Wednesday, July 31, 2013

News articles and links from July 31, 2013

Water Supply 

From: Elizabeth Kalfsbeek, Woodland Daily Democrat

Yolo County crops are making their way through the season, but farmers are already concerned about how they will irrigate next year's fields. Due to dry conditions and low precipitation, growers were allocated water this year, the first time since 2009.

"We're still delivering irrigation water," said Tim O'Halloran of the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. "We're releasing about 1,300 acre-foot per day now, and it will start dropping off as harvest finishes up."


From: Seth Nidever & Joe Johnson, Hanford Sentinel

For floaters looking for that traditional summertime journey on the Kings River, this has been a year to forget. First, near-record dry conditions in the mountains produced feeble flows from Highway 43 to Laton Park that were barely deep enough to wade in.Now it has stopped flowing completely.

From: Staff, KMJ Radio

The long, hot, dry summer is taking its toll on a popular place to cool off. Lazy tube trips on the Kings River are nothing more than a memory for many these days.

The reason? Little to no snowfall in parts of the Sierra that feed the waterway and major cut backs in allocation Pine Flat Dam. 


From: Amy Quinton, Capital Public Radio

It's not unusual for salmon to get stranded on the Colusa Basin.

But the National Marine Fisheries Service says the magnitude of the loss in April May and early June was significant.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan 

From: Thomas Elias, Salinas California

By now, most Californians have probably heard that a huge geologic formation known as the Monterey Shale contains oil and natural gas in Saudi Arabian-style quantities, locked up in underground rocks lacing an area extending more than 100 miles along the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and beyond.

Getting that oil out would require hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, a process involving high-pressure underground injection of water and chemicals. No one has yet said publicly how much water it would take to exploit the oil and gas in quantities large enough to make America energy independent.

Enter the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), which includes two parallel 35-mile-long freeway-width tunnels to bring Sacramento River water under the Delta formed by that river and the San Joaquin. This region now supplies much of the water used by California's largest cities and farms.


From: Ben Geman, The Hill  

President Obama will nominate Michael Connor to be deputy secretary of the Interior Department, a promotion from his current job heading Interior's water and hydropower agency called the Bureau of Reclamation.

Connor would replace former deputy David Hayes in the number two role at Interior, a department that regulates oil-and-gas drilling on federal lands and runs national parks, among its myriad energy and environment roles.

From: Press Release, USBR

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today praised President Obama's intent to nominate Michael L. Connor to serve as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Since 2009, Connor has served as Commissioner of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation.

From: Staff, Imperial Valley Press  

Jennifer McCloskey has been selected as the Bureau of Reclamation's Lower Colorado Region assistant regional director, according to a press release from the bureau.

McCloskey, formerly the area manager for Reclamation's Yuma Area Office, began her new position in the Lower Colorado Regional Office in Boulder City on July 22, 2013.


From: Staff, Capitol Alert/Sacramento Bee

The California Latino Capitol Association is sponsoring an event on water quality today. Speakers include Anton Favorini-Csorba from the Legislative Analyst's Office, who will address the intersecting governance roles of local, state and federal entities, followed by Jennifer Clary of Clean Water Action and Omar Carrillo of the Community Water Center, who will talk about barriers to providing communities with clean water. From noon to 1:30 p.m. in room 2040 of the State Capitol building.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

News articles and links from July 30, 2013

Trinity River

From: Devan Schwartz, Klamath Falls Herald & News

The Bureau of Reclamation will announce next week whether it plans to release additional water to help prevent a Klamath River fish kill, prompting threats of legal challenges to the proposed action.

From: Editorial, Redding Record Searchlight

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is doing the right thing by the environment in planning to release a late-summer slug of water down the Trinity River to help ensure a healthy run of salmon.

But in the process, it's flushing millions of dollars downstream. It's drawing what will surely be a hard-fought lawsuit from increasingly thirsty irrigators. And it will further increase north state utility ratepayers' already rising electric bills. Is it worth the cost?

(The following comment is posted to the above articles.) 
Coalition response...The proposed release of water down the Trinity River is above and beyond the Record Of Decision for the Trinity River that specifies and limits the quantity of water dedicated annually to the fishery. That decision has significantly reduced the amount of water that was historically delivered to the Central Valley Project and farmers in the Central Valley who grow the food we depend upon. Action taken last year by Reclamation to send the additional water down the Trinity was also controversial and provided unclear benefits to the Klamath river salmon. A repeat of that action this year will reduce the water supply to farmers who have had their supplies cut by 80 percent. It is no surprise that water agencies are fighting on behalf of their customers to keep water flowing to their farms rather than losing more water for Klamath River salmon, a fish that is not listed as endangered.   


