Topic List: Agriculture



California has been the nation’s leading agricultural and dairy state for the past 50 years. The state’s 80,500 farms and ranches produce more than 400 different agricultural products. These products generated a record $44.7 billion in sales value in 2012, accounting for 11.3 percent of the US total.

Breaking down the state’s agricultural role in the country, California produces 21 percent of the nation’s milk supply, 23 percent of its cheese and 92 percent of all grapes. The state also produces half of all domestically-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables, including some products, such as almonds, walnuts, artichokes, persimmons and pomegranates, of which 99 percent are grown in California.

Overall, about 3 percent of employment in the state is directly or indirectly related to agriculture.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Is SGMA compatible with farmland preservation?

As implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) gets underway, questions are emerging about what it will mean for lands protected under the Williamson Act, California’s chief farmland preservation policy. For nearly 60 years, the Williamson Act has helped protect 16 million acres—roughly half of the state’s crop- and rangelands—from development. But as SGMA’s limitations on groundwater extraction go into effect—and as warmer, more intense droughts begin to push land out of irrigation–the context within which the program operates is shifting. In July, we gathered a group of agriculture, solar, and county stakeholders to explore the interplay between the Williamson Act and SGMA in the San Joaquin Valley. Here is what we learned.

Aquafornia news Food and Water Watch

Blog: Western drought isn’t going anywhere. It’s time to rethink water use.

This drought isn’t going away anytime soon. One study projects a 75% chance that it lasts through 2030. But if climate change escalates unabated, dry conditions could last even longer. It’s time for our elected leaders to take a hard look at the biggest water abusers and drivers of climate change. It’s time to take on big agribusiness and the fossil fuel industry. … On top of climate-changing carbon emissions, oil and gas production uses a huge amount of water. In California, the oil and gas industry has used over 3 billion gallons of water since 2018. … Another culprit behind the megadrought: Big Ag. In the West, thirsty farms abound. Agriculture makes up 80% of California’s water use, most of it industrial. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California’s Gavin Newsom keeps angering environmentalists

The word got out and the environmental lobby was quick to pounce: After years of silence on the issue, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration was reviving a controversial plan to burrow a tunnel beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the fragile hub of California’s water-delivery system. Environmentalists said the tunnel would wreck the Delta, not fix it. Ailing fish populations would be driven further to extinction. The reworking of the Delta’s plumbing would leave Delta farmers with water too salty for raising grapes, tomatoes and other crops, they said.

Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Out in the fields, contemplating humanity and a parched almond farm

California is amid its driest period since record-keeping began, a drought made drier by climate change. In June, the state curtailed water allotments for thousands of users across the state, including in agricultural areas like the San Joaquin Valley, where Christine [Gemperle] farms. … The narrative around the almond industry’s excessive consumption of water frustrates Christine; everything in American refrigerators takes water to produce, and she thinks the media wields statistics about almond farming’s use of water like a weapon. Christine takes it personally. Water scarcity has undoubtedly put strain on the farm; last year she ripped out one orchard early to save water.

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Aquafornia news UC Davis News

Blog: Agave – The new drought-tolerant California crop?

Agriculture in California faces an uncertain future as drought, wildfires and other climate extremes become more commonplace in the West. But a fledgling industry focused on growing and distilling agave plants, which are used to produce tequila and mezcal in Mexico, could be California’s answer to fallowed fields and a lack of water. Earlier this year a group of growers, distillers and retailers formed the California Agave Council to foster collaboration and offer a chance to share knowledge among members who previously had no formal network.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Registration now open for October 27 Water Summit in Sacramento

You can now register for the in-person return of the Foundation’s 38th annual Water Summit, a one-day conference highlighting the latest information and perspectives on water resources in California and the West. The event includes an evening reception along California’s largest and longest river, the Sacramento River, for an opportunity to network with speakers and other attendees from a variety of backgrounds. Find more details about our Water Summit along with our fall tours and Water Leaders Alum Reunion.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Crops fallowed, herds reduced as drought deepens

California farmers and ranchers affected by a third consecutive year of drought and related emergency curtailments of water deliveries have planted fewer acres, fallowed fields or reduced livestock herds to make it through the season. Siskiyou County rancher Ryan Walker, president of the county’s Farm Bureau, said farmers affected by emergency water curtailments—readopted in July by the State Water Resources Control Board—face water shortages and high hay prices, which impact ranchers’ ability to maintain livestock herds.

Aquafornia news American Society of Civil Engineers

Blog: Central Valley subsidence could last longer than expected

Until the development of the major state and federal water projects that began delivering surface water to the area in the second half of the 20th century, the Central Valley relied almost exclusively on groundwater. Heavy pumping of groundwater has led to significant land subsidence throughout the valley, causing major damage in some areas to canals, aqueducts, and other infrastructure. This subsidence was particularly pronounced in the valley’s southern half, which is known as the San Joaquin Valley. By 1970, approximately half the San Joaquin Valley, or roughly 5,200 sq mi, had subsided by at least 1 ft, according to the website of the U.S. Geological Survey. Some locations had subsided by as much as 28 ft.

