Put Your Public Water Outreach Programs on Steroids

Water Storage Projects are Essential To Counter Inconsistent Wet Weather

By Stephen Baker, Operation Unite

How can the short memory of the public maintain the long-term commitments of water projects and conservation behaviors? On one hand, California’s recent extended drought demonstrated that the public water users could reduce their water use, but can it be maintained permanently?

And then there is water storage.

Water storage projects are essential to counter the inconsistent presence of natural yearly precipitation and sporadic wet winters, but is the public supporting projects that get the job done? Water shortage is imminent without an ability to treat, store and, ultimately, satisfy the demand of the 40 million Californians while, at the same time, maintaining a healthy environment. And without adequate water storage, we rely on groundwater aquifers. Unfortunately, this is also a bit of a sore spot. The public water users either feel that groundwater is theirs for the taking, or they consider groundwater as someone else’s problem. Either way, communities are fragmenting from misunderstanding, misconceptions and the politics of water.

Thanks to Climate change, these issues are each magnified. Climate change is now instigating our communities to adapt. Adaptation means that we have an infrastructure and public behavior that allow easy management when highly variable conditions occur.  What we need is buy-in from the public that is unwavering throughout the life of the project. It’s just not happening fast enough. It’s time to put your public water outreach program on steroids!

I know you can relate to these conditions because water purveyors, County Board of Supervisors, cities, GSAs, and Flood Control Districts face this each day with every project. Ask yourself: Are you building permanent public buy-in, or is it a fragmented and fleeting commitment? Conventional outreach methods have their successes, but it is hard to effectively engage from across the room. We need to get more personal.

It’s about relationship, and relationship is a two-way street. It is one thing to respond to the squeaky wheel and very much another to manage the entire machine in a manner that the machine operates successfully. Having the right relationship leaves your public knowing that you care and confident that you are considering an alternative that generates confidence. It gets even better. When a good relationship is built, we work better together, even when there are disagreements. Working together means you listen to understand. This is a major contributing factor needed in today’s diverse world, where building and maintaining a healthier community is critical. It even leads us to many other benefits that have nothing to do with water (e.g. homeless problem, fire safety, community economics, crime). Building relationships does take time, but if approached innovatively, it can be accomplished effectively and within a shortened period of time.

You currently engage in many public meetings, forums, private meetings, social media, conferences, and workshops on water projects. Each of these gatherings is an opportunity to build a relationship with specific emphasis on the quality of interaction. When done effectively, you will recognize that your public and you are coming together. Enhancing everyone’s ability to hear and be heard each will contribute to building healthy relationships. The vehicle for this to happen can be provided by new relationship-building tools.

So, if the strategy is about building a relationship, how is it actually developed? It’s about communication.

Many times, an opinion on communication strategy success is measured based on the number and type of events that are scheduled. Although this effort may satisfy regulatory or legal requirements, it misses the mark because the numbers of events independent of one another usually stall out in effectiveness, and you miss the opportunity to completely succeed. Let’s not forget the content of the event itself. This is where the steroids come in. Supplementing your current water outreach programs with some enhancement tools will increase public interactions and decrease pushback. Why lollygag reaching your success? Let’s get the job done.

We need communication tools that ramp up positive outcomes of your current efforts. Tools involve a mix of strategy and conduits of communication. When addressing strategy, plan a dynamic set of actions that are pre-assessed with knowledge of your public. Frequently revisit the pulse of your public through a variety of personal encounters and modify the strategy as needed. As we said earlier, we need to get more personal. There are new tools that effectively provide a community level of personal connection with a water project, and this is where the steroids come into view.

Communication is where the magic takes effect. Simultaneously connecting at varying scaled levels brings both the emotions and analytical understanding into focus with the meaning of your water projects. Accomplished effectively, this strategy of communication under the influence of the proverbial steroids develops a public that pushes a water project forward. The public will understand the value of water and the project’s relevance to their lives. At the end of the day, you feel heard, everyone is on the same page, and the project is completed on time and on budget. You even have money left over for the next project. Life doesn’t get better than that!

Stephen J. Baker is a Hydrogeologist and Founder of Operation Unite, a group that has developed communication tools for building mutually beneficial, engaged, and collaborative relations with the public and water projects. He can be contacted at stevebaker@operationunite.co or +1530-263-1007.

Friant Water Blueprint Focused on Counties South of Delta

Blueprint Will Help Deliver Message for More Water

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

An important blueprint for the success of farming in the Central Valley is being developed to present to California government officials. This blueprint outlines what must be done to get water to the eight counties south of the delta. The blueprint is a critical step to help keep farmers in business due to the pressure from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Johnny Amaral is the Friant Water Authority, Chief of External Affairs. Amaral overseas Friant’s engagement with San Joaquin Valley farmers, businesses, and related industry groups regarding water policy and water supply matters as well as legislative lobbying and communications activities.water allocation

“I remember this isn’t just about farmers. This entire Central Valley depends on a functioning water system. Whether you are a farm owner, a farm worker, a city councilman or somebody who works at a milk plant or at a library, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “San Joaquin Valley is in this together, and it is an all or nothing situation. This is being labeled as a farmer-led effort, and it is misleading.”

