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|

Valley Water Management Ordered To Improve Facility

Valley Water Management May Be Putting Groundwater at Risk

News Release

The Central Valley Water Regional Quality Control Board has issued a Cease and Desist Order requiring Valley Water Management Co. (VWMC), an oil field wastewater disposal center, to either bring its McKittrick 1 and 1-3 Facility into compliance with water quality regulations or stop discharging wastewater at the facility.

“Valley Water provides a valuable service to the oil industry in Kern County, but discharges from the McKittrick facility must not put groundwater beneficial uses at risk,” said Patrick Pulupa, Executive Officer of the Central Valley Water Board.  “With this Cease and Desist Order (CDO), the Board has said that if this facility cannot be brought into compliance with current regulations, discharges at the facility must cease.”

In California, water and oil are co-mingled in underground oil-bearing geologic formations, and both oil and water are brought to the surface during production. That water is called “produced water,” which is known to have naturally occurring contaminants like salinity, chloride, and boron that make the water unsuitable for human consumption or to irrigate agricultural crops.

VWMC disposes of poor-quality produced water from the South Belridge, Cymric, and McKittrick oil fields at the Facility. The Facility has 163 acres of unlined disposal ponds where, according to the company’s recent reporting, 2.8 million gallons of produced water are discharged each day.

In issuing the CDO, the Board found that the cumulative effect of disposing produced water at the facility over many decades has created a highly saline wastewater plume that is migrating to the northeast, where it threatens higher-quality groundwater designated as supporting municipal and agricultural uses.

The CDO requires VWMC to complete a full characterization of the nature and extent of wastewater impacts, an important step toward protecting the beneficial uses of groundwater. If VWMC cannot demonstrate that its discharges at the facility are not causing pollution, the CDO requires VWMC to either upgrade the facility or cease discharging produced water.

For more details, visit the Central Valley Water Board’s agenda item.

The Central Valley Water Board is a state agency responsible for the preservation and enhancement of the quality of California’s water resources. For more information, visit the Board’s website, https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralvalley.

2019-06-12T17:03:37-07:00June 12th, 2019|

Consumer Protection Is Top Priority for LGMA

New LGMA Irrigation Requirements Mean Heightened Food Safety Measures

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

As consumer protection continues to be a number one priority for producers, main pathogen routes are of the utmost importance for guaranteeing safety. The California Leafy Green Marketing Agency (LGMA) is a program that works to continually keep the lettuce industry safe and maintain confidence in food safety programs—but as pathogens begin to evolve, it takes a team effort to combat future threats.

Mike Villaneva, LGMA technical director, told California Ag Today, “It’s been a tough 18 months, and it’s the challenge with these outbreaks … we never really have a good answer about what happened and how it happened.”

In the leafy greens industry, water becomes a focal point in pathogen prevention. “We’ve got 12 years of testing water, and we’re pretty confident of water in the deep wells along the Central Coast, but down south is a different ballgame—that’s open surface water,” Villaneva said.

On April 19th, the LGMA board met and voted to strengthen mandatory food safety practices required on farms. One facet included prohibiting overhead irrigation 21 days prior to harvest unless the water is sanitized.

“They’re looking at some other potential testing and data that could lower that down to 14, but right now they’re sticking with the 21 overhead,” Villaneva said.

The California Leafy Green Marketing Agency continues to show their commitment to ensuring a safe, stable food supply through foodborne illness prevention. More information about the program can be found on their website at www.lgma.ca.gov.

2021-05-12T11:01:48-07:00May 23rd, 2019|

Wastewater Treatment Plant in Delta Causing Problems

Harmful Algal Blooms Impacting Watershed

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board updated its regulations on nutrient discharges into the San Francisco Bay watershed recently to protect the watershed from harmful effects of discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants and other sources.

Although San Francisco Bay is not impaired by nutrients, it is a nutrient-enriched estuary with higher nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations than most estuaries in the world. Too much nitrogen and phosphorous can lead to harmful algal blooms, which can release toxins to the Bay. Harmful algal blooms can also result in low dissolved oxygen or insufficient oxygen in the water to support aquatic life.

In the Bay, nitrogen has the biggest influence on phytoplankton growth, and the Region’s municipal wastewater treatment plants account for 65 percent of the nitrogen discharged to the Bay. Regional population growth will increase these nitrogen discharges.

The regulatory update, in the form of a reissue of the Nutrients Watershed Permit first adopted in 2014, provides a consistent approach for regulating nutrient discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants in the San Francisco Bay watershed.

The first Nutrients Watershed Permit required sewage treatment agencies to: (1) monitor their discharges, (2) support scientific studies to evaluate the Bay’s response to current and future nutrient loads, and (3) evaluate opportunities to remove nitrogen through treatment plant improvements.
This update will increase monitoring and scientific studies. Importantly, it requires treatment agencies to evaluate opportunities to remove nitrogen using “green” solutions, like routing wastewater through treatment wetlands and wastewater recycling.

These types of opportunities may provide water quality benefits beyond nutrient removal, for example, by providing protection against climate change through carbon sequestration and adaptation of the shoreline to address sea-level rise. Green solutions can also remove additional contaminants of emerging concern for water quality.