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

As drought hits farms, investors lay claim to Colorado water

Michael Jones ducked under an idle sprinkler and strode across the sandy soil where he planned to plant drought-resistant crops, hoping to save water amid the driest period in more than 1,200 years. … A company known as Renewable Water Resources (RWR) aims to drill a series of deep wells on a nearby ranch it owns and pipe the water more than 200 miles north to a Denver suburb, where sprinklers rotate on manicured lawns. The firm recently sought $10 million from Douglas County to kickstart its project. … If the state engineer’s office, its water court, and federal regulators were to approve RWR’s plan, it would mark the first time that private investors could ship water from an aquifer in one part of the state to a community in another. 

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

The Bureau of Reclamation’s $4 billion drought question

The unveiling of the Inflation Reduction Act lit a fuse in Washington, just before the lazy days of the August recess… The House is expected to vote on the bill on Friday. With its drought provisions, the bill focuses attention on the Bureau of Reclamation…. The $4 billion dollars in the Inflation Reduction Act is more than double its annual budget. It’s certainly a large chunk of money, said Jennifer Gimbel, senior water policy scholar at the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. But it is “a drop in the bucket for what is needed” to address a growing aridity that now covers more than 70 percent of the West in some stage of drought. 

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Aquafornia news KCRW - Los Angeles

Microforests: Little green spaces can have big impact on climate

Temperatures have been soaring in LA for much of this week, and it seems like the days will keep getting hotter. With climate change happening, and concerns about loss of habitat for creatures big and small, some folks are looking for little ways to make a big impact. Enter microforests. At their smallest, they’re 10 foot by 10 foot, planted in urban areas with diverse native trees and shrubs to help provide wildlife habitats and clean the air.  Native plant horticulturist and educator Katherine Pakradouni planted LA’s first microforest in Griffith Park, and says it has already attracted a wide range of animals, including bugs, birds, lizards, and squirrels.

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Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

Bill would provide relief to farmworkers in drought-stricken California

[A]s climate change brings hotter, drier conditions, the American dream is getting harder to achieve in the Valley. Because of severe drought the past few years, farmers have left some fields unplanted. And with fewer acres to plant and harvest, many workers have had their hours cut or lost their jobs. … [State senator Melissa Hurtado] says many of these workers are struggling to pay rent and feed their families. So she’s proposed legislation that would provide qualified farmworkers with a $1,000 monthly stipend for three years.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

‘Towns built on agriculture’ plead for federal drought relief

As the Sacramento Valley grapples with its most damaging natural disaster to date, California agriculture is eyeing a massive spending package in Congress and pressing for emergency relief funding to ensure local economies survive the drought. Dennis reported seeds sales were down as much as 85% for De Pue, the nation’s largest independent drying and storage company, with 14 rice facilities along the I-5 corridor. As one of the primary seed providers for the Sacramento Valley, the company projects it will have just 10% of its regular volume at harvest. If the drought were to end this year, it would not have enough seed for farmers in the next growing season.

Aquafornia news California Water Research

Blog: Climate adaptation: match crops to climate

The megadrought in the West is a time of reckoning for farmers. … California is in a better position than western desert states, because some areas of the state have adequate rainfall. For California, the problem is not so much growing water-intensive crops, but growing them in the driest areas in the state. The arid scrubland on the southern floor of the San Joaquin Valley gets about 7-8 inches of rain on average. The farmland in this region was traditionally used for grazing and low-water use crops such as winter wheat. … The expansion of permanent crops has increased farm income, but has also been a major cause of groundwater depletion. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Drought requires new strategies for managing cropland

The San Joaquin Valley is California’s largest agricultural region, but it’s facing an uncertain future. A combination of persistent drought and the rollout of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will increase regional water scarcity in the coming decades. Water scarcity will have a major effect on land use: At least half a million acres are projected to come out of irrigated production in the San Joaquin Valley by 2040. This raises a thorny question: What happens to all this newly fallowed land?
-Written by Andrew Ayres, a research fellow of the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center; and Caitlin Peterson, associate director of the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

A battle for safe drinking water grows heated amid drought in California’s Central Valley

Thousands of acres of crops, from corn to nectarines, surround Melynda Metheney’s community in West Goshen, California — one of the key battlegrounds where residents say irrigation and overpumping have depleted drinkable water. … In 2012, Community Water Center (CWC) told the Goshen community of about 3,300 that its water was contaminated with nitrates. Residents spent two years fighting to connect to Cal Water — the third largest regulated utility in the nation — and only some did. Some of Metheney’s West Goshen neighbors still don’t have well water.

