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.

Surface Water is the Key to SJV Farming Future

Water Projects Were Built to Deliver Surface Water to Farmers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Water is always a concern while farming on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Daniel Hartwig is the resource manager of Huron-based Woolf Farming and Processing. The company is a multi-generation and multi-crop farming business. Hartwig explains how monitoring and being proactive helps them stay ahead of some of the water issues.

Like everybody, we’re concerned that there’s not going to be enough water to do everything we’re currently doing,” Hartwig said. I think we’re just waiting to see and trying to be proactive and get ahead of a lot of these water issues, but at the same time, we’re monitoring it and hopeful that there will be more surface water to make up for what we might be stopped from pumping.”

Not having surface water is a big problem on the west side.

The entire reason the California Aqueduct and other canals were built was to have surface water to mitigate against the issues they had back in the twenties, thirties, and forties. Back before there was surface water available,” Hartwig explained.water

Hartwig said he thinks that President Trump’s memorandum could be helpful.

“Anything that’s going to help give us water and allow it to be more reliable is very helpful. However, the issue is timing and … anything that’s going to take more time is more water loss, and that creates a struggle for all of us, he explained.

“Regarding pump drilling, there are always discussions going on, but I don’t think we’re at the point yet where we can make any of those decisions just because we don’t know for sure what’s … going to come down the pipeline,” Hartwig said. We’re evaluating, and we’re monitoring, and trying to be involved in these groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) discussions.”

Again, having surface water is the key to the future, noted Hartwig.

“The lack of surface water is a huge problem. I mean, we would not have to pump as much groundwater if we were able to get as much water as we are supposed to be receiving from the state and federal water projects,” Hartwig said.

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.

Interior Dept: Water Grab at New Melones Devastating for Central Valley

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.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

“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.

UC and Israel Sign Agricultural Research Agreement

California and Israel Face Similar Challenges

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC ANR News
From left, Ermias Kebreab, Eli Feinerman, and Mark Bell sign the agreement for Israel and California scientists to collaborate more on water-related research and education.

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.”

First the Feds, Now The State Plans More Water Diversions From Farms

More Planned Water Diversions From Farms to Fish-Not Just by Federal, but Also State Officials

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), regulators and environmental organizations want more water diversions to flow into the San Francisco Bay Delta Watershed to help save the declining Delta Smelt and Salmon. They have targeted three tributaries of the lower San Joaquin River; one of which is the Tuolumne River. Phase 1 of the Bay-Delta Plan is a real threat to all Modesto Irrigation District (MID) and Turlock Irrigation District (TID) customers including ag, urban water, and electric.

Coalitions for a Sustainable Delta, water diversionsMichael Boccadoro a spokesperson for the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, commented on the SWRCB: “They need to be pushed back. They need to be told no.” Boccadoro explained the water in question represents about 400,000 acre-feet taken from communities, businesses and farms. Ironically 400,000 acre-feet is roughly equivalent to the capacity of Hetch-Hetchy Reservoir (360,400 acre-feet) that funnels water, unabated, to San Francisco.

“This is only Phase One of the Boards’ decision,” said Boccadoro. “This is going to eventually encompass the Sacramento River; this is just the beginning. This isn’t by any stretch of the imagination the only potential impact agriculture would feel,” he said.

Boccadoro, like other people in the industry, cannot fathom why the SWRCB needs to take this water when it doesn’t seem to be doing anything beneficial for the endangered fish species. “This issue of continuing to take water that is providing no benefit—or no clear benefit—for fish, while we do nothing [to mitigate] the other stressors that are having a huge impact on the fish, has to stop,” Boccadoro said.

Boccadoro noted, “It looks like Governor Brown has it in for farmers. We have problems with groundwater and increasing water scarcity in the state, and the result of this [plan] would be increased groundwater pumping—until they tell us we can’t pump groundwater. At that point, they are basically telling us, ‘You can’t farm any more.'”

“It’s a huge problem, said Boccadoro. “For whatever reason, it appears that the Brown administration has declared war on California agriculture. Enough is enough. We need to push back hard against the Water Board’s decisions,” noted Boccadoro.

“This is as good a place to fight as any as I can think of,” Boccadoro explained. “We need to start the fight and continue the fight, which is the only way it’s ever going to be turned back. The regulators and environmental groups must address the other stressors [to the endangered species]. Taking water from agriculture has not corrected the problem.

In the meantime Boccadoro hopes the farmers are taking notice. “I sure hope they’re willing to come up here [to Sacramento] and demand that the state not take their water,” he said.

European Farmland Under Pressure

European Farmland under Pressure Due to Regulation and Diversion

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Jose Gomez Carrasco, executive sales manager for AGQ Labs and Technological Services based in Oxnard, is in charge of covering a large area that includes the U.S., Mexico and Central America. Noting global concern regarding how farmland is being used, particularly European farmland, Carrasco said, “There’s a growing population of around 150,000 or 170,000 new mouths every day to feed.” Carrasco said agricultural production on land designated for agricultural use in every country, worldwide, is being diverted to bio-ethanol, or bio-mass, or different renewable energy use, so the availability of agricultural products for food is diminishing.

Carrasco stated this progression needs to be moving in the opposite direction, “especially because there are other issues that are making production more challenging, such as water scarcity, soil erosion and the use and price of agro-chemicals, inputs and fertilizers, all of which are being controlled and monitored more and more.”

“The regulation of crop protection materials is intended to help everyone in the food supply chain,” he continued, “all the way from the grower to the consumer; however, sometimes these regulations can be quite burdensome.”

“In some cases regulations are not for the benefit of all,” Carrasco explained; “just for some. So in markets such as the European Union where the [maximum threshold] number of molecules registered has diminished from 1,000 to 300 or 400 in the last decade, we’re finding a lot of this regulation comes from Germany.” Carrasco said they are leaving a lot of farmers with no agro-chemicals in their arsenal, especially in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, all in southern Europe.