From: David Sneed, SLO Tribune

County planners have outlined a series of emergency steps county supervisors could take to minimize depletion of the Paso Robles groundwater basin.

Included are prohibitions of any new plantings of irrigated crops, bans on conversion of dry land farming or grazing land to irrigated crops and limitations on building new development if it is dependent upon the groundwater basin.

From: Julie Lynem, SLO Tribune

The way to replenish the Paso Robles groundwater basin is not to impose restrictions on the agricultural community, but to push for a California Water District that would have the power to establish short-term and long-term solutions to stabilize the aquifer.

That's the message from the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions, a group of vineyard owners and other agriculturalists who want to establish a special district that could obtain loans to help people dig deeper wells, as well as fund projects to get supplemental water.

Colorado River 

From: William deBuys, LA Times

John Wesley Powell, whose legendary descent of the Colorado River in 1869 brought the one-armed explorer fame and celebrity, worried about America's westward migration. The defining characteristic of Western lands was their aridity, he wrote, and settlement of the West would have to respect the limits aridity imposed.

He was half right.

The subsequent story of the West can indeed be read as an unending duel between society's thirst and the dryness of the land, but in downtown Phoenix, Las Vegas or Los Angeles, you'd hardly know it.


From: Joe Scott, Western Farm Press

Farming in California's Central Valley has many advantages. Controlling the timing of applied water to thirsty crops is one benefit which growers in other areas of the world would like to have, versus relying on unreliable rainfall.

There are disadvantages too.

Monday, July 29, 2013

News articles and links from July 29, 2013

Water Supply

From: Chris Fenstermaker, Sacramento Bee

Re "Vineyards gulping water" (Letters, July 24): The letter writer rightly worries about the impact on groundwater supplies as more and more land is devoted to vineyards near Galt. His estimates of water requirements for vines remind me of my concern for water every time I drive down Interstate 5 to Los Angeles.

Coalition response...Chris Fenstermaker needs to be more careful when he tries to compare one farming region in California with another. Water use on a vineyard in Galt is pretty much the same as it is for the orchards he complains about along I-5. The fact is for 20 years almost 4,000 farms on the San Joaquin Valley's Westside have faced water supply cuts from 40 percent, to 60 percent to as much as 90 percent by a federal bureaucracy that has dismissed the impacts of its decisions on the people who live and work there. The food-producing capability of the Westside is important to California consumers and to the state's economy. It provides jobs and economic stability. Perhaps Mr. Fenstermaker should be thinking more about the impacts on society of a large segment of the population being unemployed.


From: John McManus, Modesto Bee

Steve Knell and Jeff Shields of the Oakdale and South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts miss some basic facts in their July 19 op-ed calling for predator eradication to help salmon ("Stop studying salmon and start doing something").

Coalition response...It is unbelievable that someone like John McManus who heads the Golden Gate Salmon Association could possibly ignore the largest single controllable force affecting the future of California's salmon industry.

He seems to think that predators will curb their diets if diversions from rivers are curtailed. I guess he assumes that the feeding frenzy in the Tuolumne River will go away if water delivered to cities and homes and to farms that grow the food we eat is reduced. A federal survey recently revealed that 93% of the juvenile salmon in the Tuolumne were eaten by predator fish. Not surprising, at a time when salmon populations reached their lowest, the numbers of bass that feast on baby salmon have skyrocketed (

Why isn't McManus talking to the bass industry about that?

Water Supply

From: Alex Breitler, Stockton Record

From the bathtub rings around our reservoirs, to the salty Delta lapping up against our levees, there is ample evidence that in the span of just two years California's water supply has shifted from wealth to want.

The state has not formally declared a drought, but water managers are using words like "dire" to describe the situation - particularly if next winter disappoints.

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press

A little more than halfway through his term as president of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, Matt Dessert is appealing for cooperation from the agricultural community, saying that time is of the essence if it wishes to help the IID tackle the many water-use issues it faces.

From: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

If there was one thing that struck a chord with a group of cotton growers from the southern Plains states of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas touring California recently it was the incredible amount of regulations California farmers must deal with on a daily basis to produce food and fiber.

For instance, visiting growers heard about California's water woes and how farmers who depend on irrigation water from the California State Water Project receive a scant 20 percent of their promised allocation of water to produce crops. The result of that is no more evident than in the vast amount of fallow land tour participants saw along the western side of the San Joaquin Valley.

"Farmers in Texas wouldn't tolerate this," said Donald Kirksey, a cotton grower from Lorenzo, Texas

From: George J. Janczyn, Groksurt's San Diego

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has agreed to contribute funding in the amount of $1,025,000 in fiscal year 2013 for a San Diego Watershed Basin Study proposed by the City of San Diego along with two other local agencies.

