With the initial allocation of only 15% on the federal side for water deliveries for farmers, it’s more important now that more water come through the Delta instead of being needlessly sent to the ocean.
Michael Frantz who owns Frantz Wholesale Nursery, along with his brother in the town of Hickman (Stanislaus County). He also sits on the board of the Turlock irrigation district, which delivers water to thousands of acres of almonds and walnuts.
“Increasing flows South through those Delta pumps. So critical this year. Clearly we need to be able to export as much water out of the Delta as we can environmentally and scientifically do, is a net win for all the people in California,” said Frantz.
“I’m sensitive to the Delta farmers who need to see Delta outflow to keep the salinity from building up in their channels. I recognize that’s a concern of theirs, but the reality is this state allows millions, tens of millions of acre-feet on some water years to escape out to sea,” said Frantz. “Those pumps should be turning at full speed, pushing water down into the South Valley where it could be applied on farms and allowed to percolate down into the aquifer and help recharge and rebuild a healthy aquifer.”
J Lohr is a world recognized brand for their high-quality California wines. Proprietor Jerry Lohr says most of the quality wine is made in the vineyard. We recently caught up with him when he shared how they continue to push the boundaries in their viticulture practices to produce award-winning wine.
“So the way to increase quality is just this constant studying, for instance, how much sun do we need on the, on the fruit? What the nourishment is – less is better in this case. Especially nitrogen. You use nitrogen for other crops, but not for grapes. The time of harvest, that pruning level, the crop level,” said Lohr
“The time of watering is what we’re talking about. So, we water very little in the summer, so we water on the spring. And I didn’t want to tell people what they should do know, I just wanted to kind of tell about what our winemakers are doing,”he said.
“So what we do is we make sure the soil profile is filled in the spring. We water very little in the summer. And then we water for verasion in the fall – from verasion to ripeness. So farming is about 75 to 90% of it (wine quality) Others call it a regulated deficit irrigation,” he noted. “So that’s a good way of describing it. Then we just go further than other people do, putting on more in the spring and less in the summer and that have water for the fall.”
Lohr said he looks for more direct-to-consumer opportunities for the brand in the future.
According to the L.A. Times, the “Westlands Water District, a sprawling San Joaquin Valley farm district with ties to the Trump administration, is poised to get a permanent entitlement to a massive quantity of cheap federal irrigation supplies.”
How much are they supposed to get? “1.15 million acre-feet of water.”
BUT…”There is no guarantee it will get that, since Westlands is low in the federal project’s pecking order and is among the first cut in times of shortage. Since 1990, it has received its full allotment in only four years.” Conclusion: Even with all the water available last year they only received 55%.
The article goes on to say “long-term control would also allow Westlands to make lucrative water sales to thirsty cities and other agricultural agencies”…Conclusion: BUT, “To date Westlands hasn’t sold any water outside of its district. We don’t sell the water for a handsome profit.”
Why were they able to make the deal? “Westlands asked for the new agreement under provisions of the 2016 WIIN Act, which opened the door for all reclamation contractors across the West to convert their water service contracts to permanent contracts if they repaid what they still owe federal taxpayers for construction of a federal water project.” Conclusion: So, they followed the law.
So, how much do they still owe? “In a letter to Westlands, the reclamation bureau last year estimated that the district owed the government $320.5 million as of June 2018.”
BUT, “In 2015 Westlands struck a settlement over drainage services that courts had ruled the federal government was legally obligated to provide…Under the settlement, Westlands agreed to assume drainage responsibility, said it would permanently retire 100,000 acres of badly drained land and would also accept a 25% cut to its water contract.”
SO, “In return, the government agreed to forgive Westlands’ construction debt — then roughly $350 million — and give the district a permanent contract for the reduced delivery amount.”
Conclusion: If you follow the story you can see the federal government had some obligations with regard to drainage, and made a deal for Westlands to assume the responsibility in exchange for the water contract.
The headline –Feds set to lock in huge water contract for well-connected Westlands Water District – would have you believe Westlands is getting something because of their powerful connections. Conclusion: It looks like they just followed the law and made a deal.
There are different options available to make the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) a bit easier on farmers. Lauren Layne of Baker, Manock & Jensen is helping her clients in the Central Valley carry out the SGMA Act in the most beneficial way possible.
“We want to see the Central Valley thrive. So we represent irrigation and water districts who are the local agencies that are forming these groundwater sustainability agencies, and I serve as a council to a number of those groundwater sustainability agencies as well,” explained Layne.
