Message to Water Board: Water is Everyone’s Business

Volunteer from El Agua es Asunto de Todos (Water is Everyone’s Business) Gives Compelling Testimony at Water Board Workshop

by Laurie Greene, CalAgToday

TODAYMaría L. Gutiérrez, a volunteer with El Agua es Asunto de Todos, “Water is Everyone’s Business,”  gave the following testimony at California’s State Water Resources Control Board‘s (Water Board) Sacramento information-only Public Workshop regarding the Temporary Urgency Change Petition (TUCP) submitted by the California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on January 23, 2015. Given the drought crisis, the DWR and USBR filed the TUCP with the SWRCB Division of Water Rights  to revise Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta restrictions devised to meet flow and water quality objectives established in the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta) Estuary. The TUCP requests the Water Board allow more water to be allocated to the Central Valley, for a period of 180 days, via DWR’s State Water Project (SWP) and USBR’s Central Valley Project (CVP) that includes flows from recent storms in the northern part of the state.

Gutiérrez provided the following testimony:

“El Agua es Asunto de Todos” is a campaign with two main goals – to raise awareness about the water shortage in California and the devastating economic impact it is having upon the Latino community, and second, to provide a platform for the Latino community to actively weigh in on the water issues.

California is entering its fourth straight dry year marking this state’s worst drought in 500 years. A drought like this is wrecking havoc on the lives of Latino families and the communities they live in. And when you impact the Latino community, you are looking at a domino effect with epic proportions. Because this affects restaurants, gas stations, truck drivers, gardeners, mom and pop shops, small business, schools, and food projects.

Our situation is even grimmer. We have seen 40% unemployment in Mendota, Huron and Firebaugh.

We are living in America. And, so I have to ask you, how is this happening? In my mind, I expect it to get even worse. We can conserve as much water as we can now, but if we don’t get a reliable water supply, whole communities will be torn apart.

El Agua Es Asunto De Todos
“Water is Everyone’s Business”

The unconscionable decision by Executive Director Tom Howard to deny additional pumping and water supply to our Central Valley communities is outrageous and immoral. His decision is a slap in the face to Latinos who live south of the Delta.

Let me tell you something about the Latino community. Latinos want to work; they don’t want a handout; and they don’t want to be standing in food lines. People tell us at every place we stop to dialogue, how they are losing their jobs, cars, and homes. Families are seeing their college dreams for their kids disappear. They tell us, all I want to do is work.

We are seeing more women and men standing in lines for food baskets. People are being forced to make tough choices – to put food on the table or buy medication. We are also seeing too many families lacking life’s basic necessities like water for drinking, cooking and showering because their wells have run dry.  Another year with zero percent water will bring even more hardship to these families.

I’ve met farmers who have told me that if they didn’t get water, they would have to lay off entire families of workers that have worked for them for generations. Farmers are of all races and nationalities. Most have started as farm workers, they bought the acreage and now they are farmers. They are part of what makes this nation great.

People are very angry. You need to understand the total impact a bad decision will have on many of our communities.

We need water now!

It is a civil right. 

It is a human right.

All of our communities request that the State Water Resources Control Board approve in full and allow State and Federal agencies to collectively manage the Central Valley Project and State Water Project on a real-time basis to provide water to our communities that are in dire need.

Our communities cannot afford any lesser operational flexibility during this unprecedented crisis.

As the Water Board meeting was for informational purposes only, no Board action was taken.

Save Our Water Does Double Duty at State Fair, Hosts Exhibits Featuring Indoor and Outdoor Water Saving Tips

The drought is on and so is the California State Fair. This year, the Save Our Water campaign is doubling down its messaging on conservation by hosting two exhibits at the fair – one on indoor water conservation and the other on outdoor conservation.

Save Our Water is the water conservation campaign co-managed by ACWA and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).  Staff from both organizations will be on hand this year to help attendees identify opportunities to conserve.

The outdoor garden area exhibit on outdoor water conservation tips is themed “It’s Easy as 1, 2, 3.” Its featured tips are:  1 – Get efficient– with your Irrigation system. 2 – Get smart with new technology. 3 – Get green with great plants, compost and mulch.

The indoor exhibit is set up to look like a home to inspire fairgoers to conserve water. It offers three islands that focus on saving water in the kitchen, laundry, and bathroom. Each island has an interactive component.