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Aquafornia news Civil Eats

Are Criollo cattle a regenerative solution to a 1,200-year megadrought?

Tucked high in a mountain range in San Diego County, California, ranch managers Rob Paulin and Jeremey Walker rely on “spunky” cows to mitigate wildfire by grazing on the chaparral brush and shrubbery that traditional market cattle won’t seek—let alone eat. … Originally from the Andalucía region of Spain, these Raramuri Criollo cattle are small and trim—weighing about 800 pounds each, compared to a 1,200-plus-pound Angus cattle. After being brought from Spain 500 years ago, they evolved in the mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico, where they learned to survive by searching for food in the far corners of the rough landscape.

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Aquafornia news Press Democrat

New Russian River curtailments imposed as Sonoma County officials warn of worsening drought

Several hundred ranchers, grape growers, tribes, landowners and community water suppliers, including the city of Healdsburg, were barred Friday from exercising some of their rights to water from the Russian River amid tightening supplies in an unrelenting drought officials say is likely to get worse. The third round of curtailments imposed by the State Water Resource Control Board was prompted by drastic reductions in Eel River water diversions, which are critical to boosting diminishing storage in Lake Mendocino, which in turn feeds the Russian River. The water board also formally suspended a new voluntary sharing arrangement that allowed some of those with older, “senior” water rights to share water with those whose rights have been curtailed.

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Aquafornia news Associated Press

In dry California, salty water creeps into key waterways

Charlie Hamilton hasn’t irrigated his vineyards with water from the Sacramento River since early May, even though it flows just yards from his crop. Nearby to the south, the industrial Bay Area city of Antioch has supplied its people with water from the San Joaquin River for just 32 days this year, compared to roughly 128 days by this time in a wet year. They may be close by, but these two rivers, central arms of California’s water system, have become too salty to use in some places as the state’s punishing drought drags on. 

Aquafornia news NRDC

Blog: Conservation helps farms survive—and thrive—in drought

Healthy soil is a potent tool to combat the impacts of drought on farms and ranches. By using conservation practices that build healthy soil—like cover cropping, conservation tillage, and compost—growers increase the natural water storage potential of their land. Healthy soil captures more water when it rains and holds onto that water for future crop use, allowing farms with healthy soil to deliver stable yields, even in drought years.

Aquafornia news Valley Voice

South Valley in water crisis as systems fail

Small Valley communities are drying up. The latest town to find itself waterless is Tooleville, east of Exeter on Highway 65. In the middle of July, with temperatures soaring and the intense Valley summer in full swing, residents of the town found the well they rely on was delivering just a dribble where it was working at all. With the aid of Self-Help Enterprises, the town is now dependent on a pair of water tanks and costly daily deliveries of trucked-in water.

Aquafornia news NPR

Faced with drought, a wine region in central California looks to develop a spaceport

The drought in the West and climate change have smaller cities rethinking their economies, especially if their main business is agriculture. On California’s Central Coast, one town is trying to diversify beyond its main moneymaker – grapes and wine. … Lynn Hamilton [a professor of agribusiness at nearby Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo] says … “The attitude here, it seems to be – until recently – that, oh, we’re just a rainy season away from being saved. And I think people are now starting to realize that that’s not true any longer.”

Aquafornia news Circle of Blue

Arizona and California farmers, targets for Colorado River cuts, draft their conservation strategy

Knowing they are targets, farmers in southern Arizona and California who receive irrigation water from the Colorado River are discussing a plan that could go a long way toward meeting a federal conservation mandate in the drying basin. With key reservoirs Mead and Powell at record lows and despite the continued decline of the Salton Sea, federal officials are demanding historic cuts in water use next year, on the order of 2 million to 4 million acre-feet, or roughly one-third of the river’s recent annual flow.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

US West, already in drought, is facing dwindling snowpacks

The Western US is an empire built on snow. And that snow is vanishing. … That snowmelt, often traveling hundreds of miles from mountain top to tap, sustains the booming desert communities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City — even coastal Los Angeles and San Francisco. … Those dwindling snow levels — a trend that’s extremely unlikely to reverse as temperatures keep rising — will demand hard choices if the 11 states in the Western US are to continue to thrive. So far, responses to the worsening water crisis have not matched the scale of the problem.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Farmland in transition—The San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley is California’s agricultural heartland and at the center of the state’s water challenges. As the region brings its groundwater basins into balance under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), over half a million acres of irrigated farmland may need to come out of production. At a virtual event last week, PPIC researchers and a panel of local experts moderated by Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center, discussed how to manage this massive transition while reaping the greatest benefits from idled land and mitigating air quality concerns.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Flood irrigation has positive water impacts

Drive by a flooded almond orchard in the countryside surrounding Manteca, Ripon and Escalon and your first thought might be outrage.  After all, California is slipping deeper into a third year of a devastating drought.  Looks, however, can be deceiving.  What looks like a waste of water is actually helping keep water flowing to your home to wash clothes, drink, flush toilets, shower or bathe, and wash dishes and such if you live in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop.

Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Opinion: Food choices are the real drivers of water usage

960,000 acres of land in California are used to produce alfalfa, using 2 million gallons of water per acre, per year, all of which goes to feed livestock. What kind of livestock? Mostly dairy cows, of which there are 2.5 million in California alone. … It turns out, states [author Richard] Oppenlander, “60 to 70 percent of California water goes to livestock and crops to feed them.” …Once I learned that it takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, (raising the cow, growing grain for the cow, cleaning the cow) buying non-dairy milk sounds like a much wiser choice. Once I learned that it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat, giving up meat altogether seems like the only choice.

-Written by Patsy Ouellette, a longtime environmental advocate.​

Aquafornia news Business Insider

Steak costs more these days. Drought may keep prices high for years.

The brown hills of Northern California are peppered with cattle. They spend their days slowly meandering under the sun, munching drought-withered grass. Cattle are California’s fourth-biggest agricultural commodity, valued at $2.74 billion in 2020, according to the state’s agricultural department. But increasingly dry conditions are making the land less and less suitable for feeding and watering them. In March 2021, every pond on Scott Stone’s ranch was dry for the first time in the 46 years his family has owned it.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

How compost is helping farmers save water, survive drought

As California grapples with another long drought, cities across the state have implemented curbside collection programs to increase the amount of available water. Composting turns food scraps, sticks and leaves into organic material that is then added to soil to make it more fertile. Robert Reed, spokesperson for Recology, a waste management company, explains compost acts as a natural sponge.

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Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Sonoma County vintner, his business and DA’s Office reach $925K environmental damage settlement

A Sonoma County wine executive and his business have reached a $925,000 settlement with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office following an environmental complaint that accused them of causing significant damage to streams and wetlands while constructing a vineyard in 2018 near Cloverdale, county District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Friday. Deeply ripping apart the terrain, tearing down trees and pushing them down streams without permits under the county’s Vineyard & Orchard Site Development Ordinance, and lacking permits for grading roads and installing culverts were among acts that Hugh Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms, LLC were accused of in August 2019. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Daily News

Illegal marijuana grows threaten Antelope Valley’s way of life

Illegal marijuana grows in the once-quiet Antelope Valley are a threat to California’s environmental goals and the safety of Californians. These operations have caused an increase in human trafficking, assaults, and robberies and are responsible for the murders of at least five people living in our high desert community. … While the secluded forests of Northern California are still popular for these sites, more and more criminals see an opportunity in the sprawling desert–vast amounts of sparsely populated space, lots of sun, and the presence of law enforcement is not as prevalent. The only thing lacking is water, but determined growers simply steal what they need.

Aquafornia news Colorado Politics

Colorado River basin farms stunted by megadrought, as more sacrifice lies ahead

Colorado River basin water has transformed Nancy Caywood’s fields in the desert southwest of Phoenix into carpets of green cotton and alfalfa for generations. But in June, the alfalfa was expected to dry up, and a vast majority of the cotton wasn’t even planted. The irrigation canal that serves her property was shut down amid a 22-year megadrought that has hurt growers across the seven states that comprise the basin. Vultures gathered in the muddy pools of her canal, feasting on the dying fish, a week after her hay was cut in early June, likely for the last time this year.

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Aquafornia news NASA

Blog: Tracking deluge and drought through soil moisture

After abundant rain and flooding in the Mississippi Valley and other regions in 2019, drought returned to much of the United States in 2021-22. From wet to dry, both extremes have implications for soils and the crops they support. The opposing extremes were detected by NASA satellites. But it was a novel tool—the Soil Moisture Analytics (Crop-CASMA) product—that integrated this satellite data into a format that was particularly useful to people. With Crop-CASMA’s high-resolution, timely information on soil moisture, farmers and agriculture managers could track the areas of high and low moisture more closely.

Aquafornia news KRCR - Redding

California drought is causing ranchers to sell off cattle, which will have a lasting impact

California is on year three of one of the worst droughts in state history, and it’s hurting our farmers and ranchers. Jim Rickert owns Prather Ranch and has been ranching in the Northstate for more than five decades. He said this could be one of the worst droughts in his lifetime. … Rickert said this has meant making some tough and emotional choices like the decision to sell off part of their herd. … Inflation also plays a role in their hard times. He said their input costs have increased exponentially thanks to inflation. Farming necessities such as fertilizer, hay, and even power bills for needing to pump water have all increased.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

The future of San Joaquin Valley farming could be ‘dryland farming’

Often touted as the breadbasket of the world, California’s San Joaquin Valley is the most agriculturally productive region on Earth with over 250 different crops grown. But the area is also a well-irrigated desert, and years of below-average rain and snowfall have dried up its relatively few water sources. So far, farmers in the region have fallowed approximately 100,000 acres of farmland. Experts believe that by 2040, drought may force up to 500,000 acres to be fallowed. … The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released two reports and held a webinar Tuesday to discuss both fallowing of land and the resulting dust pollution as well as a solution: dryland farming.