According to Layne, a lot of farmers are considering fallowing certain land to put in recharge projects that will allow them to regulate irrigation, while simultaneously being beneficial to the groundwater basin as a whole.
Layne also highly encourages growers to install meters or transducers to monitor how much water is being used, and what the groundwater table looks like.
“Data is very, very, important from a legal standpoint. It’s important to have the information as a backup for any argument we’re going to make,” she said.
If the cost of installing a meter is an issue, Layne is working on an incentive program that will grant funding to farmers and incentivize them to put meters on.
What will affect the irrigation industry in the future? California Ag Today asks Brent Mecham, the industry development director with the Irrigation Association located in Fairfax, Virginia. Promoting effective irrigation is important.
“I work on the things that are going to affect our industry or the future and trying to position ourselves so we can continue to promote efficient irrigation,” Mecham said.
His occupation includes working on codes and standards, new technologies, technical programs, and educational programs. This is becoming popular among policymakers.
Everyone in the world is benefiting from irrigation. Everybody in the world is benefiting from water whether they know it or not.
“It’s something that affects everybody’s life, and they will not notice it until there’s no lettuce for your salad or no tomatoes. So irrigation affects people all around the world,” Mecham said.
There is more demand on water resources in property. Irrigation is very important for a state like California.
“There is more demand on water resources than ever before, and a lot of places where it is very sensitive, like in California, and the water shortages are becoming prevalent,” Mecham explained.
Farmers have been doing their part to be more profitable in their operations. Cities, too, need to do their part to prevent water running down gutters, which is not efficient.
Increased funding to make farming easier is a priority, an expert told California Ag Today recently. LaKisha Odom is the science program director for the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research based in Washington, DC. Funding sound science is a goal for the foundation.
“We are interested in increasing the amount of funding that is available to make farming and decision making easier,” Odom said.
This is all based on sound science. Their foundation base depends on the readily available funding.
“We match public-private dollars and increase that amount of funding available to fund sound science,” she explained.
The funding is for foundations and agencies that will assist farmers.
“The universities, industry partners, foundations and the research that’s funded by those entities can then inform those decision makers to assist those farmers who are making those decisions,” she said.
“We were provided $200 million dollars in the 2014 Farm Bill,” Odom added.
There are seven challenge areas that the foundation focuses on: water scarcity; urban agriculture; food waste; food loss; making my plate your plate, which focuses on nutrition; protein challenge, which focuses on animal sustainability; and innovation pathways.
Fresno State is one of the founding partners.
“I’m working with the irrigation innovation consortium, which is a consortium of university partners as well as industry partners, and Fresno State is one of our partners in that,” Odom said.
They are working with Dr. Davis at Fresno State for ways in which they can make innovations in irrigation and make water issues a little less challenging for farmers.
California Almond Sustainability Program Offers Big Help to Growers
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
The Almond Board of California has an Irrigation Improvement Continuum, which is part of the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP). California Ag Today recently spoke with Spencer Cooper, senior manager of irrigation and water efficiency with the Almond Board of California, about the program.
The Irrigation Improvement module allows growers to move through from the most basic to the most advanced.
“We’re key on growers understanding the fundamentals and foundation of irrigation management practices,” Cooper said. “The more we can get out there with growers understanding the basics, the more we can advance and continue to be progressive and leaders in the industry.”
Cooper said if growers sign up for CASP at SustainableAlmondGrowing.org and complete all nine modules, growers will receive a copy of the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, a 154-page of soup to nuts on irrigation management that has taken more then 40 years of research that almond growers have funded.
Comments Come After Secretary of the Interior’s Visit
News Release from the Office of Rep. Jeff Denham
Following Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s visit to Don Pedro and New Melones Reservoirs at the request of U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), the Department of Interior issued an official comment on Friday regarding the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab.
The Department of Interior’s comment notes that the proposed water grab “directly interfere[s] with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water” and “elevate[s] the Project’s fish and wildlife purposes over the Project’s irrigation and domestic purposes contrary to the prioritization scheme carefully established by Congress.” Interior’s comment also specifies that siphoning off at least 40 percent of Central Valley’s rivers during peak season would result in significant reductions in water storage at New Melones and result in diminished power generation as well as recreational opportunities. DOI recommends the Board reconsider and postpone the scheduled August 21-22 public meeting to allow for “additional due diligence and dialogue.”
“Sacramento’s radical water grab would cripple the Central Valley’s economy, farms and community. Secretary Zinke saw that when he visited New Melones and Don Pedro reservoirs with me last week,” Denham said. “They cannot drain our reservoirs and ignore our concerns. I will continue fighting to make sure Central Valley voices are heard.”