There are uncertainties associated with Northern California and Colorado River water (regulatory restrictions and dry conditions, respectively) upon which the San Diego region relies for 70-90% of its needs. While previous work has been done to address the potential gap between supply and demand from the above causes, the potential climate change effects were not taken into account. The proposed watershed basin study would analyze those effects.


From: Staff, Bakersfield Californian  

FarmsReach, an online information-sharing and business platform for farmers, just launched a new Water and Irrigation Toolkit with resources recommended by successful farmers and specialists in water and irrigation.

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Press Release, San Diego County Water Authority  

The San Diego County Water Authority's Board of Directors on Thursday provided guidance to staff on the scope of its proposed analysis of alternatives for fixing water supply reliability and ecosystem problems plaguing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta in Northern California.

To date, the Water Authority has not endorsed any specific project proposal for improving water conveyance through or around the Bay-Delta, which provides about 20 percent of the region's water supplies. In recent years, the Bay-Delta has become less reliable as a supply source and its habitat has deteriorated, increasing concerns over ecosystem viability.

From: Maven, Maven's Notebook   

At the July 23rd meeting of Metropolitan's Special Committee on the Bay-Delta, Dr. David Sunding presented the economic case for the BDCP to committee members, arguing that the benefits of the project far outweigh the costs. During his presentation, he discussed how the benefits to water contractors were calculated, addressed the differing baselines between the EIR/EIS and the analysis in BDCP's Chapter 9, and responded to some of the comments on the analysis by interest groups that have been received so far.

Friday, July 26, 2013

News articles and links from July 26, 2013

From: Antoine Abou-Diwan, Imperial Valley Press  

The Imperial Irrigation District's Agricultural Water Clearinghouse reviewed and approved the first set of water transfer requests Thursday.

Twenty-seven requests for additional water have been submitted and approved. Nearly 13,880 acre-feet of water will irrigate 36,397.4 acres.

From: Maven, Maven's Notebook

How about some good levee news for a change?

Department of Water Resources approves funding to strengthen Delta levees:  Fourteen reclamation district projects will receive $30 million in funding for Delta levee improvements under the Delta Special Flood Control Projects' Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) Levee Repair and Improvement Project Solicitation Package (PSP).

From: Staff, Chico Enterprise-Record

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has approved funding for 14 reclamation district projects in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to strengthen nearly 90 miles of levees to provide protection against flooding.

From: Nancy Vogel, BDCP

At a public meeting on July 17 to discuss the draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan, UC Berkeley economist Dr. David Sunding said that the BDCP, if implemented, would allow the state to deliver more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta than otherwise, almost entirely in years of abundant rainfall.

It's also true, as state officials have said, that average annual Delta water deliveries under the BDCP could be about the same or less than they have been historically.  Specifically, projections show a range of federal and state water project deliveries that are within 10 percent of the historical average deliveries of the last 20 years (5.3 million acre-feet).  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

News articles and links from July 25, 2013

Bay Delta Conservation Plan

From: Maven, Maven's Notebook

Earlier this week on West Marin Community Radio's show, Post Carbon Radio, Deputy Director of Natural Resources Agency Jerry Meral and the Planning and Conservation League's Jonas Minton had a congenial debate on the merits of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

From: Alex Breitler, esanjoaquin

Raising the specter of Owens Valley dust storms, San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott recently asked Valley air quality officials to consider the impacts of the governor's twin tunnels plan.


From: Maven, Maven's Notebook

The Delta Stewardship Council's role regarding the BDCP, as well as the multiple lawsuits filed over the Delta Plan were some of the topics discussed as Phil Isenberg, Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, updated the California Water Commission on the status of the Delta Plan at their July 17 meeting.

Water Supply

From: Kevin Valine, Modesto Bee

A growth management panel has approved a major expansion of almond farming in Stanislaus County's eastern hills and grasslands, where cattle once grazed.

The Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission voted 5-0 on Wednesday evening to approve the Oakdale Irrigation District's request to annex 7,296 acres of land east of Oakdale and owned by Trinitas Partners LLC of Menlo Park.

From: Press Release, USBR

The Bureau of Reclamation has recently finalized four water-related Reclamation Manual Policies and Directives and Standards. These new policies accomplish the following goals: (1) better aligns the definitions of irrigation water use and municipal and industrial water use with relevant law; (2) provides improved parameters for contract price negotiations associated with future water transfers; and (3) fills policy gaps, and clarifies existing policy as it relates to the cost of Reclamation-supplied water. The general purpose of these revised policies is to direct Reclamation staff in duties relating to the development, negotiation, execution and administration of water-related contracts.


