Let The Water Flow:

Mike Wade Urges Water Board To Let Reclamation Pay Back Borrowed Water

By Laurie Greene, California Ag Today Editor

Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, discussed with California Ag Today, his article for the Coalition’s Blog, entitled, “State Water Resources Control Board Could Cost California’s Agricultural Economy $4.5 Billion.”

“A number of San Joaquin Valley farmers have been working the last couple of years to set aside emergency water supplies through conservation and water purchases on the open market,” began Wade. “That water is set aside in the San Luis Reservoir and currently being borrowed, if you will, by the Bureau of Reclamation to help meet their obligations and ultimately the temperature management plan for winter run Chinook salmon.”

Wade said the Bureau’s water obligations also include provisions for summer agriculture south of the Delta, as well as refuge management for numerous listed terrestrial species like the Giant Garter Snake.

Wade estimates the loaned water is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Lending farmers include those who own land on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley rice farmers who fallowed land this year to make supplies available for transfers and Friant-area farmers seeking to augment a zero water allocation for the second year in a row.

“We believe the Bureau has an obligation to pay that water back this fall, and we’re urging the State Water Resources Control Board to let that payback happen.” In his article, Wade reported that Reclamation would pay back the water from supplies stored in Lake Shasta as soon as temperature goals for winter run Chinook salmon were met.

Regarding accountability, Wade said, “I believe the Bureau intends to pay it back, but we want the public to understand what’s happening. We want transparency so we can follow this obligation and make sure this fall, when water becomes available, the Bureau follows through to pay it back. People don’t forget.”

Built and operated jointly by the Bureau of Reclamation and the State of California, the San Luis Reservoir is at 44% capacity today, according to the California Department of Water Resources’ California Data Exchange Center, but the supply is already divided and allocated. Wade explained, “The water that is currently in San Luis Reservoir under the Bureau of Reclamation’s control is almost exclusively owned by growers who have conserved it or purchased it on the open market. The remainder belongs to the State Water Project and its users. So, there is little or no federally-owned water in San Luis at this time.”

Wade said, “There are a number of factors that contribute to the 4.5 – 4.9 billion dollar projected cost for San Joaquin Valley farmers. First is the actual value of the water that farmers have already set aside. Second is the monetary obligations farmers have contracted to pay Sacramento Valley rice growers for transferred water. The third component is the actual value of potential crop and orchard losses if that water isn’t paid back and farmers lose out on their ability to keep their farms going.”

Wade urged the State Water Resources Control Board, “to facilitate this complex and unprecedented collaboration” and allow Reclamation to release compensatory water as soon as possible.

Let the water flow!


Sources: Interview with Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition; “State Water Resources Control Board Could Cost California’s Agricultural Economy $4.5 Billion,” by Mike Wade, California Farm Water Coalition; Bureau of Reclamation; California Department of Water Resources

Featured Image: San Luis Reservoir-Empty, California Farm Water Coalition

Joel Nelsen on Zero Water Allocation

Joel Nelsen, President of the California Citrus Mutual,

Shares Viewpoints on the Zero Water Allocation

The definition of balance at the State and Federal level is once again highlighted by an announcement from the Bureau of Reclamation that producers south of the Delta will again receive zero allocation for surface water and everything and everybody else gets something. “Two years in a row zero allocation is the message while other parties receive an allocation for farming, the environment or municipal needs and that is the definition of balance by federal decision makers which questions how they define balance,” states CCM President Joel Nelsen

Two weeks ago State Water Resources Control Board Executive Director took it upon himself to override environmentally friendly fish agencies and not allow additional pumping designed to assist citizens south of the Delta. “His statement that real data is not fool proof and he would exercise his judgment runs parallel to the federal policy which is unacceptable but consistent, that producing food is not a priority!

Since 1992 over seven million acre feet of water has been transferred away from landowners in the Southern San Joaquin Valley with no accountability as to the environmental successes achieved. Since 1992 those sourcing water from the Friant system have been paying additional dollars per acre foot for environmental enhancements with no accountability. The state of California has over 320 species listed as endangered and yet all the efforts have not led to one species being removed from the ESA list. “Just give more is the answer and state and federal officials remove prime agricultural land from production to accomplish what?”

Preserving the Delta from salt water intrusion is a priority according to the CCM President but “preserving smelt so that they can be consumed by predator fish or toxins dumped thereby requiring more water is unacceptable. Establishing cold water habitats with warm water is ludicrous.”

“We have to be the only state in the nation and the only nation on earth establishing policies that destroys the production of food. That’s a legacy these two administrations must explain,” he concluded.