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Aquafornia news Bakersfield Californian

Lawmakers call on Kern stakeholders to engage on water investment

Farmers and water managers may need to do more to engage with lawmakers from outside the Central Valley before the state Legislature can be persuaded to make important investments in water storage and other infrastructure projects, members of Kern’s Sacramento delegation told an audience Tuesday of the Water Association of Kern County. The three locally elected representatives — Assemblyman Vince Fong and state Sens. Shannon Grove and Melissa Hurtado — made the request in the context of their frustration with big-city, coastal lawmakers they said misunderstand how things work in not only the water world but in-state energy production as well.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

USDA partnership to buy California-farmed food amid inflation

The federal government will channel $43 million into efforts to purchase and distribute locally grown food from California’s underserved farmers and producers, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday in Woodland. …Vilsack also highlighted several initiatives that will provide relief to farmers over the coming years. Congress recently provided USDA with $10 billion to distribute to farmers struggling due to climate-related disasters — funds that could be especially useful in the Golden State, where wildfires burn for months every year.

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

A mid-August deadline looms where the basin states drawing off the Colorado River must come to agreement on how they will conserve 4 million acre-feet of water

Local farmers may soon be forced to bite the bullet and find ways to use significantly less water in 2023 — potentially for a lot longer. This drastic measure may come as a result of an emergency water conservation effort to prevent further depletion of the Valley’s main source of water, the Colorado River. If less water flows down the Colorado River, the consequences could be catastrophic for the two reservoirs — lakes Mead and Powell — that feed into the so-called basin states. For example, if water levels in Lake Mead continue dropping, it could bring water and hydropower to a grinding halt, all due to a relentless drought over two decades.

Aquafornia news Capital and Main

A Napa filmmaker looked and found Roundup, the weedkiller tied to cancer, ‘everywhere’

Early one winter morning, as Brian Lilla was riding his bike through Napa, California’s hills and meadows, he spotted farmworkers driving ATVs through rows of vines. They hauled huge canisters of the weedkiller Roundup. As the workers sprayed vines, a chemical smell shot through the air. … In Children of the Vine, the 54-year-old documentary filmmaker explores the use of glyphosate from the time Roundup hit the market in the 1970s to Monsanto’s creation of “Roundup Ready” genetically modified seeds in the 1990s to its present legal woes and shattered public trust. But even now, with at least 20 countries having banned or limited the use of the herbicide, Lilla was shocked to find out how ubiquitous the chemical is in our daily lives, and how trace amounts of glyphosate appears even in certified organic foods and wine (which by definition are grown without pesticides or herbicides). 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Can strawberry-picking robots save California’s growers?

In a strawberry field surrounded by strawberry fields on the outskirts of Santa Maria, a team of robots have been picking berries all summer. Each robot, made by a Colorado company called Tortuga AgTech, trundles between the elevated beds on rugged wheels, then stops in front of a plant. An articulated arm maneuvers its sensor array among the leaves; machine vision software scours the sensor data in search of ripe berries. … But the team behind Tortuga — and some longtime experts in California’s $2-billion strawberry industry — see agricultural robots … as the only way that an industry sitting on the intersecting fault lines of climate change, water rights, labor struggles, land use and chemical regulation can adapt and survive.

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Aquafornia news Successful Farming

Report: Nut farmers expanded as drought deepened in California

As California declared multiple drought emergencies and imposed mandatory water restrictions on residents in recent years, the state’s almond farmers expanded their orchards by a remarkable 78%, according to new research by Food & Water Watch. In a brief but critical report issued last week, the climate and consumer advocacy group found that California’s nut farms have grown steadily over the past 12 years, even as the state’s water crisis has deepened. Between 2017 and 2021 alone, almond and pistachio crops expanded so quickly that they required an additional 523 billion gallons of irrigation water.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Latest blow in Boswell-Vidovich water war could bring state control over region’s groundwater

The latest blow in an ongoing water war between two Kings County agricultural titans may put control of the entire region’s groundwater into state hands. The J.G. Boswell Farming Company and Sandridge Partners, controlled by John Vidovich, have been scuffling over water in court, on ditch banks and even in the air with accusations on both sides of various types of water skulduggery. On July 22, the Southwest Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, controlled by Vidovich, voted to approve the region’s groundwater plan subject to an addendum that state representatives warned — during the meeting – could nullify the plan and lead to state control over groundwater.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Billionaire Tom Steyer bets on weather stations to battle climate