“This is a very broad coalition of very unusual interests coming together to promote this,” Amaral said.

Commentary on Water Issues from Families Protecting The Valley

Unintended Consequences

By Families Protecting The Valley

As Californians endured the drought, they did an excellent job conserving water—maybe too good.  As the article below from Families Protecting The Valley explains, all the low flow toilets, all the 1-minute showers meant less water pushing waste through the sewers.  All that “resulted in corroded wastewater pipes and damaged equipment, and left sewage stagnating and neighborhoods stinking. Less wastewater, and thus more concentrated waste, also means higher costs to treat the sewage and less recycled water for such things as irrigating parks, replenishing groundwater or discharging treated flows to rivers to keep them vibrant for fish and wildlife.”

So now some water agencies are pushing for more outdoor conservation efforts rather than indoor to keep the wastewater flowing.  Adam Link, director of operations with the California Association of Sanitation Agencies asks the key question:  “At what point are you causing more harm than the benefit you are getting from saving those drops of water?”

Another major point we would point out is with the reduced VOLUME of water flows, it has created higher concentrations of pollutants per each gallon of water that gets discharged into the Bay-Delta. With low flow toilets’ rates at 1/2 or lower previous volumes and appliances using less water, all the pollutants that impact fish and people are at double or more on a per-gallon basis getting dumped into the Bay-Delta. Some permit to dump 180 million gallons of sewage water into the Bay-Delta, but the pollutant concentration is double or more.  This makes the pollution from sewage plants going to the delta that much more troubling.

Remember, in 2010, water authorities determined the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant “was discharging too many pollutants into the Sacramento River, threatening public health and harming aquatic life in the Sacrament-San Joaquin Delta.”  The water board found that high volumes of ammonia in the water were disrupting the food chain and endangering fish such as salmon and Delta smelt. Single-celled organisms posed health risks to people who came in contact with the river water.

Wastewater authorities were given until 2021 to remove the ammonia, giardia, and cryptosporidium which endanger fish and humans.  In the meantime, the pollutants keep coming and the policy of cutting off water for farmers is still the favored solution.

This is why farmers are so frustrated.  They see the wastewater situation as the real threat to endangered fish, but water the bureaucrats sole solution to Delta health problems is withholding water from farmers.

More Information at Familiesprotectingthevalley.com

Valley Water Management Ordered To Improve Facility

Valley Water Management May Be Putting Groundwater at Risk

News Release

The Central Valley Water Regional Quality Control Board has issued a Cease and Desist Order requiring Valley Water Management Co. (VWMC), an oil field wastewater disposal center, to either bring its McKittrick 1 and 1-3 Facility into compliance with water quality regulations or stop discharging wastewater at the facility.

“Valley Water provides a valuable service to the oil industry in Kern County, but discharges from the McKittrick facility must not put groundwater beneficial uses at risk,” said Patrick Pulupa, Executive Officer of the Central Valley Water Board.  “With this Cease and Desist Order (CDO), the Board has said that if this facility cannot be brought into compliance with current regulations, discharges at the facility must cease.”

In California, water and oil are co-mingled in underground oil-bearing geologic formations, and both oil and water are brought to the surface during production. That water is called “produced water,” which is known to have naturally occurring contaminants like salinity, chloride, and boron that make the water unsuitable for human consumption or to irrigate agricultural crops.

VWMC disposes of poor-quality produced water from the South Belridge, Cymric, and McKittrick oil fields at the Facility. The Facility has 163 acres of unlined disposal ponds where, according to the company’s recent reporting, 2.8 million gallons of produced water are discharged each day.

In issuing the CDO, the Board found that the cumulative effect of disposing produced water at the facility over many decades has created a highly saline wastewater plume that is migrating to the northeast, where it threatens higher-quality groundwater designated as supporting municipal and agricultural uses.

The CDO requires VWMC to complete a full characterization of the nature and extent of wastewater impacts, an important step toward protecting the beneficial uses of groundwater. If VWMC cannot demonstrate that its discharges at the facility are not causing pollution, the CDO requires VWMC to either upgrade the facility or cease discharging produced water.

For more details, visit the Central Valley Water Board’s agenda item.

The Central Valley Water Board is a state agency responsible for the preservation and enhancement of the quality of California’s water resources. For more information, visit the Board’s website, https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralvalley.

