few water deliveries from irrigation districts. However, with only 50,000 acre-feet of surface water allocated by Reclamation, one farmer says the impacts of another low production year will continue to hurt the community and the farming industry.

“It’s about to get a lot worse because the entire West is in this situation and food scarcity is going to be a real thing this year,” said Scott Seus, a farmer, Tulelake Irrigation District board member, and member of the Family Farm Alliance.

CLICK HERE for the interview Scott did with CBS affiliate KTVL TV (Medford, Oregon).  

Clearly, federal management of water has become too inflexible in places like California and Central Oregon, where a frog protected by the ESA impacts water deliveries to Deschutes River Basin producers.

“We must restore balance in federal decision-making regarding water allocation, particularly in times of drought,” said Alliance President Patrick O’Toole, a rancher from Wyoming. “This is one of several solutions needed to maintain food security for the nation and the economic wellbeing of the Western landscape.”

Congress Proposes Measures to Increase Western Water Supplies

Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress bill are advancing additional measures that would increase water supply and modernize water infrastructure in California and other areas of the Western U.S.

A suite of new water supply enhancement projects and demand management programs can also help alleviate the stress on existing Western water supplies. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law last November by President Biden, provides a once-in-a-generation federal investment towards this end. Legislative proposals made in the House and Senate seek to further improve water supplies for the West.

In February 2021, U.S. Representative David G. Valadao introduced the Responsible, No-Cost Extension of Western Water Infrastructure Improvements, or RENEW WIIN, Act, a no-cost, clean extension of operations and storage provisions of the WIIN Act (P.L. 114-322).

“Food prices are at a record high, and people are struggling to put food on the table,” Rep. Valadao recently wrote in a recent blog, titled “Severe drought threatens America’s farmers and food supply”. “The ongoing war in Ukraine is destabilizing worldwide agricultural commodity production. Experts are warning about the very real possibility of a global food shortage. Now more than ever, we need to do everything in our power to support our domestic farmers, ranchers, and producers to provide much needed stability to our global food supply.”

The RENEW WIIN Act – supported by the Alliance and several of its member agencies – would extend the general and operations provisions of Subtitle J of the WIIN Act and extend the provision requiring consultation on coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. The legislation would also extend the authorization of appropriations for water storage projects that the Secretary of the Interior finds feasible.

“Making sure our agriculture producers have access to safe, clean, and reliable water is critical,” said Rep. Valadao.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on May 17 introduced S.4231, the Support to Rehydrate the Environment, Agriculture and Municipalities Act or STREAM Act, a bill that would increase water supply and modernize water infrastructure in California and throughout the West.

“If we don’t take action now to improve our drought resilience, it’s only going to get worse,” said Senator Feinstein. “We need an ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to meet this challenge, including increasing our water supply, incentivizing projects that provide environmental benefits and drinking water for disadvantaged communities, and investing in environmental restoration efforts.”

Click here for the press release issued by Senator Feinstein’s office, which includes links to a one-page summary of the bill, a section-by-section analysis, and a list of supporters, which includes the Family Farm Alliance.

“We appreciate the increased attention that many Western Members of Congress recognize the importance of modernizing and expanding our water infrastructure,” said Mr. Keppen. “There is still time for all of our state and federal officials to right this ship and recognize the importance of storing water and growing food with it.”

2022-05-23T09:24:15-07:00May 23rd, 2022|

Water Measurement and Reporting Courses Offered by UCCE May 26

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

California water-rights holders are required by state law to measure and report the water they divert from surface streams. For people who wish to take the water measurements themselves, the University of California Cooperative Extension is offering a virtual training to receive certification on May 26.

At the workshop, participants can expect to

  • clarify reporting requirements for ranches.
  • understand what meters are appropriate for different situations.
  • learn how to determine measurement equipment accuracy.
  • develop an understanding of measurement weirs.
  • learn how to calculate and report volume from flow data.

“We are limiting the number participants for the water measurement training to 30 people per session,” said Larry Forero, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor. “If you need this training, please register soon.”

The scheduled trainings will be held Thursday, May 26, at two locations:

  • Redding at Shasta College Farm.  Registration is required and costs $25. To register visit https://ceshasta.ucanr.edu. For more information, contact Larry Forero (lcforero@ucanr.edu) or Sara Jaimes (sbjaimes@ucanr.edu) or by calling the UCCE office in Shasta County at (530) 224-4900. Training will begin at 8 a.m. and conclude at 11:30 am.
  • Woodland at the UC Cooperative Extension at 70 Cottonwood Street. Registration costs $20. To register, visit https://cecapitolcorridor.ucanr.edu. For more information, contact Morgan Doran at mpdoran@ucanr.edu or the UCCE Yolo County office at (530) 666-8143. Training will begin at 2:30 p.m. and conclude at 5:30 pm.