“Under Sacramento’s plan, the Valley will suffer skyrocketing water and electricity rates.” Denham explained. “After a decade and millions of our money spent on a study that they required, the board ignored the science based proposal that would save our fish while preserving our water rights. We will not allow them to take our water and destroy our way of life”
Last week, Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill, and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower. Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years. This would put in jeopardy critical water supplies for Central Valley farmers and communities who rely on the water for their homes, businesses, farms, and electric power. The amendment takes this issue head-on to protect Valley water.
Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.
To read the full comment from the Department of the Interior, click here. For more information about what Denham is doing to fight for water in the Valley, visit www.Denham.house.gov/water, where you can also sign up to receive periodic updates on his work in Washington to improve local water infrastructure, storage and delivery.
Pledging to work together to solve water scarcity issues, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis recently. The signing ceremony kicked off the 2018 Future of Water for Irrigation in California and Israel Workshop at the UC ANR building in Davis.
“Israel and California agriculture face similar challenges, including drought and climate change,” said Doug Parker, director of UC ANR’s California Institute for Water Resources. “In the memorandum of understanding, Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization, UC Davis and UC ANR pledge to work together more on research involving water, irrigation, technology and related topics that are important to both water-deficit countries.”
The agreement will enhance collaboration on research and extension for natural resources management in agriculture, with an emphasis on soil, irrigation and water resources, horticulture, food security and food safety.
“It’s a huge pleasure for us to sign an MOU with the world leaders in agricultural research like UC Davis and UC ANR,” said Eli Feinerman, director of Agricultural Research Organization of Israel. “When good people, smart people collaborate, the sky is the limit.”
Feinerman, Mark Bell (UC ANR vice provost) and Ermias Kebreab (UC Davis professor and associate vice provost of academic programs and global affairs) represented their respective institutions for the signing. Karen Ross (California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary) and Shlomi Kofman (Israel’s consul general to the Pacific Northwest) joined in celebrating the partnership.
“The important thing is to keep working together and develop additional frameworks that can bring the people of California and Israel together as researchers,” Kofman said. “But also to work together to make the world a better place.”
Ross said, “It’s so important for us to find ways and create forums to work together because water is the issue in this century and will continue to be.”
She explained that earlier this year, the World Bank and United Nations reported that 40 percent of the world population is living with water scarcity.
“Over 700,000 people are at risk of relocation due to water scarcity,” Ross said. “We’re already seeing the refugee issues that are starting to happen because of drought, food insecurity and the lack of water.”
Ross touted the progress stemming from CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program to promote healthy soils on California’s farmlands and ranchlands and SWEEP, the State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program, which has provided California farmers $62.7 million in grants for irrigation systems that reduce greenhouse gases and save water on agricultural operations.
“We need the answers of best practices that come from academia, through demonstration projects so that our farmers know what will really work,” Ross said.
As Parker opened the water workshop, sponsored by the U.S./Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) Program, Israel Agricultural Research Organization and UC ANR, he told the scientists, “The goal of this workshop is really to be creating new partnerships, meeting new people, networking and finding ways to work together in California with Israel, in Israel, with other parts of the world as well.”
Drawing on current events, Bell told the attendees, “If you look at the World Cup, it’s about effort, it’s about teamwork, it’s about diversity of skills, and I think that’s what this event does. It brings together those things.”
New technology helps farmers use water to maximum effectiveness
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
At the recent big Almond Conference in Sacramento, there were a lot of discussions on water use in almonds. And while growers are doing a great job in conserving, there’s always ways to improve, according to Larry Schwankl, UC Cooperative Extension Irrigation Specialist Emeritus. He shared with California Ag Today the take-home points of his talk in front of several hundred growers.
“We have been researching, ‘How much do growers need to irrigate?’ We want to make sure that their irrigation system are effective and that they know how long to operate it and then ways of checking to make sure that they’re doing a good job and utilizing soil moisture sensors and devices,” Schwankl said.
Schwankl also suggested that growers use pressure bomb to accurately measure the pressure of water inside a leaf. When used, it’s possible to measure the approximate water status of plant tissues.
In using a pressure bomb, the stem of a leaf is placed in a sealed chamber, and pressurized gas is added to the chamber slowly. The device has been calibrated to indicate whether or not that leaf is stressed for water.
“We can predict how much water the tree’s going to need, and we can predict how much an irrigation system is going to put on, but there’s errors in all predictions,” Schwankl said. “We need to go back and check and make sure that we’re staying on target. That’s where knowing the soil moisture and the plant water status really helps.”