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.

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.

Almond Farmer Fights Back Against the State Water Grab

“Hundreds of Years of Property Rights Taken Away”

By Hannah Young, Associate Editor

More than 1,000 farmers, stakeholders, and supporters attended a rally in Sacramento protesting the California Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab.

This water grab will affect the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers, redirecting 40% of the water to increase flows for salmon population.

Tim Sanders, an almond grower in Stanislaus County, described the catastrophic effects this water grab will have on Valley farmers.

“The scarier part about this, they’re trying to change hundreds of years of water rights,” Sanders said. “If they can take our water rights with this grab, they can take anybody’s water rights, so everybody in California should be concerned about this.”

Sanders explained how this is proposed water grab is a real government overstep.

“Our area is one of the few areas in the state that aren’t in extreme overdraft of groundwater, and it’s because we can do irrigation,” Sanders said. “We can recharge our aquifers all the time.”

If the state takes surface water from these growers, they will have to rely on their pumps extracting water from the ground, which could put them in a situation where they’ll be impacted by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“We’ve got a good system working. They just need to leave us alone or come to us at the table and be willing to compromise, talk to us,” Sanders said.

Assemblyman Adam Gray: Need Real Changes for Water Future

Everything is On Table For California’s Water Future

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Now is the time to unite and plan California’s water infrastructure. That’s what Adam Gray told California Ag Today recently. Gray is the California State Assembly representing the 21st Assembly District, Merced and Stanislaus Counties. He said there is an urgent need for unification in regards to California’s water and the need for real changes to be made for future generations.

“It’s that famous quote, ‘Water’s for fighting. Whiskey’s for drinking.’ All we do is spend our time fighting, and we cannot continue to divide the pie. We have to grow the pie. That means targeted, intelligent investments in storage, projects like Temperance Flat, projects like Sites Reservoir,” Gray explained.

It is hoped that these reservoirs get California through years of drought, and will help us utilize water and years of heavy rain.

“It also means recycling, groundwater recharge, desal, and it means communities working together to make sure we have the conveyance systems in place to move that water around and meet the need of every Californian, and stop forcing people into false choices,” Gray said.

“The environment versus drinking water for schools. These are false choices. We can do better, we can do more,” he continued.

“We, as Californians, need to look past the short term into the long term. It’s important to look out for future generations and keep their needs in mind, as well,” Gray said.

“There’s no silver bullet solution, as is true with anything. There are always costs of doing business, there are always compromises to be made, if we can agree on the target.” he noted. “And the target being meeting the needs of not just of this generation, not just today, but of our children’s generation and our grand-children’s.”

“We need to make the same smart, significant investments that our grandparents made to provide us with this great economy that we have here in this great agricultural valley,” Gray said.

Alfalfa and Water in Imperial County

Imperial Valley Is Big on Alfalfa Production

By Brian German, Associate Editor

 

Imperial County farmers produce more than 100 different types of commodities from bamboo to artichokes, with alfalfa being one of the county’s most significant crops. Linsey Dale, executive director for the Imperial County Farm Bureau, said, “Alfalfa is grown on about 120,000 acres in Imperial County—about one quarter of our total farm acreage. It is a very important crop to the County, both for domestic use and export markets.”

Imperial County, CA
Imperial County, CA

Dale differentiated the alfalfa industry from others. “We are completely Roundup Ready-free. We grow non-GMO alfalfa here in Imperial county,” said Dale, “and it’s a very strong crop. We get about nine cuttings per year, which is very significant compared to most areas in the country,” she noted.

Because Imperial County is a desert environment, many wonder how farmers are able to grow so many different types of crops. “We have a very strong water supply. Our water comes from the Colorado River, which is moved by the Imperial Irrigation District, so we do not rely on rainfall to grow any of our crops. We rely 100 percent on our supply from the Colorado River,” Dale said.

“In terms of overall water usage,” Dale explained, “Imperial County agriculture uses an average of 5.6 acre-feet of water per acre every year. Dale added, “The Imperial Irrigation District holds the water in trust for use on our land. They have instituted what we call an Equitable Distribution Program, in which all of the water is allocated by acreage, so growers have a set amount of acre-feet of water to use on each acre.”

Mario Santoyo: Hold Environmental Water Use Accountable!

Mario Santoyo: Hold Environmental Water Use Accountable!

 

By Laurie Greene, California Ag Today Editor

 

California Ag Today met with Mario Santoyo, executive director for the California Latino Water Coalition at the recent Clovis drought forum organized by Assemblymember Jim Patterson to talk about how serious the current drought situation has become.

We are definitely in one of the worst drought situations that has happened in recent times. But the fact is, the 1977 drought was actually worse than where we are now. But this year, we’re at a zero water allocation and in ’77 we were at 25% for both the Eastside and Westside. So what’s the difference? Well, it boils down to the differences that are now dedicating a whole bunch of water to environment use, but the environment is not being held accountable for its usage,” Santoyo said.