William Bourdeau Speaks Out About SGMA

William Bourdeau: Surface Water Must Be Tied to SGMA

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

William Bourdeau is Vice President of Harris Farms, a Director of Westlands Water District, and Chairman of the Board of the California Water Alliance. Bourdeau recently talked to California Ag Today about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which will force growers in 2040 to keep the water levels in their wells in balance and not allow over-drafting.

William Bourdeau

“It’s mostly about living and growing up in the community and hearing about what the people did when I was still young,” Bourdeau said. “I understand that we were over-drafting the aquifer in the early days of agriculture on the west side of the valley and some very innovative, pioneering individuals figured out how to solve the problem. They built the Central Valley Project and delivered surface water. And if you look at the statistics, the problem was nearly solved. It’s only started to become a problem when the surface water deliveries have been cut off as a result of the biological opinions.”

“I can’t understand why that we can’t solve this problem. And I do think surface deliveries need to be tied into SGMA,” he said.

Bourdeau said he believes that the problem can be solved and not be detrimental to the environment.

“But any solution must consider humans and our needs … surface deliveries need to be incorporated into the plan,” Bourdeau added. “We need to use sound science, and it needs to be peer-reviewed.

“We need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to preserve a domestic food supply capability. I think it’s in our national interest. … It’s a national security issue,” he said.

Bourdeau believes that we need to get away from looking at these very narrow issues and look at the big picture.

“We must find a way to do what’s best, and not all the decisions are going to be desirable, but I do think we can. We can make decisions that solve the problem and don’t take this wonderful resource out of production.

As a director for Westlands Water District, Bourdeau said no stones will be unturned for compliance to SGMA.

“We’re doing everything we can to try to make sure that we manage this situation to the best of our ability and our growers are represented in a way that they will succeed in the long term,” he said.

Water Board Proceeds With Water Grab for Environment

40 Percent Water Grab for Environment Moves Forward

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The board members of the State Water Resource Control Board voted Dec. 12  to proceed with their unimpaired flows proposal on the Tuolumne, Stanislaus, and Merced Rivers—putting farmers and communities in peril of losing a big part of their water resources because of this water grab.

They’re calling for upwards of 40 percent unimpaired flows from the three tributary rivers flowing into the San Joaquin River flowing into the Delta to increase flows for salmon and other species.

“It’s going to have devastating and unavoidable consequences to our customers,” said Melissa Williams, Public Affairs spokeswomen for Modesto Irrigation District. “It’ll affect not only our farmers but also our urban community.”

Melissa Williams, Public Affairs for Modesto Irrigation District

Modesto Irrigation District treats and delivers and wholesales water to the city of Modesto, so homes and businesses will also be affected.

“We’re still evaluating the possible impacts and what that means for different supplies and rates,” Williams said.

“We’re disappointed in the State Water Resources Control Board’s action because at the direction of the governor and also the State Water Board, there was strong encouragement of voluntary agreement discussions. Modesto Irrigation District, together with our partners Turlock Irrigation District in the city and county of San Francisco, engaged in good faith, voluntary agreement discussions the last couple of months,” Williams explained.

The water districts have worked collaboratively to develop a framework for the Tuolumne River that not only would balance the needs of customers and the environment but also included an offer of early implementation of river flow and non-flow measures, such as habitat restoration and predation suppression measures.

“Despite our significant progress in putting this voluntary agreement framework together and presenting it to the State Water Board, they still decided to move forward with their plan,” Williams said.

Of course, the water districts plan to continue to fight the proposal and will take all measures to protect their water supply in those communities that are served.

“We’re still evaluating the State Water Board’s approved resolution, and the action they took and the impacts it will have. We continue to advocate for a durable solution that can achieve sustainability and reliability for our environment, our customers, and overall communities,” Williams said.

The Water Districts are frustrated with the State Water Board because the board ignored all suggestions to help the environment without taking so much water from the rivers.

“We have approximately 30 days to challenge their decision after they file what they call a notice of determination. So over the next month, we’ll be analyzing what they agreed to … and taking the appropriate actions necessary, including litigation,” Williams explained.

The State Water Board did include language in their approved resolution that directed their staff to evaluate the Tuolumne River and voluntary agreement framework and come back with an analysis by March 1, 2019.

“But again, we’re prepared to take any appropriate actions necessary to protect our water supply in our communities for our customers,” Williams said.

The economic impacts are devastating in Stanislaus County alone.

“Through various studies that we’ve done, our water supply supports close to $4 billion worth of economics, in the region. And of course, the Stanislaus and Merced River areas will have similar devastating impacts,” Williams said.

And even San Francisco consumers are impacted. Because a significant source of their water comes from the Tuolumne River, any cutbacks in water supply will affect two million people in the Bay Area.

