Agreeing on Water Needs

Sixth Generation Farmer and EDF Director Discuss Water Challenges

By Cannon Michael and Ann Hayden

Despite a seemingly endless era of upheaval – a surging pandemic, contentious election cycle and racial strife – we still have the responsibility to address pressing issues that cannot wait for calmer times. The future of California’s water is one of those issues.

While collaboration and relationship building have been made even more challenging due to distancing required by COVID-19, we believe that water is an issue where we can rise above party lines and entrenched perspectives.

Cannon Michael, Sixth Generation Grower

Water is the backbone of California’s agricultural economy, supports our iconic rivers, and of course, is essential to our survival.  Simply put, water is a lifeline that binds us together, and without it, we jeopardize our future and that of coming generations.

Could now be the time to collectively start down a better path for managing this precious resource and roll up our sleeves to make it happen? We think so.

For decades, fighting over water has stalled progress and sown deep mistrust across different water users.

We have forgotten that we are all stewards of California – a special place like no other, a rich connected tapestry of environmental beauty, diverse communities and productive agriculture.

We need to come together as Californians – not just farmers, environmentalists, rural community organizers and urbanites. We need to come together as Californians working for our children and future generations who are depending on us to leave them with a better California than we have today.

We need to come together to solve some admittedly difficult water challenges that affect the future of rural communities, cities, wildlife, farming in the Central Valley and consequently our country’s food supply. Drought and water scarcity are high on the list of these challenges. During our last major drought, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was enacted as one major piece of the solution to ensure we have enough water for future generations.

Looking forward, 2021 will be an important year for moving ahead on implementation of this sweeping change to water law. The state will be rolling out its first assessments of sustainability plans developed by regions with the most critically overdrafted groundwater supplies.

Balancing groundwater supply and demand, as required by the law, will no doubt be challenging: Some models say San Joaquin Valley landowners may need to take equivalent acreage to Yosemite National Park out of production to balance groundwater supply and demand.

To reach durable, fair solutions to such large challenges, we need to drop the baggage we’ve amassed over time. We need to come together as Californians to start collaboratively tackling problems – not just talking and arguing them. We need to come together and break the cycle of mistrust and take the time to truly understand how each side views the challenges and potential solutions.

It’s unlikely we will agree on everything – if we did California wouldn’t be the dynamic, diverse state it is today. But there is significant common ground we can build from. For instance, we all agree every single person in California should have clean and affordable drinking water when they turn on their kitchen faucet.

We also agree that replenishing groundwater is one of many solutions we will need to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. But it’s not the only solution; it’s inevitable that we still will need to scale back some agriculture.

The question we need to address is, how can we make sure that agriculture can still thrive while some farmland becomes productive in new ways, whether it’s with less water-intensive ranching, low-impact solar projects, wildlife habitat or recreational areas for our families to enjoy on picnics and hikes?

Taking action to address these challenges may mean parts of our state and the very communities we live in will look different from how they look today. But if we can come together as Californians to get it right, California will evolve and endure as the special place it is today for generations to come.

We have decades of experience coming at water challenges from our silos. Let’s break down those silos, come together as Californians and see what happens. Isn’t it worth a shot?

Cannon Michael is a sixth-generation farmer and president and CEO of Bowles Farming Co., headquartered in Los Banos, cannon@bfarm.com

Ann Hayden is senior director of western water and resilient landscapes at Environmental Defense Fund, ahayden@edf.org

This document first appeared in WaterWrights.net

 

2021-05-12T10:52:43-07:00January 11th, 2021|

Agreeing on Water Needs

Sixth Generation Farmer and EDF Director Discuss Water Challenges

By Cannon Michael and Ann Hayden

Despite a seemingly endless era of upheaval – a surging pandemic, contentious election cycle and racial strife – we still have the responsibility to address pressing issues that cannot wait for calmer times. The future of California’s water is one of those issues.

While collaboration and relationship building have been made even more challenging due to distancing required by COVID-19, we believe that water is an issue where we can rise above party lines and entrenched perspectives.

Cannon Michael, Sixth Generation Grower

Water is the backbone of California’s agricultural economy, supports our iconic rivers, and of course, is essential to our survival.  Simply put, water is a lifeline that binds us together, and without it, we jeopardize our future and that of coming generations.

Could now be the time to collectively start down a better path for managing this precious resource and roll up our sleeves to make it happen? We think so.

For decades, fighting over water has stalled progress and sown deep mistrust across different water users.