From: Staff, Modesto Bee

How interesting.

Four-plus years ago, when Stanislaus County leaders asked their Agricultural Advisory Committee to draft a proposed ordinance to restrict export (sales) of groundwater outside the county, there was fierce opposition from some irrigation district leaders, who basically said, You're not in the water business; we are. Go away.

Today, one Modesto Irrigation District director, Larry Byrd, wants the county to do something immediately about the overdraft of groundwater on the east side of the county, where he and other property owners have had their wells affected by new and deeper wells drilled by others.


From: Press Release, USBR

The Bureau of Reclamation today released final environmental documents for the approval of the temporary transfer of up to 5,000 acre-feet of Central Valley Project water from the Clear Creek Community Service District to the Orland-Artois Water District, which is served by the Tehama-Colusa Canal, from July through October 2013.


From: Staff, Register-Guard  
To almost no one's great surprise, the 2010 agreement to restore the Klamath Basin did not end the region's epic battle over water rights. Yet it remains the best hope of removing dams, allocating water, restoring streams and helping the fish, farmers, tribes and communities that rely on the shallow, sick Klamath River that for decades has been the source of fierce controversy.


From: Pamela Martineau, ACWA

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced today that it has approved nearly $30 million in funding for 14 reclamation district projects in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that will strengthen nearly 90 miles of levees.

From: Press Release, Central Valley Business Times

Nearly 90 miles of levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are to be rebuilt to one degree or another to provide protection against flooding, the state Department of Water Resources says.


From: Barbara Arrigoni, Chico Enterprise-Record

An abundance of spring-run salmon has been seen this year in the Feather River in Oroville, and officials said they expect the fall run to be plentiful, too.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Connecting Farm Water, Food Production and People

California farmers face many obstacles in the process of turning land and water into a food supply for themselves and the other 98 percent of the population that are unconnected to farming. There is a constant struggle to overcome what Mother Nature throws at farmers including unpredictable weather, flood, drought, pests and diseases. Man-made challenges come in the form of laws and regulations that often defy logic, yet are as significant as any natural impediment to efficient and profitable food production.
On a recent trip to Australia I had the opportunity to meet a handful of people that work the land producing food and fiber with the same zeal and hardy nature that I've seen in California. And not surprising one common challenge shared by California farmers and their Aussie cousins is finding a way to help consumers understand the connection between farm water and the food they eat.

At the invitation of the New South Wales Irrigators Council (NSWIC) and underwritten by generous support from Cotton Australia, I was asked to speak at an irrigation conference in the Australian capital of Canberra. Andrew Gregson is the organization's chief executive and he said their interest was to have CFWC share its history and its strategy in the effort to reach consumers with a positive message about farm water and food production. 

 Wade (right) preparing to speak at a mock debate in the historic Old Parliament Building in Canberra. At left center is Professor Tony Allen, Kings College, London, representing the international team with Wade and Andrew Curtis from Irrigation New Zealand. The topic of the lighthearted debate was whether Australians are the best irrigators in the world. The result of the debate: Theyre not. 
Australian irrigators are interested in learning about CFWC's efforts to reach consumers. The highly capable NSWIC staff, along with their counterparts at Cotton Australia, the Rice Growers Association and other organizations, effectively engages their elected representatives and government regulators. They're looking ahead from a point where CFWC was back in 1989 and theyre asking themselves how to best educate consumers about the connection between farm water and the food supply.

The NSWIC is an organization similar to CFWC. It was formed to help represent the needs of farmers who irrigate land in the Australian state of New South Wales in Eastern Australia. Farmland in the area receives water from the Murrumbidgee River. The land in the area is flat and periodic overland flooding covers thousands of square miles before it returns to the river or percolates into the ground. Rice is one of the primary crops in the Murray-Darling Basin, along with cotton, citrus, almonds, winter grain crops and a burgeoning wine industry.
Richard Stott is the NSWIC chairman and grows cotton, rice and wine grapes. He's a big man with an equally big smile and sense of humor, the latter of which seems necessary when facing the natural and man-made challenges in the Murray-Darling Basin. 
                                        NSWIC Chairman Richard Stott
Stott has been at the helm of the organization while the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) adopted the MDBA Basin Plan. The Plan was adopted in November 2012 and when fully enacted would divert 2,750 gigaliters (about 2.2 million acre-feet) at the basin level and would redirect it to environmental purposes. That equates to roughly one third of the water currently used by farmers. It is not unlike current efforts by California's State Water Resources Control Board to enact regulations that set minimum flow standards in the tributaries to the San Joaquin River. The difference is that Australian water rights, or licenses, are generally owned by individual farmers and that public money can be used to purchase the rights from the farmers. Subsequently, farmers use funds generated by water rights sales to improve on-farm water use efficiency so they can continue to grow crops with their remaining supplies. At least thats how proponents of the Basin Plan say it will work.
The day after the conference I drove with Stott four hours west of Canberra to the town of Griffith to visit farms and to meet the farmers who grow a significant amount of Australias food and fiber. While differences exist between Australian and California farmers, there is one common trait among them: the desire to grow something of value from the natural resources around them. They are farmers to the bone.