Denham Legislation Brings More Water Storage

Dept. of the Interior Moves forward on the Expansion of Shasta Dam

News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh

 The U.S. Department of the Interior is moving forward on the enlargement of Shasta Dam, a critical water storage reservoir in California. This expansion comes as a direct result of Rep. Jeff Denham’s Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act language and $20 million in funding approved in March of this year.

“We’re moving forward with building more water storage for the first time in decades,” Denham said. “Real progress and results are what California needs if the next generation wants water.”

Rep. Jeff Denham

The total expansion of Shasta Dam will raise the dam by 18 ½ feet and provide an additional 630,000 acre-feet of stored water for families, farmers, and cities, delivering more water and improving reliability for farmers and communities. The expansion will also help reduce flood damage and improve water quality in the Sacramento River to revitalize fish populations and foster a stronger ecosystem.

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, which is leading the expansion effort, construction contracts for the dam are expected to be issued by December 2019, and the entire project is estimated to cost $1.4 billion. The project is eligible for additional financing through Denham’s New WATER Act, which provides financing opportunities for water infrastructure projects and will reduce the cost to water users.

The Denham New WATER Act language is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks to make major water infrastructure improvements a reality in the Central Valley. This success comes on the heels of major developments in the fight against Sacramento’s water grab, including Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue voicing support for Denham’s efforts to stop the state’s Bay-Delta plan.

For more information about the enlargement of Shasta Dam, click here. To learn more about what Rep. 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.

Marin County Farm Bureau Fights Back on Water Grab

More Water For Fish Will Not Work

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Recently in Sacramento, over one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a rally outside the Capitol building to protest the State Water Resources Control Board water grab. Over 40 percent of the water from Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers may be sent to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today spoke with Sam Dolcini with the Marin County Farm Bureau about the issue.

“I am here because water is critical to the entire agricultural infrastructure in the state of California. We have many dairies in our county that depend on the water from other parts of the state,” he said.

Marin County Farm Bureau
Sam Dolcini

The proposal would dedicate 40 percent of unimpaired flows along the Tuolumne River alone between February and June. This water would be used for fish, wildlife, and salinity control. This would be a huge increase in water currently used for environmental purposes, with water already in short supply.

“This can be devastating for valley farmers, which is why they flock this week to the Capitol building to be sure their voices are heard,” Dolcini said.

Ronda Lucas, General Counsel with the Modesto Irrigation district, agrees that this water grab could be devastating.

“We are one of the six senior water rights holders,” she said. “They are taking the waterfront, and the impact that will have on the Modesto irrigation district will just be devastating.”

Halting the Sacramento Water Grab

Rep. Denham calls on Congress to halt Sacramento Water Grab by enacting Denham Amendment

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

 Recently, U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), along with thirteen of his California colleagues, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to make sure Rep. Denham’s House-passed amendment to stop Sacramento’s water grab is included in the next spending bill that is signed into law.

“My amendment halts the disastrous Bay-Delta Plan that would see 40 percent of our water flushed out into the ocean,” Rep. Denham said. “Congress must act to protect the Valley.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

 Rep. Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July 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.

Sacramento’s planned water grab would do irreparable damage to Central Valley communities, directly interfering with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water and the Central Valley Project’s ability to deliver water.

The plan would subvert the will of Congress and jeopardize a significant portion of the nation’s agricultural productivity. Following a visit to New Melones at the request of Rep. Denham, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board highlighting serious concerns with the plan and directed his agencies to propose a new plan to maximize water storage and resolve issues with the state, among other directives. 

Rep. 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.

Steve Malanca Voices Frustration Regarding Water Grab

More Water Storage is What is Needed

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

At the capitol building in Sacramento, more than one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a big rally to protest the California State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab of 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today met with Steve Malanca, co-founder of My Job Depends on Ag, as he explained the concerns for water storage.

“Being in western Fresno County at Ground Zero, where the water take has been going on for 30 years, we have continually asked for more storage,” he said.

Steve Malanca
Steve Malanca

The lack of surface delivery water and the lack of storage in the state of California is not good for anyone.

“The fish need water. The farms need water. We need fresh drinking water, and the problem continues to get worse with the amount of water we lose every winter out to the ocean,” Malanca said. “If that water could be saved and properly stored … this would generate more cold water for the salmon to live and spawn in. We just want them to know that we need help, but we need more water.”

U.S. Representative for the 16th district Jim Costa also attended the water rally and explained the devastating impact of the water restrictions.

“If there are 40 percent unimpeded flows were allowed to go through, it would have a devastating impact on those counties,” Costa said.

Jim Costa

California has reallocated water in the past and has not had very good results.

“What we have really got to do is talk about other proposals that take into account habitat, non-native predator species, non-point discharge and a balance that makes sense,” Costa said.