We have forgotten that we are all stewards of California – a special place like no other, a rich connected tapestry of environmental beauty, diverse communities and productive agriculture.

We need to come together as Californians – not just farmers, environmentalists, rural community organizers and urbanites. We need to come together as Californians working for our children and future generations who are depending on us to leave them with a better California than we have today.

We need to come together to solve some admittedly difficult water challenges that affect the future of rural communities, cities, wildlife, farming in the Central Valley and consequently our country’s food supply. Drought and water scarcity are high on the list of these challenges. During our last major drought, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was enacted as one major piece of the solution to ensure we have enough water for future generations.

Looking forward, 2021 will be an important year for moving ahead on implementation of this sweeping change to water law. The state will be rolling out its first assessments of sustainability plans developed by regions with the most critically overdrafted groundwater supplies.

Balancing groundwater supply and demand, as required by the law, will no doubt be challenging: Some models say San Joaquin Valley landowners may need to take equivalent acreage to Yosemite National Park out of production to balance groundwater supply and demand.

To reach durable, fair solutions to such large challenges, we need to drop the baggage we’ve amassed over time. We need to come together as Californians to start collaboratively tackling problems – not just talking and arguing them. We need to come together and break the cycle of mistrust and take the time to truly understand how each side views the challenges and potential solutions.

It’s unlikely we will agree on everything – if we did California wouldn’t be the dynamic, diverse state it is today. But there is significant common ground we can build from. For instance, we all agree every single person in California should have clean and affordable drinking water when they turn on their kitchen faucet.

We also agree that replenishing groundwater is one of many solutions we will need to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. But it’s not the only solution; it’s inevitable that we still will need to scale back some agriculture.

The question we need to address is, how can we make sure that agriculture can still thrive while some farmland becomes productive in new ways, whether it’s with less water-intensive ranching, low-impact solar projects, wildlife habitat or recreational areas for our families to enjoy on picnics and hikes?

Taking action to address these challenges may mean parts of our state and the very communities we live in will look different from how they look today. But if we can come together as Californians to get it right, California will evolve and endure as the special place it is today for generations to come.

We have decades of experience coming at water challenges from our silos. Let’s break down those silos, come together as Californians and see what happens. Isn’t it worth a shot?

Cannon Michael is a sixth-generation farmer and president and CEO of Bowles Farming Co., headquartered in Los Banos, cannon@bfarm.com

Ann Hayden is senior director of western water and resilient landscapes at Environmental Defense Fund, ahayden@edf.org

This document first appeared in WaterWrights.net

 

2020-12-14T11:32:24-08:00December 14th, 2020|

More Water Storage is Critical

Doing Every Possible to Have Water Storage For Drought Years

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the Ag Information Network

Save Water Resources Act, is written by Congressman Josh Harder representing the Modesto area.  The Act will fund the construction or upgrades of several water storage areas such as Sites Reservoir, Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir, Los Vaqueros and San Luis Reservoirs and provides $100 million in storage funding.

It’s all about helping Californian’s including the farmers during drought. “That’s right. I mean, we know that we are having more and more extended droughts.  We know the next one is around the corner and we know what we have to do in order to address it,” said Harder

“In order to  make sure that we have a full, comprehensive approach to water and all of the above approaches that combined storage with recycling and groundwater recharge,” noted Harder

Harder said shipping all the water out to the ocean is not the way to go. “Instead of just shipping out water to the ocean, we can actually make sure that we can put it in these reservoirs such as Los Vaqueros, Sites and Del Puerto and that’s going to be really essential for the almond and walnut growers in the Central Valley,” Harder said.

“When you have tree crops, you have to have a reliable source of water. We can’t just be in a boom and bust cycle where you have water one year and not the next; maybe that works for row crops, but it doesn’t work very well for trees. And so these reservoirs are going to go a long way towards ensuring water, stability and water security for the long-term,” Harder said.

2020-09-14T20:58:02-07:00September 14th, 2020|

2018 Fresno County Crop Report a Record: $7.8 Billion!

Fresno County up BIG on Production Value for 2018

 

Submitted to Fresno County Board Supervisors by Milissa Cregan Fresno County Ag Commissioner

It is my pleasure to submit the 2018 Fresno County Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report. In each of our annual reports, the Department likes to highlight a segment of our history; and this edition will feature the California Department of Agriculture’s Direct Marketing Program and the certi­fied producers and their crops.