“Californians have a great resource in Save Our Water to help them combat this extraordinary drought,” said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. “We hope taking part in events like the State Fair will encourage even more of us to join the effort to save water.”

Mark Cowin,  director of DWR, added:  “The State Fair has always been a great opportunity to connect with Californians and spread the message of how important it is to save water. Now that the drought has brought the issue of conservation to the forefront, the Save Our Water displays are especially timely.”

Save Our Water has been connecting Californians to daily drought tips and news via its recently launched Don’t Waste Summer campaign. The campaign is devoted to providing daily tips and news on the new microsite –SaveOurWater.com– to help Californians find ways to conserve at home and at work every day. Save Our Water’s Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram are also great resources for Californians looking to join the effort to save water.

To learn more about the Save Our Water program, visit saveourh2o.org.

Save Our Water Web Site Launches “Don’t Waste Summer” Campaign

As a drought-stricken California moves further into a hot summer, Save Our Water – a partnership between the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) – is launching Don’t Waste Summera campaign devoted to providing daily tips and news to help Californians find ways to conserve at home and at work every day.

Don’t Waste Summer kicks off this week with the official start of summer. Tips will range from simple ideas such as shutting water off as you brush your teeth, to checking for and fixing leaks, to helpful ways businesses big and small can do their part in saving water during the drought.

The campaign will also showcase the efforts of Save Our Water partners to conserve this summer.

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) is the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the country. Its nearly 440 public agency members collectively are responsible for 90% of the water delivered to cities, farms and businesses in California.

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is responsible for managing and protecting California’s water. DWR works with other agencies to benefit the state’s people, and to protect, restore and enhance the natural and human environments.

Valley Citrus Growers Receive 0% Water Allocation; Citrus Growers Available for Interviews April 23, 2014!

Late last week, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that rain and snow storms in February and March have allowed an increase of water contract allocations for State Water Project deliveries from zero to five percent.

Although this appears to have been positive news for agricultural interests in the San Joaquin Valley, it is far from it.  The DWR announcement went on to state that the precipitation from these recent storms eliminates the need for rock barriers to be constructed in the Delta.  This means that the increase in water deliveries will be flushed into the ocean in order to protect fish species and prevent saltwater intrusion in the Delta. San Joaquin Valley agriculture remains at zero percent allocation.

Approximately 75% of the California citrus crop is produced in Tulare, Kern, and Fresno Counties.  A majority of this acreage relies on surface water from the Friant-Kern Canal.  DWR’s delivery increase does nothing to reduce the pressure on the Friant from exchange contractors who would otherwise receive their water via the State Water Project.

Earlier this month, the DWR and State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) released a 168-page document they refer to as the “plan.”  However, the plan does not refer once to the people or the economy that will be impacted by zero water allocation to agriculture.  The word “farmer”, or “agriculture”, appears once.  The word “fish” is stated 328 times.

California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen
California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen

“Friday’s announcement was made with much fanfare and yet the decision completely ignores the East side of the San Joaquin Valley, and even stipulates that we are not important,” says CCM President Joel Nelsen.

The photo above depicts “petal fall” and the first life stages of an orange, when the blooms have fallen.  It is at this critical point of the growing season, when we enter into the hottest months of the year, that sufficient water is available for the cultivation of the crop.

California is the Nation’s number one supplier of fresh citrus. “Our Valley is the number supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables and yet that does not enter into the equation for water needs,” continues Nelsen.  “What ever happened to the goal of providing a bountiful array of fresh produce at affordable prices?”

The Friant-Kern Canal needs at least 200,000 acre-feet to remain functioning.  The decision not to release sufficient water to the State Water Project guarantees that exchange contractors will call upon their first rights to water supplies in Millerton Lake and reduce the amount that would otherwise flow to the Friant-Kern Canal.  This decision is forcing growers to make their own decision – between pushing out trees and holding out for water that may come too late, or not at all. Over 50,000 acres of citrus in the San Joaquin Valley is at risk. But, it is not just trees that will be pushed if Friant does not receive water – jobs will be pushed, people will be pushed, and the economy will surely suffer.