2019-05-17T17:12:41-07:00May 17th, 2019|

Cavanaugh Wins Fresno County Farm Bureau Journalism Award

Patrick Cavanaugh Wins Award for Audio Report on Temperance Flat Dam

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

The Fresno County Farm Bureau (FCFB) recognized Patrick Cavanaugh, Ag News Director and co-owner of California Ag Today Radio Network and CaliforniaAgToday.com, with a First Place Journalism Award in the Audio category on May 9. Cavanaugh’s radio report entitled “Temperance Flat Dam Denied Full Funding” broadcasted across our 26-station network, focused on the California Water Commission’s failure to fund the Temperance Flat Dam storage project.

Cavanaugh was among four award winners recognized by the FCFB at its second annual “Bounty of Fresno County” event at Wolf Lakes Park in Sanger. This year marked the FCFB’s 25th annual Journalism Awards.

Patrick Cavanaugh Wins FCFB Journalism Award

 

Over 25 entries were received from publications, websites, radio and television stations. The criteria for the awards were: thorough and objective coverage of issues, given time and space limitations; educational element for the agriculture industry or the consumer; and portraying the personal stories of those who make up the food and agriculture industry, making issues relevant to consumers and Valley residents.

Serving as judges were Westlands Water District Public Affairs Representative Diana Giraldo, farmer Liz Hudson of Hudson Farms, and journalist Don Wright of Water Wrights.

Award winners are:

Audio

Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today Radio, “Temperance Flat Dam denied full funding,” March 9, 2018

Cavanaugh discusses the California Water Commission’s failure to fund the Temperance Flat Dam storage project.

Farm Trade Print

Vicky Boyd, Cotton Farming Magazine, “A bird’s eye-view of cotton,” September 1, 2018

Boyd explains the value of drones and how California farmers and ranchers are enlisting such technologies to help boost efficiency, optimize crop inputs and yields, and ultimately, remain profitable.

General Print

Robert Rodriguez, The Fresno Bee, “Will adding a sour kick get millennials to eat raisins?,” August 19, 2018

Rodriguez speaks with the President and Chief Executive Officer of Sun-Maid Growers of California, Harry Overly, about the company’s national campaign focused on rekindling consumers’ fondness for the brand.

Video

Alexan Balekian, KSEE24, “Is the gas tax putting California’s most valuable resource in jeopardy?,” February 19, 2019

Balekian explores the implications of Prop. 6, “the gas tax,” on California agriculture.

Check the CaliforniaAgToday.com Google News-recognized website for additional coverage on Temperance Flat Dam.

Featured Photo:  Ryan Jacobsen, CEO, Fresno County Farm Bureau, and Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today Radio Network, holding tractor award.

###

Fresno County Farm Bureau is the county’s largest agricultural advocacy and educational organization, representing members on water, labor, air quality, land use, and major agricultural related issues. Fresno County produces more than 400 commercial crops annually, totaling $7.028 billion in gross production value in 2017. For Fresno County agricultural information, visit www.fcfb.org.

 

Recommended:  The Fresno County Farm Bureau (FCFB) held the 22nd Annual Journalism Awards at the organization’s Celebrating Friends of Agriculture social where it awarded Vernon and the mental health series the Audio Award. 

2019-05-13T16:39:59-07:00May 13th, 2019|

65% Percent Water Allocation for Westlands with 163 Percent Snow Pack

Statement on Bureau of Reclamation’s April Water Allocation Announcement

News Release from Westlands Water District

Today, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the water allocation for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project agricultural water service contractors is being increased to 65%. In light of current hydrologic and reservoir conditions, this minor increase is astonishing.

Thomas Birmingham, Westlands Water District’s general manager, stated: “This announcement begs the question, what has to happen before south-of-Delta farmers served by the Central Valley Project can get a full supply?”

With San Luis Reservoir full and flood flows coming, the 65 % allocation was more than disappointment.

Since October 1, the beginning of the current water year, California has been blessed with abundant precipitation; the 2018-19 water year is now classified as wet. As of April 8, the snow water content in the northern and central Sierra Nevada was 160% and 163% of the long-term average, respectively. Storage in every CVP reservoir used to supply south-of-Delta CVP agricultural water service contractors was more than 100% of average for that date. Indeed, these reservoirs were and remain in flood control operations.

Birmingham added, “I know that Reclamation staff understands the consequences of the decisions they make. Reclamation staff understands reduced allocations in a year like this needlessly increases overdraft in already overdrafted groundwater basins. Reclamation staff understands delayed allocation announcements make it nearly impossible for farmers to effectively plan their operations. If Reclamation’s leadership could, they would make a 100% allocation. But Reclamation’s hands are tied by restrictions imposed by biological opinions issued under the Endangered Species Act. These restrictions have crippled the CVP and have provided no demonstrative protection for listed fish species, all of which have continued to decline despite the draconian effect the biological opinions have had on water supply for people.”

Birmingham concluded, “Notwithstanding the restrictions imposed by the biological opinions, Westlands firmly believes that there is sufficient water to allocate to south-of-Delta agricultural water services contractors 100%. Today’s announcement by Reclamation is disappointing for every south-of Delta farmer served by the CVP, and we hope Reclamation will increase the allocation quickly to enable farmers to quit pumping groundwater.”

After 2019, no one will be able to argue that water supply reductions for south-of-Delta CVP agricultural water service contractors are a result of hydrologic conditions. This year demonstrates only too well the crippling consequences of ineffective and unchecked regulations. Because of restrictions imposed on operations of the CVP under the guise of protecting fish, the CVP cannot be operated to satisfy one of the primary purposes for which it was built, supplying water to farmers.

2019-04-18T16:42:08-07:00April 18th, 2019|
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