This report is produced in accordance with Sections 2272 and 2279 of the California Food and Agriculture Code; and summarizes the acreage, production, and value of agricultural commodities produced in Fresno County. Fresno County’s total gross production value for 2018 is $7,887,583,790. This represents an increase of $859,559,690 or 12.23% over the previous year’s total of $7,028,024,100.

Once again, almonds continue to be the leading agricultural commodity in Fresno County with a gross value of $1,178,182,069, which represents 14.94% of the total gross value of all crops produced in 2018. The total gross value of grapes remained in the number two spot at $1,106,858,236 followed by pistachios for the ­first time at $862,144,401.

Fresno County’s agricultural strength is based on the diversity of crops produced. Included in the 2018 report are over 300 different commodities, 76 of which have a gross value in excess of $1,000,000. Although individual commodities may experience difficulties from year-to-year, Fresno County continues to supply the highest quality of food and fib­er nation-wide and abroad to more than 95 countries around the world.

Crop values vary from year to year based on production, market fluctuations and weather. It is important to note the figures provided in this report reflect gross values and do not take into account the costs of production, marketing, transportation, or other ancillary costs. These ­figures do not represent net income or loss to the producers of these commodities.

This report is our yearly opportunity to recognize the growers, shippers, ranchers and other businesses instrumental to and supportive of agriculture in Fresno County. We truly appreciate the many producers, processors, and agencies (both private and public) that supported our e‑orts in completing this report. In addition, a hearty thank-you goes out to my entire staff, especially Fred Rinder, Scotti Walker, Angel Gibson, Rosemarie Davis, Sam Sohal, and Shoua VangXiong. Without their hard work and valuable input, this report would not be possible.

 

2019-09-11T18:03:57-07:00September 12th, 2019|

SB1 Advances in Sacramento

SB1 Advances to California Assembly

The California Water Alliance announced today California Senate Bill 1, or SB1, by Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), advanced from the California Assembly Appropriations Committee. SB 1 will now be considered on the California Assembly floor before the Legislature adjourns on September 13th.

Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), Vice-Chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, shared with the California Water Alliance, “I am disappointed that SB1 was released off suspense file with amendments that make it much worse for farming and California as a whole.”

SB1 effectively declares that California would adhere to laws governing clean air, water, endangered species and labor that were in place in January 2017, before the beginning of the Trump Administration.

“SB 1 is bad for farmworkers, farmers, and communities throughout the state of California,” said William Bourdeau, Chairman of the California Water Alliance. “Our environmental laws and regulations should be defined by current, sound science, not petty politics.”

SB1 would freeze the existing federal biological opinions. Future permits would be subject to outdated science and ineffective federal baseline measures, thus permanently, constraining the coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project and the ç.

Action Needed

The California Water Alliance has led effort to demand that the California Legislature “Fix or Nix SB1”: https://californiawateralliance.org/fix-it-or-nix-it/. The California Water Alliance is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that advocates for an increase in water supply for municipal, agricultural and environmental needs: https://californiawateralliance.org/.

2019-08-30T18:16:06-07:00August 30th, 2019|

Put Your Public Water Outreach Programs on Steroids

Water Storage Projects are Essential To Counter Inconsistent Wet Weather

By Stephen Baker, Operation Unite

How can the short memory of the public maintain the long-term commitments of water projects and conservation behaviors? On one hand, California’s recent extended drought demonstrated that the public water users could reduce their water use, but can it be maintained permanently?

And then there is water storage.

Water storage projects are essential to counter the inconsistent presence of natural yearly precipitation and sporadic wet winters, but is the public supporting projects that get the job done? Water shortage is imminent without an ability to treat, store and, ultimately, satisfy the demand of the 40 million Californians while, at the same time, maintaining a healthy environment. And without adequate water storage, we rely on groundwater aquifers. Unfortunately, this is also a bit of a sore spot. The public water users either feel that groundwater is theirs for the taking, or they consider groundwater as someone else’s problem. Either way, communities are fragmenting from misunderstanding, misconceptions and the politics of water.

Thanks to Climate change, these issues are each magnified. Climate change is now instigating our communities to adapt. Adaptation means that we have an infrastructure and public behavior that allow easy management when highly variable conditions occur.  What we need is buy-in from the public that is unwavering throughout the life of the project. It’s just not happening fast enough. It’s time to put your public water outreach program on steroids!

