SGMA is Risky Business

 

Farming Life Will Be Difficult With SGMA

From Families Protecting the Valley

 

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is going to make life increasingly difficult for farmers and water districts.  Each water district will have to prove it is sustainable within a certain time.  Translation:  The amount of groundwater overdraft must be reduced to zero over a definite time period.

In order to accomplish this, there are basically two solutions.  One, idle (fallow) enough land to reduce the amount to groundwater pumping until the basin is in balance.  Or, two, access new surface water supplies to increase the amount available to the basin until it is in compliance.  Most basins will probably use a combination of the two methods.

Water districts have the additional task as public agencies to balance their budgets.  Water districts that sometimes have extra surface water use that extra supply to sell water to balance the budget.  The article referred to below addresses that situation.  Merced Irrigation District (MID) is seeking State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) approval to sell water outside its basin.

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance has protested the transfer before the SWRCB.  The reasoning as we understand it is that if MID has water to sell outside the basin, then MID can afford to release more water for the environment.

Is there a solution to this dilemma?  We suggest that districts that sometimes have excess supplies try to work within their basin, or with neighboring basins to mitigate the impact of SGMA on the local area.  Of course, this will require the potential beneficiaries of this water to pay a fair and equitable price to MID.  The MID directors have a responsibility to their constituents who have paid taxes for decades and brought in millions of acre-feet of surface water during MID’s existence.

We hope the Valley and its people can work together to maximize the utilization of our available water.  Sadly, as we have seen over the past 30 years or so, that once Valley water is appropriated for environmental purposes (whether legitimate or not), it is lost to the Valley forever.

Almond Board Wants More Efficient Irrigation

Almond Board Goal: More Crop Per Drop of Water

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the AgInfo Network 

Jossett Lewis has Chief Scientific Officer with the Almond Board of California. And this is a big goal of the Almond Board more efficiency in water use for almonds.

“We’re tackling this from two directions. One is to improve irrigation efficiency and to get more crop per drop,” said Lewis. “So our goal of decreasing the amount of water by 20% needed to grow a pound of almonds is our Orchard 2025 goal in this area. And we’ll focus attention on how to improve the efficiency of operating irrigation systems. We’ve had really great adoption already of high efficiency systems like micro sprinklers and drip,” she said.

And the almond board is funding research and doing grower outreach to find out when an almond tree actually needs the water.

“We have a goal of more precise timing of the application of that water, which can pay off, particularly in getting more yield for the same amount of water,” Lewis said. “A large part of achieving that goal is actually improving the efficiency of how we time irrigation so that it matches up closely with the needs that the tree, so we can get more yield for the same amount of water. So that’s an area of continued work and a lot of outreach,” Lewis explained.

Patience on Irrigating Almonds

When To Start Irrigating Almonds

 

By Tim Hammerich, with the AgInfo Network

When to start the irrigation on those almond orchards? Most growers want to get out there early to get the trees the water they need and to apply nitrogen through fertigation. However, there are risks associated with starting irrigation too early. This according to Dave Doll, who spent 10 years as a UC Farm Advisor in Madera County and is currently managing a farming operation in Portugal.

“The risks you have about starting the irrigation season too early is that you apply too much water that reduces the amount of oxygen within the root zone that depletes the ability for the tree to develop feeder roots or find feeder roots, which help with nutrient and water uptake,” said Doll. “So as such, what we would recommend and what still is a recommendation from my perspective and what we’re doing on an operation here, is to evaluate these trees for water demand in the spring before we start our application.”

“And this can be done through the use of a pressure chamber, which measures stem water potential, or even watching soil moisture probes to make sure that you’re getting a depletion in your top two feet of in soil moisture before you start applying in irrigation,” noted Doll.” And this in essence, will help you have better water management or more resiliency in your water management as a tree continues to grow and the temperatures pick up.”

More Surface Water For Farmers

The Need for More Water South of the Delta

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

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.”

 

Irrigation Strategy of J Lohr

 

Jerry Lohr Knows How to Increase Quality in the Vineyard

 

By Tim Hammerich with the the Ag Information Network

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.

Westlands Could Get Permanent Federal Water

Huge Water Contract for Westlands

From Families Protecting the Valley

www.FamiliesProtectingTheValley.com

 

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.

Attorney Suggests That Meters Go on Pumps Now for SGMA

Meters Could Help From a Legal Standpoint

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

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.

Irrigation Industry Needs Help

Promoting Efficient Irrigation

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

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.

Sound Science Funding for Farmers

Funding for Sound Science is Critical

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

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.

Irrigation Improvement Continuum Part of Almond Board’s CASP

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.

CASP
Spencer Cooper, Almond Board

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.