Solar-powered weather stations that beam real-time information to farmers are the first investment for Galvanize Climate Solutions, the firm launched last year by billionaire Tom Steyer and Katie Hall to battle climate change. Galvanize led a $40-million funding round for San Francisco-based Arable, whose weather equipment gives farmers information on how much sunlight and water crops are getting, and can help optimize when to irrigate or fertilize. Such visibility is becoming increasingly important amid tight on-farm labor and with drought shrinking water reserves.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Tuesday Top of the Scroll: South valley groundwater managers to use $10 million to protect community water and look for ways to retire up to 100,000 acres of farmland

Three San Joaquin Valley water agencies are gearing up to spend $10 million each in grant funding from the state Department of Conservation to retire or repurpose farmland. Valley agencies that have received grants so far include the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, Pixley Irrigation District Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) and Madera County. … Estimates are that 100,000 acres of farmland will need to be taken out of production if the subbasin is to comply with state law and reach groundwater sustainability, said Reyn Akiona, watershed coordinator for the Tule subbasin.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Drought is decimating my farm. How California should help us

As I drive across my family’s farm in the San Joaquin Valley, it feels as if I’m traveling on a chessboard. I cross one square with crops and then another without crops — our fields that must lay fallow. Our farm’s crops have been decimated by the drought. Last year, reduced water deliveries in the state led to 395,000 acres of cropland being idled, according to UC Merced researchers, and about 8,750 agricultural workers lost their jobs. … Without enough water, farmers in California can’t survive. The state’s aging water supply infrastructure has not kept up with the growth of the state. 
-Written by Joe L. Del Bosque, CEO and president of the family-owned Del Bosque Farms in the San Joaquin Valley.

Aquafornia news California WaterBlog

Blog: Follow the water!

People often have strange ideas about how water works.  Even simple water systems can be confusing.  When water systems become large complex socio-physical-ecological systems serving many users and uses, opportunities for confusion become extreme, surpassing comprehension by our ancient Homo sapien brains. When confused by conflicting rhetoric, using numbers to “follow the water” can be helpful.  The California Water Plan has developed some such numbers.  This essay presents their net water use numbers for 2018, by California’s agricultural, urban, and environmental uses by hydrologic region. 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Opinion: A bad bill undermines cooperation on groundwater

The ink is barely dry on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and here comes more legislation to redo what has been the most significant change in California water law in over 100 years. The California Department of Water Resources has not finished evaluating Groundwater Sustainability Plans submitted by local agencies under SGMA, which established a cooperative framework to protect California’s groundwater resources. But already legislation—Assembly Bill 2201 by Steve Bennett, D-Ventura—seeks to change SGMA in ways that would bring unnecessary confusion and disruption into the process. 
-Written by Danny Merkley, director of water resources for the California Farm Bureau; and Jack Gualco, president of The Gualco Group Inc.

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Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Butte County supervisors to get latest water updates

As the California drought continues to impact agriculture as well as the lives of residents, local government bodies have requested regular updates on water resources. Once again, the Butte County Board of Supervisors will hear the latest updates regarding the drought, groundwater and water-related activities within the county. In December, the board contracted Luhdorff and Scalmanini Consulting Engineers to create an analysis of drought impacts on the county in 2021.

Aquafornia news Arizona Public Media

“Not here for some agrarian fantasy”

[W]hen you’re driving down the highway in Southern Arizona, sometimes you’ll drive right through a field so green, you’d think you were in Coastal California. … [Anastasia Rabin's] well hasn’t run dry yet, but several of her neighbors and many people in the region where she lives have had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to deepen their wells or dig new ones altogether. … Many in the area put the blame on a dairy and out-of-state pecan farmers moving in and using the land in ways it wasn’t meant to be used. Mostly, they’re using lots of water, digging deeper than the residents and small farmers who were already here, and literally changing the landscape.

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Aquafornia news Southern California News Group

Here’s how low California’s reservoirs are and what to expect in the future

There has not been much good news about California’s water supply lately, but there could be some relief on the way. The North-of-Delta Offstream Storage project, often referred to as the planned Sites Reservoir, was authorized by Congress in 2003. The long delayed project got a financial boost in March when the federal government signaled its intent to loan the project nearly $2.2 billion — about half of the cost to design, plan and build it. … The new reservoir could increase Northern California’s water storage capacity by up to 15% and would hold enough water to supply about 1.5 million to 3 million households for one year — although much of the water would be for agricultural purposes.