I know you can relate to these conditions because water purveyors, County Board of Supervisors, cities, GSAs, and Flood Control Districts face this each day with every project. Ask yourself: Are you building permanent public buy-in, or is it a fragmented and fleeting commitment? Conventional outreach methods have their successes, but it is hard to effectively engage from across the room. We need to get more personal.

It’s about relationship, and relationship is a two-way street. It is one thing to respond to the squeaky wheel and very much another to manage the entire machine in a manner that the machine operates successfully. Having the right relationship leaves your public knowing that you care and confident that you are considering an alternative that generates confidence. It gets even better. When a good relationship is built, we work better together, even when there are disagreements. Working together means you listen to understand. This is a major contributing factor needed in today’s diverse world, where building and maintaining a healthier community is critical. It even leads us to many other benefits that have nothing to do with water (e.g. homeless problem, fire safety, community economics, crime). Building relationships does take time, but if approached innovatively, it can be accomplished effectively and within a shortened period of time.

You currently engage in many public meetings, forums, private meetings, social media, conferences, and workshops on water projects. Each of these gatherings is an opportunity to build a relationship with specific emphasis on the quality of interaction. When done effectively, you will recognize that your public and you are coming together. Enhancing everyone’s ability to hear and be heard each will contribute to building healthy relationships. The vehicle for this to happen can be provided by new relationship-building tools.

So, if the strategy is about building a relationship, how is it actually developed? It’s about communication.

Many times, an opinion on communication strategy success is measured based on the number and type of events that are scheduled. Although this effort may satisfy regulatory or legal requirements, it misses the mark because the numbers of events independent of one another usually stall out in effectiveness, and you miss the opportunity to completely succeed. Let’s not forget the content of the event itself. This is where the steroids come in. Supplementing your current water outreach programs with some enhancement tools will increase public interactions and decrease pushback. Why lollygag reaching your success? Let’s get the job done.

We need communication tools that ramp up positive outcomes of your current efforts. Tools involve a mix of strategy and conduits of communication. When addressing strategy, plan a dynamic set of actions that are pre-assessed with knowledge of your public. Frequently revisit the pulse of your public through a variety of personal encounters and modify the strategy as needed. As we said earlier, we need to get more personal. There are new tools that effectively provide a community level of personal connection with a water project, and this is where the steroids come into view.

Communication is where the magic takes effect. Simultaneously connecting at varying scaled levels brings both the emotions and analytical understanding into focus with the meaning of your water projects. Accomplished effectively, this strategy of communication under the influence of the proverbial steroids develops a public that pushes a water project forward. The public will understand the value of water and the project’s relevance to their lives. At the end of the day, you feel heard, everyone is on the same page, and the project is completed on time and on budget. You even have money left over for the next project. Life doesn’t get better than that!

Stephen J. Baker is a Hydrogeologist and Founder of Operation Unite, a group that has developed communication tools for building mutually beneficial, engaged, and collaborative relations with the public and water projects. He can be contacted at stevebaker@operationunite.co or +1530-263-1007.

2019-07-22T17:16:54-07:00July 22nd, 2019|

Preparing for SGMA — The Time is Now

It’s Time to Manage Your Water Assets

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

It’s time for growers to start preparing for the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, otherwise known as SGMA, and groundwater consultant Chris Johnson is here to help.

Johnson, owner of Aegis Groundwater Consulting based out of Fresno, stressed the significance of farmers instrumenting their wells.

“It’s good for them to be able to manage them as assets, and then the data is important to defend themselves if they find they are being lumped in through SGMA and not being effectively represented,” he said.

Being misrepresented under SGMA can be a result of an “index well” data measurement. Index wells are a method of measuring water table levels in the area. However, their location might differ from where a farmer’s well is—meaning the data may not be indicative of the water the farmer is actually using.

Some growers might be concerned that metering their well may put them at risk of exceeding a pre-established limit, but according to Johnson, the meters provide enough data to prevent this from happening.

“The flow rate from the well not only tells you how it is behaving, but it also gives you another number to evaluate what the distribution and application systems are doing, so it’s a check that is available for them as well,” he said.