Background:

Senate Bill 88 requires all water right holders who have previously diverted or intend to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year (riparian and pre-1914 claims), or who are authorized to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year under a permit, license or registration, to measure and report the water they divert. Detailed information on the regulatory requirements for measurement and reporting is available on the State Water Resources Control Board Reporting and Measurement Regulation webpage. The legislation requires that installation and certification of measurement methods for diversion (or storage) greater than or equal to 100-acre feet annually be approved by an engineer/contractor/professional.

California Cattlemen’s Association worked with Assemblyman Frank Bigelow on a bill that allows a self-certification option. Assembly Bill 589 became law on January 1, 2018. This bill, until Jan. 1, 2023, allows any diverter who has completed this instructional course on measurement devices and methods administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension, and passes a proficiency test, to be considered a qualified individual when installing and maintaining devices or implementing methods of measurement.

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources brings the power of UC to all 58 California counties. Through research and Cooperative Extension in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition, economic and youth development, our mission is to improve the lives of all Californians. Learn more at ucanr.edu and support our work at donate.ucanr.edu.

2022-04-27T13:22:26-07:00April 27th, 2022|

Governor Newsom Signs Executive Order in Response to Western Drought

By Kahn, Soares & Conway, LLP

As California endures the driest first three months of a year in the state’s recorded history, and simultaneously enters a third year of drought, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an Executive Order (Order) to strengthen conservation efforts. According to the Administration’s press release, the Order calls “on local water suppliers to move to Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which require locally-appropriate actions that will conserve water across all sectors and directing the State Water Resources Control Board to consider a ban on the watering of decorative grass at businesses and institutions.”

The Governor is “encouraging suppliers, where appropriate, to consider going above and beyond the Level 2 of their water shortage contingency plans, activating more ambitious measures [and]… has ordered state agencies to submit funding proposals to support the state’s short- and long-term drought response, including emergency assistance to communities and households facing drought-related water shortages, facilitating groundwater recharge and wastewater recycling, improvements in water use efficiency, protecting fish and wildlife, and minimizing drought-related economic disruption.”

Today’s Order also includes the following provisions:

  • Ensuring Vulnerable Communities Have Drinking Water
  • Cuts red tape so communities that need access to emergency hauled or bottled water can get it immediately.
  • Safeguarding Groundwater Supplies
  • Requires local permitting authorities to coordinate with Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to ensure new proposed wells do not compromise existing wells or infrastructure, as 85 percent of public water systems rely heavily on groundwater during drought.
  • Streamlines permitting for groundwater recharge projects that help to refill aquifers when rains come.
  • Protecting Vulnerable Fish And Wildlife
  • Expedites state agency approvals for necessary actions to protect fish and wildlife where drought conditions threaten their health and survival.
  • Preventing Illegal Water Diversions
  • Directs the Water Board to expand site inspections in order to determine whether illegal diversions are occurring.

For more information on the state’s response to the drought, click here. For any questions, please reach out to Louie Brown at lbrown@kscsacramento.com.

2022-03-29T13:28:27-07:00March 29th, 2022|

New Report Finds Over 35,000 Local Jobs Rely on Westlands Water District Agricultural Production

Water Restrictions Have Wide Reaching, Negative Impacts on Farms, Local Communities, and the Nation

By Westlands Water District

A new analysis highlights the significant, positive economic impact that agricultural production within the Westlands Water District has on the State of California and the country as a whole. The Economic Impact of Westlands Water District (Study), conducted by Michael A. Shires, Ph.D., outlines the far-reaching consequences of inadequate and unreliable water supplies on economies and communities.

The Study analyzes the economic impacts of the agricultural activities occurring within Westlands Water District. The Study also investigates how challenges such as water supply restrictions, climate change, inflation, supply chain disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic can seriously threaten the quantity and quality of food available to the people of this nation. Taken together, these challenges underscore the important role that California’s agricultural production plays in national security and why protecting America’s domestic food production is essential.

According to the Study, on an annual basis, agricultural production within Westlands Water District is responsible for generating over $4.7 billion in economic activity and supporting over 35,000 jobs across the regional economy. These jobs produce the wages, tax revenue, and consumer spending that drive economic activity throughout the state.

“The farms within Westlands Water District are significant suppliers of fresh produce and other agricultural products both to the nation and the world. Activities in Westlands directly and indirectly employ and support tens of thousands of households and creates billions of dollars of economic value,” said Dr. Shires. “While there are a range of complex, modern policy and economic crises that may influence the level of that production, there is no real domestic alternative for production of these critical agricultural products.”

The farms in Westlands and the associated share of the country’s food supply, are at risk. While farms in Westlands continue to produce billions in economic activity, support communities in the San Joaquin Valley, and employ thousands of farmworkers and growers, we recognize that this production – and the livelihoods of those behind it – is highly dependent on water availability,” said Tom Birmingham, General Manager of the Westlands Water District.