“Cities and agriculture have had to be very accountable for their water usage and efficiency. It’s not the same for the environment, and so I’m hoping people will understand this discrepancy when we push to reallocate some of the water back to the cities and farms. We must hold environmental water use accountable!”

Santoyo noted the critical importance of building new water storage projects. “We have been working on this for a long time, and we just can’t afford to continue losing millions and millions of acre-feet of water to the ocean during times like this, when we could use that water. We need everyone to understand they have a role in communicating to the state government that we must advance our storage capacity.

Santoyo noted, “Farmworker communities are doing a lot worse because, again, zero allocation on both the Eastside and Westside quickly translates into fallowed land, which means there are fewer jobs available. So farmworkers now find themselves in an extremely difficult position in which they either stick around and hope for the best or they leave. But once they leave, they aren’t coming back,” he said.

And, that makes life tough for the farmworkers, but it also makes it tough for the farmers because they need water and labor. You can’t do without both, and the lack of one causes problems with the other; if you don’t have water, you lose the labor, and then what do you do? So, it’s unfortunate that some changes in the way we are using water today have changed the entire landscape of agriculture here in the Central Valley.”

In terms of what we can do, Santoyo urged Californians never to give up. “There’s no reason why we all cannot write letters to our representatives and to the governor! Wake him up! Tell him, ‘Hey by the way, you’re supposed to represent us and step to the plate. Have better control over State Water Resources Control Board because they are making tons of mistakes.’ Governor Brown must start making the right decisions for the people.”

Mario Santoyo On Allocating Enviromental Water to Cities and Farms

All Sectors Of California Have Had to Reduce Water Usage, Except the Environment

By Kyle Buchoff, Correspondent

Mario Santoyo is the Assistant General Manager of the Friant Water Authority as well the Executive Director of the Latino Water Coalition. He suggests the environment give up some of its water, like the other sectors in California, to free up supply for cities and farms that are suffering this year.

He told California Ag Today, “This is the fourth year of a serious drought and the second year of what I call ‘double zeros,’ meaning zero water allocation on the West Side and zero allocation on the East Side of the Central San Joaquin Valley. Historically, a year of double zeros has never happened, much less a second year of it. This translates to the worst possible condtion for agriculture in the Central Valley—ever,” Santoyo said.

“At this point there is clearly nothing we can do relating to Mother Nature; she’s going to do what she’s going to do. But the fact is, it is not just Mother Nature causing this drought; human involvement in the operations and management of water has resulted in this level of crisis,” he said.

Santoyo emphasized that the environment must be considered in any  water usage allotment, but “to the degree that there are no requirements to justify the level of the water that it needs, unlike municipal and agricultural allocations, that is not reasonable,” Santoyo noted.

“So as we move further down the drought road in terms of farmer hardship, we’ve tried to appeal to policymakers to rethink how environmental water is being used. We’ve talked to legislators in Washington D.C. and we are talking with the Governor Brown.”

“The governor has implemented a 25 percent water reduction for municipalities, and of course you cannot receive less than a zero water  allocation for agriculture, so a similar cutback to environmental water use is warranted,” Santoyo said. “It is very reasonable, given the dire circumstances we all face, that everyone share in the pain. Reductions in  environmental water could be reallocated to the communities and farms to ease at least some of the pain.”

Santoyo hopes that state and federal legislators will help to reallocate some of the water supply this summer.

California Water Usage

Joel Nelsen, President of California Citrus Mutual on Water Usage 

 

By Courtney Steward with California Ag Today

 

Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual (CCM), commented on the recent upsurge in negative public opinion on the state’s agricultural water usage, “They don’t want the attention focused on their cherished agenda item, which is environmentalism.”

“There are good reasons to protect the environment,” Nelsen explained, “we don’t want salt-water intrusion in the Delta and we don’t want fish to become extinct. However, we do want a realistic approach to solving environmental problems starting with science-based assessments, partial limits and sustainable solutions.”

Nelsen said “’sustainability’ varies depending on who you talk to. “Ask a farmer and they will tell you that sustainability is about producing a legacy, ensuring that future generations too will be able to cultivate a viable crop on the same land. Sustainability is about learning from the past to prepare for the future and fulfilling an inherent responsibility to the environment and to society, working with the land in order to feed the world today and in the future. The California citrus industry has not only sustained, but thrived for over 125 years.”

“So, how do we solve this complex issue of a limited water supply for competing needs with solutions that deliver sustainable results with accountability from all parties involved?  Nelsen stated, “You want a thorough assessment of the current situation; are our current solutions solving our water problems?”