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Report: Land transitions and dust in the San Joaquin Valley

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires groundwater users to bring their basins into balance over the next two decades. In the San Joaquin Valley, this will mean taking more than 500,000 acres of agricultural land out of intensive irrigated production. Among other issues, this could potentially lead to air quality impacts if the lands become new sources of dust, especially windblown dust, which can have numerous negative short- and long-term health and environmental impacts. In addition, the changing climate may exacerbate risks as warmer temperatures can dry out soils and increase dust emissions.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

California policies choking off water from Valley hasn’t been savior for fish, report finds

A new policy brief from the Public Policy Institute of California is recommending cost-effective water storage investments as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is seeing less inflow. It also offers a damning picture of the thirty-year shift in how the Golden State divvied up water, largely pitting fish species against millions of its residents. The institute – a nonpartisan think tank – initially published the brief in early spring, focuses on the Delta that supplies water to about 30 million residents and over six million acres of farmland. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

California poised to restrict bee-killing pesticides

Widely used insecticides that harm bees and songbirds would face far-reaching restrictions in California under regulations proposed by the state’s pesticide agency. The new limits would be among the nation’s most extensive for agricultural use of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides used to kill plant-damaging pests like aphids. The highly potent pesticides have been shown to harm bees, birds and other creatures. Aimed at protecting bees that pollinate crops, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s proposed rules would restrict four closely-related neonicotinoid chemicals: imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin and dinotefuran. 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Despite more stored water than in 2021, California will keep closing spigots

As drought conditions persist and with the potential for another dry winter due to La Niña, some good news: the California State Water Resources Control Board learned Wednesday reservoirs in the northern and central parts of the state have more water than at this time last year. State Water Project reservoirs across Northern and Central California remain below historical averages after three consecutive years of drought. But with a combination of people cutting water use, curtailments, farmers fallowing fields and a focus on storage, the reservoirs in the State Water Project are either above or near where they were last year. 

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Exploring the potential for water-limited agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

The rollout of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is altering the state’s agricultural landscape. As groundwater sustainability measures are implemented and water scarcity increases, at least half a million acres are projected to come out of irrigated production in the San Joaquin Valley, the state’s agricultural heartland. Rather than widespread land idling—which comes with unintended consequences such as dust, weeds, pests, and soil degradation—a switch from summer irrigated crops to winter crops produced with limited water (including winter cereals and forage crops, among others) might keep some of this land in production.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Journal of Environmental Engineering

New research: Treatment of selenium-laden agricultural drainage water using a full-scale bioreactor

Soils in the San Joaquin Valley of California have been a source of selenium (Se) release through dissolution into agricultural drainage, requiring treatment before discharge to the environment. A full-scale primarily anaerobic, granular activated-carbon (GAC) bioreactor with an empty bed contact time ranging from 3.4 to 5.0 h was fed 757  L/min757  L/min of second-pass agricultural drainage water (ADW) at the San Luis Demonstration Treatment Plant (SLDTP) in Firebaugh, California, for 1,062 days. This study summarized startup of an actual water treatment plant with a process scheme that had never been designed or operated at this scale.

Aquafornia news Reuters

Water battle in drought-plagued wildlife refuges ends in draw

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a 15-year plan for several drought-stricken wildlife refuges along the Oregon and California border against challenges by agribusiness and conservation groups alike. The three decisions by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals mark a stalemate in a century-old water war in the Klamath Basin, where a federal irrigation project to support farming began in 1906 and the nation’s first wildlife refuge was established in 1908. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2017 Comprehensive Conservation Plan drew fire from agribusiness for regulating farming practices in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, while conservationists argued the restrictions did not go far enough.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Second Tulare County town goes dry as water tables plummet in drought

The town of Tooleville in Tulare County is once again without water. The town, which has struggled for years with dropping groundwater levels and contamination issues, saw its wells dry up over the weekend.  On July 15, residents called nonprofit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability reporting very low water pressure and some with no water at all, said Elvia Olea, policy advocate for Leadership Counsel.  This is the second town in Tulare County to lose water this summer. East Orosi, about 30 miles north of Tooleville, was without water for 24 hours when one of its two wells went down July 12, according to news reports. A pump was installed and restored water to East Orosi.

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Aquafornia news Ag Info

Delta smelt: CA wants to “step away” from single-species management

A small fish called the Delta Smelt has been a big topic for farmers in California, as the state cites its 2016 Delta Smelt Resiliency Strategy for limiting the amount of water from the Sacramento – San Joaquin Delta, earmarked for agriculture. Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources Agency Secretary, spoke during the Western Food and Ag Issues Summit hosted by Agri-Pulse. He says although the state of California is bound by the federal Endangered Species Act to protect the fish, the agency is working towards a more encompassing solution.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Monday Top of the Scroll: California’s idle cropland may double as water crisis deepens

California’s historic drought may leave the state with the largest amount of empty farmland in recent memory as farmers face unprecedented cuts to crucial water supplies. The size of fields intended for almonds, rice, wine grapes and other crops left unworked could be around 800,000 acres, double the size of last year and the most in at least several decades, said Josue Medellin-Azuara, an associate professor at University of California Merced.