Garry Carlon grows rice and almonds near Benerembah, a small town southwest of Griffith. Not unlike California farmers, Carlon makes decisions on which crops to grow based on soil type, climate and the availability of a market. He has a total of 360 acres of almonds ranging from four to eight years old. Also similar to some California farmers, Carlon's almonds are irrigated with a drip system fed from a small reservoir on his property. The reservoir serves to regulate his supply from Murrumbidgee Irrigation District so he can irrigate his trees regularly without having an on-demand supply managed by the district. 
                                Murrumbidgee River farmer Garry Carlon
One of his recent challenges involved a mysteriously declining pump efficiency over the course of an irrigation season. He determined that fine silt from the reservoir was making its way through the system, scouring the pumps interior surfaces and effectively reducing their efficiency by about half. Off-season maintenance currently underway includes rebuilding the pumps and installing a floating intake in the reservoir to eliminate the problem. Because it is in the Southern hemisphere, Australian crop production occurs from about October through May.

Another area farm that has taken advantage of public funding for on-farm irrigation efficiency improvements in exchange for water returned to the environment belongs to Barry and Gillian Kirkup. In addition to her role as a business partner and wife of her husband Barry, Gillian is the financial officer for the Murrumbidgee Irrigation District. Barry Kirkup explained that flood irrigation on their farm is highly efficient, thanks to the improvements they have undertaken including precise laser leveling and the installation of bankless channels on the ends of the fields. Bankless channels are shallow waterways approximately 20 feet wide running perpendicular to the field rows. They allow large volumes of water to push through the field at a high rate, shortening irrigation cycles and reducing losses to groundwater and evaporation. The bankless channels replaced hundreds of siphon tubes formerly used, saving time and eliminating a significant amount of labor.

Bankless channels are also used on a neighboring farm owned by Dallas and Liz Stott. Dallas is the nephew of NSWIC Chairman Richard Stott. His wife, Liz, works with him on the farm and also serves as the communications and policy officer for Australias Rice Growers Association. Liz is a skilled communicator and extremely organized, having put together my farm tour on about an hour's notice the day before.
                                                          Dallas Stott
                                                   Dallas and Liz Stott
As a younger farm couple, Dallas and Liz possess the energy and optimistic outlook that the agriculture industry needs if it hopes to carry-on into the future.

The next morning I met with Rob Kelly, executive manager of planning at the Murrumbidgee Irrigation District for a tour of the Barren Box Storage and Wetland (BBSW) area. Historically known as Barren Box Swamp, the 7,900-acre natural depression has served as an irrigation drainage and storage facility dating back to the mid-1920s. Murrumbidgee Irrigation was targeted by the Basin Plan to provide more than 16,000 acre-feet of water per year to help meet the overall environmental water supply goals for the region. That represented a significant amount of water from the districts supply and meant that large swaths of farmland were at risk due of fallowing or retirement as a result of the environmental water transfer.
                                   Barren Box Storage and Wetland area
Instead, planners from the irrigation district proposed an innovative idea: alter the operation of Barren Box by reducing the wetted area to reduce evaporative losses and at the same time, create a new, naturally managed wetland area for local wildlife.
The five-year project received $29 million in redevelopment funds in 2005 from the NSW government and the result has been a win for both farmers and the environment. Kelly explained that despite opposition by some environmentalists because it is an engineered solution, water management activities like this don't have to have a winner and a loser. It just takes flexibility and a willingness to seek solutions from both sides in order to make them work. 
This brings us back to the main reason for the trip: Educating Australian farmers and communications specialists about the successful ways CFWC has engaged the general public about farm water and food production. They already have the positive stories about Australian farmers working to be as efficient as possible while growing food and fiber crops for themselves and others around the world. With a communications partnership between California, Australian and even New Zealand farmers, the possibilities are endless for communicating agriculture's message to consumers who depend on farm water to produce the food they buy for their families.
Food Grows Where Water Flows

Want more information on the conference? Read thisthis!