“When you talk about restoring the San Joaquin River,” Nelsen explained, “our current solution is not biologically viable. The smelt population is not recovering; it continues to decline. Let’s honestly ask ourselves ‘is this solution effective or is it time to quit wasting money, quit wasting water and try another science-based solution?”

AHPA Leadership Urges Members to Support Voluntary Almond Industry PAC

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Almond Hullers & Processors Association (AHPA) Chairman Dick Cunningham and President Kelly Covello urged their membership to support the voluntary California Almond Industry PAC at the association’s 34th Annual AHPA Convention, held on the Big Island in Hawaii over the past three days.

Almond Hullers & Processors Association

Facing immense challenges such as the slowdown of West Coast ports, air quality laws and regulations, net energy metering (NEM), food quality and safety, worker safety, bees and bee health, wastewater treatment, crop protection regulation, aboveground petroleum storage Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plans, competing research priorities and most urgently, unprecedented drought conditions and public misunderstanding and criticism of almond water usage, the Almond Industry aims to create a unified voice for candidate support, political information and education services.

Through a Memorandum of Agreement with the Almond Board of California (ABC), AHPA is able is able contract for a portion of ABC Logostaff time/expertise to assist in AHPA’s advocacy efforts and provide a unified voice for the industry. The ABC educates regulatory agencies and legislators but is prevented by the USDA Federal Marketing Order to advocate for government policy or legislation.

The California Almond Industry PAC will hold a fundraiser in Bakersfield on May 14th, at Imbibe, 4140 Truxtun Avenue, from 5:30-7:00pm, sponsored by Golden Empire Shelling, LLC., Landmark Irrigation, Inc., Pacific Ag Management, Inc., Paramount Farms, and Supreme Almonds of California.

Fundraisers will also be arranged in the Northern and Fresno areas in the upcoming months.

Sponsorship Levels include:

  • Platinum: $2500
  • Gold: $1500
  • Supporter: $500 (includes a guest)

You do not need to be an AHPA member to contribute or attend the event.

For more information, contact (209) 599-5800 or staff@ahpa.net.

California Almond Industry Political Action Committee
California Almond Industry Political Action Committee

Will Mandatory Water Conservation Regulation be Effective?

By Laurie Greene, Editor

As the agricultural sector does its part in coping with curtailed water allocations and conserving what remains, an emergency regulation to increase conservation practices for all Californians went into effect TODAY. The new mandatory water conservation regulation targets outdoor urban water use. In some areas of the state, 50 percent or more of daily water use is for lawns and outdoor landscaping. This regulation establishes the minimum level of activity that residents, businesses and water suppliers must meet as the drought deepens and will be in effect for 270 days unless extended or repealed.

The regulation, adopted by the State Water Board July 15, and approved by the Office of Administrative Law July 28, mandates minimum actions to conserve water supplies both for this year and into 2015. For more information please visit the Conservation Regulation Portal.

In “The Public Eye: Voluntary water conservation not effective, data show,” Matt Weiser and Phillip Reese confirm, “only mandatory conservation measures, backed by a threat of fines, seem to prompt consumers to save.”

They reported state water agencies used five percent less water (January-May 2014) under mandatory rules alone than the previous three-year average. Agencies under voluntary conservation measures increased water usage four percent over the same timeframe.

Most significantly, water agencies working under mandatory water conservation regulations used fourteen percent less water in May 2014; whereas, other agencies increased usage slightly. And, seventy-five percent of water districts north of the Grapevine reduced usage compared to previous years, while only thirty percent of those south showed reductions.

Now let’s put this into perspective, the authors say that, for instance, Santa Ana residents, each, consume 108 gallons of water daily versus Sacramento residents, who use 218 gallons each. Likewise, San Francisco residents increased their water consumption in May, but they use forty-nine gallons daily, and of course,they do not have substantial landscaping to nourish.

With this regulation, all Californians are expected to stop: washing down driveways and sidewalks; watering of outdoor landscapes that cause excess runoff; using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle, and using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated. The regulation makes an exception for health and safety circumstances.

Larger water suppliers are required to activate their Water Shortage Contingency Plan to a level where outdoor irrigation restrictions are mandatory. In communities where no water shortage contingency plan exists, the regulation requires that water suppliers either limit outdoor irrigation to twice a week or implement other comparable conservation actions. Finally, large urban water suppliers must report water use on a monthly basis to track progress beginning Aug. 15.

Local agencies could ask courts to fine water users up to $500 a day for failure to implement the conservation requirements of the regulation, in addition to their existing authorities and processes.

In addition, Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste and has signed a bill that bars state homeowners associations and common interest developments, such as condominiums, from fining residents for drought-respectful brown lawns. As yet, all other homeowners are not protected.

Visit SaveOurH2O.org to find out how everyone can do their part; Drought.CA.Gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought, and Saveourh2o.org/report-water-waste to report state agency water waste.