“I continue to be mystified by the announcement last Friday and the inconsistencies it presents,” says Nelsen.  “The announcement on Friday and previous announcements all state that the public should strive to conserve at least 20% of their normal water use.  Yet the producers I represent, and for that matter all producers on the Eastside of the San Joaquin Valley, are being told to give up 100% of their water.  In fact, those in the Friant Service area are the only contractors being asked to give up 100% of their water.”

This situation is real and devastating for many family citrus farmers.  Here are a just a few growers who are facing zero water allocations. 

Andrew Brown
Andrew Brown

These growers, and others, will be available for interviews tomorrow, April 23rd at 2:00 p.m. at the Lamp Liter Inn in Visalia.  Please provide advanced notice to Alyssa Houtby, 559-737-8899 if you plan to attend. 

 

Andrew Brown, a fourth generation citrus grower in the Orange Cove, Orosi/Cutler area works alongside his father and brothers on his family’s farm.  Andrew has known since college he would follow in his father’s footsteps and return to faming because it is a rewarding business mentally, spiritually, financially. Now he has his own ranch where, one day, his two young children want to be second generation farmers.  

 

Gus Carranza
Gus Carranza

Gus Carranza grew up picking oranges in the San Joaquin Valley alongside his parents. He worked through school as a truck driver for a farming operation. His career in the citrus industry eventually led him to work for a major citrus grower-shipper operation.  He now manages their field department.

In 2000, he started farming his own acreage in Terra Bella with his brothers.  What began as a 10-acre operation has now expanded to 130 acres.  Carranza has received zero surface water this year. Unless something changes, he will watch his trees die, and watch his investment of $30,000 per acre die with them.

Maribel Nenna
Maribel Nenna

 

Maribel Nenna works for a packing house in Southern California as the operation’s field advisor in the Central Valley. Ten years ago, she and her brother took their passion for the citrus industry and purchased 10 acres of citrus. Today, they farm 40 acres – all have received zero water allocation. In two weeks those trees, approximately 135 trees per acre, will lose their crop if they do not receive water. 

Matt Leider
Matt Leider

 

Matt Leider is a 5th generation citrus producer.  He grew up working on his mother’s ranch in Southern California before going to college. His involvement in the citrus industry is now two-fold.  He works on his uncle’s citrus ranch in Porterville, and manages a successful mechanical pruning business that services citrus growers throughout the Valley.  He needs one acre-foot of water per acre just to keep his family’s citrus acreage alive, but he doesn’t have it.

Carlos Gutierrez
Carlos Gutierrez

 

 

 

Carlos Gutierrez came to Lindsay when he was four years old. In 1999 he started a portable restroom business servicing citrus harvest crews.  He then bought 12 acres of citrus on his own in 2001.  Now, he manages harvesting crews for a packing house and owns over 100 acres on his own.  He has a little water, but not enough to keep all of his acreage alive.

 

Jesus Ramos farms 86 acres in Terra Bella and another 50 acres in Strathmore.  He put down a deposit of $600 per acre-foot for water, and now hopes to find water at $1,200 an acre-foot.  But, he can’t find any because none is available.  He hopes to save his best acreage because he knows he can’t save everything.

 

The California citrus industry is dominated by family farmers.  “Everybody talks about protecting the family farmer, but by denying surface water to the Friant service area the state’s water agencies are aiding in their demise,” concludes Nelsen.

 

Strategic Plan for the Future of Integrated Regional Water Management

DWR is developing a strategic plan for the future of Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) in California.

This plan will help shape the desired future for IRWM and identify measures needed for that future to be achieved.

The IRWM strategic plan will describe DWR’s future role and guide its actions for improving its support of IRWM. In addition, the plan will identify options, tools, and recommendations for others to support the practice of IRWM.

California Water Conveyance or irrigation, water managementThe Strategic Plan for water management is needed to:

  • build on the current and past successes of IRWM
  • further enable, empower, and support regional water management groups
  • better align state and federal programs to support IRWM
  • develop a shared vision for funding priorities and financing mechanisms
  • inform and influence future water management policies and investments for California

“The Strategic Plan for the Future of IRWM in California is critical for ensuring the continued advancement of sustainable water resources management.”             – Mark Cowin; Director, DWR

Today, DWR protects, conserves, develops, and manages much of California’s water supply including the State Water Project which provides water for 25 million residents, farms, and businesses.