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.

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...

California Citrus Mutual to Contribute $150k to Water Bond Campaign; $50k to Latino Outreach

California Citrus Mutual (CCM) will directly contribute $150,000 to the campaign to pass Proposition 1, the water bond measure.

The CCM Board of Directors voted unanimously to support the measure in order to secure a reliable and sustainable water supply for California agriculture and communities across the state.

“We are in a state of unprecedented crisis in terms of water supply,” says CCM President Joel Nelsen.  “CCM worked closely with members of the legislature to create a long term solution path for the State’s water infrastructure and sustainability needs.  It is essential to the future of agriculture in California that voters approve Proposition 1 this November.”

Proposition 1 includes $2.7 billion to build additional water storage that will alleviate pressure upon Millerton Reservoir and water users on the Friant-Kern Canal in critical drought years such as this.  Approximately 58% of U.S. fresh citrus is grown by farmers in the Friant service area who received zero surface water allocation from the Central Valley Project for the first time in the project’s history this year.

“CCM’s contribution of $150,000 is an investment in our future, and the future of California,” says CCM Board Chairman Kevin Severns.  “It is critical that voters understand the importance of the issue and vote to pass Proposition 1.”

Additionally, CCM has committed $50,000 to the “El Agua es Asunto de Todos” (Water is Everybody’s Business) outreach campaign to raise awareness among the Latino community about the importance of a reliable water supply for California’s economy and jobs.

“CCM is proud to support the ‘El Augua’ campaign in its effort to empower the Latino community to support policy that creates water for California,” concludes Nelsen.

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...

Food donations underscore drought impact

By Kate Campbell; Ag Alert

Central Valley farmers and businesses donated and shipped about 30 tons of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts last week to help address food shortages at California food banks. A newly organized grassroots coalition, “California Water Feeds Our Communities,” was joined by the California Community Food Bank, Westlands Water District, the California Water Alliance and El Agua Es Asunto De Todos to bring valley-grown produce to those in need across the state.

Fresno County farmer Bill Diedrich said the impact of fallowing hundreds of thousands of acres of irrigated cropland in the San Joaquin Valley this year translates into significant economic losses for the valley’s small farming communities.

“It’s the people—and the communities that depend on agricultural production—that are getting hurt,” Diedrich said at a news conference in Fresno to announce the donations. “For example, the schools are being hurt. If people are moving on, there’s no reimbursement for (school) attendance and the children of those families who’ve stayed are losing out. Besides the school districts, cities and counties also are being affected and their ability to help in this crisis is reduced.”

Diedrich said that when he drives through the valley’s small towns, he sees workers standing around idle, “because there’s so much fallowed ground there isn’t the normal demand for labor. We’re looking at a disaster and we’re hoping for regulatory relief,” noting that Congress will be considering drought-relief bills in coming weeks.

Kym Dildine with Fresno-based Community Food Bank said one in four people in Fresno, Kings, Madera, Kern and Tulare counties copes with food insecurity, a situation made worse by the ongoing drought.

Prior to the drought, she said the agency was serving about 220,000 people a month. With the drought, that number has increased by another 30,000 people a month in the five-county area.

“Every food bank we’ve spoken to is really grateful to be receiving an entire truckload of fresh produce grown right here in the valley,” she said. “Because less fruit is available, they’re having a harder time accessing it.”

To help address the problem, 15 trucks were loaded with boxes of fresh produce at Simonian Fruit Co. in Fowler before heading to food banks in Fresno, Merced, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Watsonville, Salinas, Santa Maria, Oxnard, Riverside and San Diego.

“The food we grow here extends far and wide,” said Gayle Holman of the Westlands Water District. “In fact, most people don’t even realize the food they may be eating in other parts of the state, or across the United States, actually originates here.”

The Fresno County Farm Bureau, along with many valley farms and businesses, supported the food donation effort, as did irrigation districts and service groups such as the Girl Scouts of Central California-South and the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as California State University, Fresno.

Participants said the coalition hopes not only to bring attention to the impact of the drought and how far-reaching it is, but also to set the stage for future food donation drives as the crisis deepens during the winter. Diedrich said the effort also brings attention to the fact that an unreliable water supply jeopardizes everyone’s food security.

“The drought has impacted California’s food banks because they can no longer adapt to the spike in food prices resulting from a lack of water for farmers,” said Cannon Michael, president of Los Banos-based Bowles Farming Co. “This campaign has been launched to feed the needy and raise awareness about how the drought hurts the most vulnerable people in the state.”

Drought-related land fallowing brings “many unintended consequences,” Michael said.

“We hope raising awareness about the drought will bring all stakeholders together to find short- and long-term solutions,” he said.

Westside farmer Sarah Woolf said the coalition will continue to support food banks.

“This was just one small aspect of how we’re trying to help,” she said.

When the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a zero water allocation for farm customers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Mendota Mayor Robert Silva said his community knew it was facing “a terrible situation.” But he said the city learned from the drought in 2009 and immediately began preparing.

“We got service agencies and utilities to come in and set up assistance programs right away,” Silva said. “We’ve added recreational opportunities for our youth to keep them busy and we’ve been finding ways to support our schools.”

In 2009, Silva said water shortages led to severe social problems such as domestic violence and higher school dropout rates that might have been eased with adequate social services. The unemployment rate in Mendota today is in the range of 35 percent, he said, compared to 50 percent at the same time in 2009.

“Unemployment is still high, but not as bad as we feared,” Silva said. “But we’re not out of danger yet. I understand it’s going to be a short growing season this year, harvest is nearly over, and that means more people will be unemployed for a longer time. We haven’t seen the worst yet.”

He said Mendota residents have been planning ahead and “trying to get the resources they’ll need to get by until they can go back to work next year,” and more agencies are prepared to help.

“But it’s going to be a long winter,” Silva said.

 

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...