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.
Ruben J. Arroyo, Kern County Agricultural Commissioner reported the 2013 gross value of all agricultural commodities produced in the county was $6,769,855,590, according to the 2013 Kern County Agricultural Crop Report, representing an increase (6%) from the revised 2012 crop value ($6,352,061,100). Thus, Kern County ag ranks second in state, with Tulare ahead, and Fresno behind.
Kern County’s top five commodities for 2013 were Grapes, Almonds, Milk, Citrus and Cattle & Calves, which make up more than $4.6 Billion (68%) of the Total Value; with the top twenty commodities making up more than 94% of the Total Value. The 2013 Kern County Crop Report can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards website: www.kernag.com
Tulare County reported gross annual production in 2013 at $7.8 Billion, Fresno County, $6.4 Billion, and Monterey County, $4.38 Billion.
As predicted by many, including CaliforniaAgToday on July 15, 2014, Fresno County, long-time top ag county in the state—and in the nation—now ranks third in the state and has regressed in ag growth since 2011.
Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner, attributes much of the decrease to the water shortage, particularly exacerbated by a large part of the West Side being dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries that have been curtailed by pumping restrictions due to the Endangered Species Act.
The unprecedented zero water deliveries this year are extremely hard for managers of West Side Water Districts.
Martin McIntyre, General Manager of the San Luis Water District based in Los Banos, is very frustrated about keeping farming operations and employment viable with zero percent water allocation.
“The biggest frustration for us has been the regulations that interfere with water supply deliveries intended to protect a couple of endangered fish species. From our perspective, they are rather misguided,” said McIntyre.
A recent study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences found that the current drought is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture. This, in conjunction with federal environmental restrictions on the state, have create some difficult situations.
“There are many causes in the decline of species, and the regulators have seized water flow as the principle cause. There is ample evidence that it’s the declining food supply and the toxic releases into the delta; but the popular, publicized notion remains that water deliveries are endangering the species, and its simply isn’t the case,” said McIntyre.
While the preservation of fish species is an admirable goal, the environmental restrictions that have been put into effect are not the most appropriate solution. Especially during a severe drought when farmers are already struggling.
“We’re allowed to take, depending on the year, approximately 300 smelt, little Minnows, at the major pumping stations that serve the lower two-thirds of the state. That’s a snack for a Striped Bass! It’s estimated that, in some reaches of the delta, 90 percent of salmon smelt are eaten by Striped Bass; and yet, regulations are putting the state’s water supply in jeopardy in a misguided effort to try to recover the species–without addressing the more fundamental problems,” said McIntyre.
For the first time in history, Fresno County has two $1 billion crops, and for the first time in 11 years, grapes are not the #1 crop. Now almonds are the top crop produced in Fresno County with a value of $1.1 billion, with grapes coming in second at $1.03 billion. However, despite these highlights, Fresno County crop value in 2013 was $6.436 billion in gross production—a decrease of 2.28 percent of 2012.
As it stands now, Fresno County loses it’s #1 position as top agricultural county in the nation, dropping behind Tulare County, which recently announced a $7.8 billion 2013 crop year. It could get worse when Kern County releases their report in August.
“Much of the decrease can be attributed to the shortage of water,” said Les Wright, Fresno County Ag Commissioner. “The impacts of drought began to show on our 2012 crop report with decrease of 2.29 percent from 2011. Producers are feeling the affects of the water shortage more in 2014 than in the previous two yeas.”
Water shortages in Fresno County with a large part of the West Side dependent on both state and federal surface water deliveries have meant the annual crop report’s gross value of production has dropped three years in a row.
Details of the 2013 report include an increase of fresh vegetable production in 2013 by 3.8 percent in value led by garlic and fresh market tomatoes, while livestock and poultry decreased in value by more than 16 percent.
Field crops, representing barley, wheat, corn silage, cotton an alfalfa declined nearly 42 percent, while fruit and nut crops increased more than 8 percent.
Wright noted that Fresno County growers exported nearly 26,000 shipments to 99 different countries. “This tells us that we are still feeding the world,” said Wright.
“Once we get water back, we are going to see our ag economy rebound,” said Wright. “Just give the farmers water and they will do the rest.”