When farmers do not have adequate water supplies, they are forced to make difficult decisions. They fallow otherwise highly productive land, and, in some instances, abandon planted acres because they lack water to continue irrigating their fields. Those decisions have widespread impacts. The Study found a “striking” correlation between “poverty levels in [Fresno and Kings] counties…with the shortfalls in water deliveries from the [Central Valley Project] to the Westlands Water District.” Poverty rates in these two counties are directly related to the water supply available to farmers in the District – when the District receives little to no water, more people in those counties suffer from poverty, and when the District receives a higher water allocation, the counties’ economic stability improves.

Further, with no domestic alternative for the agricultural contributions of the region, the economic impacts and negative implications of an inadequate water supply extend well beyond the local community. “At a time where instability around the globe has had significant impacts on the entire continent’s access to core crops like wheat, corn, and sunflower oil – on top of rising inflation and fuel costs – protecting the Nation’s domestic agricultural production capacity is fundamental to the security of the United States,” said Tom Birmingham.

“The bottom line is that much of the food in your pantry, refrigerator, and on your dinner table continues to be available because farms in California continue to provide some 80 percent of the nation’s supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. If this domestic production is curtailed, it will make the nation dependent on foreign sources which are, in turn, much more subject to supply chain, transportation, and quality problems,” Dr. Shires said. “If water supplies continue to be uncertain and volatile, there will be irreparable harm to already disadvantaged communities in the region and the acreage available to continue growing this produce will be significantly constrained.”

To read the entire report, visit: wwd.ca.gov/news-and-reports/economic-impact/

2022-03-16T10:50:59-07:00March 16th, 2022|

Westlands Water District Statement on Initial CVP Water Allocation

Today the Bureau of Reclamation announced an initial allocation of 0% for Westlands Water District and other south-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) irrigation contractors. This is the fourth time in the last decade the south-of-Delta irrigation contractors have received a 0% allocation. Despite significant precipitation in the fall and early winter, the 2021-22 water year is likely to be classified as dry. January and February were exceptionally dry. The District is disappointed with the allocation but is aware that hydrologic conditions, including low CVP reservoir storage conditions at the beginning of the water year and record low precipitation in January and February, and Reclamation’s obligation to meet Delta water quality and outflow standards imposed by the State Water Resources Control Board, prevent Reclamation from making water available under the District’s contract.

Within Westlands, the continued drought conditions in 2021 resulted in over 200,000 acres fallowed, countless lost jobs, and thousands of acres of food unharvested. The circumstances in 2021 and those facing us in 2022 demonstrate the need invest in infrastructure to better manage the State’s water resources, which includes increased capacity to capture water when its available for transport and use in times of drought. California needs new storage, both surface and groundwater, and improved conveyance facilities. The state must also establish effective water policies that enable adaptive management of the system to maximize the beneficial uses of water throughout the State. Despite the current lack of precipitation, the District is focusing on comprehensive approaches to ensure a sustainable water future.

In spite of the current drought, the District continues to plan, pursue, support, and implement regional and local projects to ensure a sustainable water future for the families that live and work in and around the District. And, as always, the District will look to the coming months with the hope of improved precipitation and an increased allocation.

2022-02-23T12:21:51-08:00February 23rd, 2022|

Congressman Valadao Statement on Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project Initial 2022 Water Allocation

Today, Congressman David G. Valadao released the following statement in response to the Bureau of Reclamation’s (Reclamation) initial 2022 water allocation announcement for Central Valley Project (CVP) contractors. Reclamation announced an initial allocation of 0% for South-of-Delta agricultural repayment and water service contractors. They also announced an initial allocation for Municipal and Industrial repayment and water service contractors of only 25% of their historic use.

“This unacceptably low water allocation is a devastating blow to small community agricultural producers throughout the Central Valley. The livelihoods of these people and our global food supply depend on the industry,” said Congressman Valadao. “The Central Valley farming community has endured drought conditions, burdensome regulations, and below adequate water allocations for years. This community is resilient, but the fact remains that our farms will not survive without a reliable water supply for South-of-Delta agriculture. This dire situation emphasizes the need for more storage capacity so we can capture water when we have surplus. California’s water supply allocations must reflect the needs of these farmers and producers so they can continue providing food for the nation. This is alarming and unwelcome news to communities that have continued to suffer from issues like the ongoing supply chain crisis.”

Central Valley agriculture contractors rely on meaningful allocations from Reclamation for their yearly planning. Central Valley farmers and communities have endured disproportionately low water allocations for many years, with contractors receiving well below their contracted supply even during wet years. As a lifelong dairy farmer, Congressman Valadao has experienced firsthand the challenges and frustrations surrounding this issue. He has consistently called for CVP allocations to reflect the needs of the agriculture community, the backbone of the Central Valley economy. Read more on Congressman Valadao’s work on California water issues here.

2022-02-23T11:38:17-08:00February 23rd, 2022|
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