2019-07-11T15:56:37-07:00July 11th, 2019|

Friant Water Blueprint Focused on Counties South of Delta

Blueprint Will Help Deliver Message for More Water

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

An important blueprint for the success of farming in the Central Valley is being developed to present to California government officials. This blueprint outlines what must be done to get water to the eight counties south of the delta. The blueprint is a critical step to help keep farmers in business due to the pressure from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Johnny Amaral is the Friant Water Authority, Chief of External Affairs. Amaral overseas Friant’s engagement with San Joaquin Valley farmers, businesses, and related industry groups regarding water policy and water supply matters as well as legislative lobbying and communications activities.water allocation

“I remember this isn’t just about farmers. This entire Central Valley depends on a functioning water system. Whether you are a farm owner, a farm worker, a city councilman or somebody who works at a milk plant or at a library, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “San Joaquin Valley is in this together, and it is an all or nothing situation. This is being labeled as a farmer-led effort, and it is misleading.”

“This is a very broad coalition of very unusual interests coming together to promote this,” Amaral said.

2019-07-01T14:46:27-07:00July 1st, 2019|

Commentary on Water Issues from Families Protecting The Valley

Unintended Consequences

By Families Protecting The Valley

As Californians endured the drought, they did an excellent job conserving water—maybe too good.  As the article below from Families Protecting The Valley explains, all the low flow toilets, all the 1-minute showers meant less water pushing waste through the sewers.  All that “resulted in corroded wastewater pipes and damaged equipment, and left sewage stagnating and neighborhoods stinking. Less wastewater, and thus more concentrated waste, also means higher costs to treat the sewage and less recycled water for such things as irrigating parks, replenishing groundwater or discharging treated flows to rivers to keep them vibrant for fish and wildlife.”

So now some water agencies are pushing for more outdoor conservation efforts rather than indoor to keep the wastewater flowing.  Adam Link, director of operations with the California Association of Sanitation Agencies asks the key question:  “At what point are you causing more harm than the benefit you are getting from saving those drops of water?”

Another major point we would point out is with the reduced VOLUME of water flows, it has created higher concentrations of pollutants per each gallon of water that gets discharged into the Bay-Delta. With low flow toilets’ rates at 1/2 or lower previous volumes and appliances using less water, all the pollutants that impact fish and people are at double or more on a per-gallon basis getting dumped into the Bay-Delta. Some permit to dump 180 million gallons of sewage water into the Bay-Delta, but the pollutant concentration is double or more.  This makes the pollution from sewage plants going to the delta that much more troubling.

Remember, in 2010, water authorities determined the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant “was discharging too many pollutants into the Sacramento River, threatening public health and harming aquatic life in the Sacrament-San Joaquin Delta.”  The water board found that high volumes of ammonia in the water were disrupting the food chain and endangering fish such as salmon and Delta smelt. Single-celled organisms posed health risks to people who came in contact with the river water.

Wastewater authorities were given until 2021 to remove the ammonia, giardia, and cryptosporidium which endanger fish and humans.  In the meantime, the pollutants keep coming and the policy of cutting off water for farmers is still the favored solution.

This is why farmers are so frustrated.  They see the wastewater situation as the real threat to endangered fish, but water the bureaucrats sole solution to Delta health problems is withholding water from farmers.

More Information at Familiesprotectingthevalley.com

2019-06-26T17:04:54-07:00June 26th, 2019|

Proposed Legislation (SB1) Threatens Voluntary Agreements on Wate

Statement by Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition Executive Director:

SACRAMENTO, CA – Prior to last December’s State Water Board meeting, both Governor Brown and Governor Newsom took the bold step of supporting a completely new approach to water policy. With their encouragement as well as hard work on the part of scientists, farmers, environmentalists, and other stakeholders as well as the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Natural Resources Agency, Voluntary Agreements are nearly complete. However, all the progress will be lost if SB1 goes into effect.

As written, SB1 locks California into our failed regulatory system that has not worked for anyone and has guaranteed nothing but lawsuits and delays.

And while the legislation gives lip service to supporting the VA process, make no mistake about it—SB1 would result in the colapse of the Newsom Administration’s voluntary approach to updating California water policy.

It’s hard to overstate the break-through represented by the VAs. A completely new approach to managing water, they require scientific studies and put the new science into practice. They provide an agreed-upon amount of water for river flows as well as new environmental projects and other improvements—paid for by farmers, water districts, and other users—that will help get maximum benefit from the water.

In addition, all water users will have more certainty of water flow that is simply not a part of our current system. And probably most important, because the VAs are the product of compromise and agreement on the part of all water users, we can move forward today, removing ourselves from the endless cycle of lawsuits that has dominated California water policy. Real results will be felt now, not 10 years from now.

We hope the Legislature can find a way to join the Governor in charting a new path to smarter water policy.

2019-06-17T16:37:59-07:00June 17th, 2019|
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