Aquafornia news VC Star

Opinion: Mulch helps keep your trees, plants alive while saving water

As local gardeners and farmers look for ways to keep their fruit trees alive while meeting water conservation goals, they can consider the water savings gained by applying organic mulch, as documented in an influential 1999 University of California study. The study’s findings and recommendations have gained relevance today as water supplies tighten and watering restrictions take effect during the severe drought. … Rather than promoting growth, the main purposes of mulch are to reduce erosion, suppress weed growth, moderate soil temperature, and save water by retaining soil moisture.
-Written by David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency​

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Watch these films! Floodplains reconnected

It may seem counterintuitive in this very dry year to be thinking and talking about floodplains; yet, these years highlight the importance of the floodplain in the Sacramento Valley and the opportunities we have in all years–including critically dry years–to reactivate our floodplains as part of ridgetop to river mouth water management. To learn more about these opportunities, we encourage you to grab some popcorn and watch several award-winning films that explore how reconnecting our landscape with our vital rivers can have a profound impact on recovery of endangered fish and wildlife populations in harmony with our cities, rural communities and farms. 

Aquafornia news Sacramento Business Journal

Sacramento’s almond industry poised to adapt to climate change

In California’s fields, farmers are already facing the impacts of climate change every day. They are heading into yet another potentially devastating fire year, and the third year in a row of drought.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Produce Blue Book

Agriculture minus three basic things

American agriculture is going to have to do without three things that it has long taken for granted, according to a recent article by Chloe Sorvino, who leads food and agriculture coverage for Forbes. Those things are cheap energy, free water, and a reliable climate…. Permanent crops are obviously more vulnerable than annual ones. If the latter are plowed under or the land for them is fallowed, there is always next year. But trees and vines take a certain number of years to mature and produce. To say that water in California is free is simply not true.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Byron-Bethany Irrigation District

Alert: State lifts curtailments

Just days after ordering the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) to shut off its pumps and halt water deliveries at the height of the growing season, the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) lifted the curtailments of BBID’s water rights. At 4:07 on Tuesday, the Board issued a Drought Update advising that the pre-1914 water right serving much of BBID’s service area, and the post-1914 water right serving the District’s West Side Service Area, are no longer curtailed.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

On a brutal summer day, one California town ran out of water. Then the fire came

There is a state mandate to consolidate [small] water systems with larger nearby communities by 2024. But that wasn’t soon enough for East Orosi, an unincorporated Tulare County hamlet southeast of Fresno. The water went off Tuesday afternoon. A temporary fix allowed the water to run sporadically on Wednesday. By then, a family had lost their home to a fire they had no water to fight. Children had spent a day scrambling to keep pets and livestock from dying. And in this community that already depends on bottled water for drinking, everyone knew the taps could soon go dry again. 

Aquafornia news AccuWeather

Calif. farmer says worsening drought could have big impacts on consumers

As much of the Western United States suffers from drought and cities turn to water restrictions to help conserve water, farmers in California are becoming increasingly worried about how it will impact consumers around the country. Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen’s farmers in California’s Central Valley are preparing to harvest almonds in an area that produces about 80 percent of the state’s supply. … Jacobsen is a fourth-generation farmer on both sides of his family, meaning he and his ancestors have seen many good and bad years for harvesting.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Arizona to spend $1.2 billion on water security

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed B1740 yesterday, investing $1.2 billion over three years to fund projects that will bring additional water to the state to secure Arizona’s water future, improve existing water infrastructure and implement effective conservation tools. The projects will help ensure that Arizona families, businesses and agriculture continue to have adequate long-term water supplies.

Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Fissures appearing in southern Arizona as aquifers decline

Cities and agricultural operations across the West put intense pressure on groundwater supplies. In some rural regions, few rules govern how, when and how much water can be pumped. That’s true in rural southern Arizona, where wells are drying up as cities grow, large farms move in and the megadrought continues. … [Tara] Morrow and her neighbors are seeing the water wells they use for their basic needs – cooking, cleaning and showering – dry up as large farming operations move in and have to drill deeper for groundwater.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Lower Colorado River farmers fear economic calamity from water cuts

Farmers along the Lower Colorado River in Southern Arizona and Southern California are bracing for severe reductions next year in their river water supplies — cuts they say could lead to widespread crop production cutbacks, major economic dislocation and, possibly, food shortages. “Mass fallowing” is a prime concern among representatives of several big irrigation districts along the river. The concern is growing as farm, city, state and federal officials seek to negotiate a compromise solution to carry out cuts in water use across the entire Colorado River Basin that were ordered last month by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. 

Aquafornia news Porterville Recorder

FWA announces allocation increase to 20 percent

Ask and ye shall receive — at least partially. And the Friant Water Authority is hopeful there’s more to come. FWA announced on Friday the Bureau of Reclamation has increased its 2022 water allocation for Friant Division Class 1 contractors from 15 to 20 percent. FWA added as in the past two years, Friant Division Class 2 contractors continued to received 0 percent, “which continues to reflect the hydrology for the 2022 water year is very dry.”

Aquafornia news Olive Oil Times

Blog: Preliminary estimates suggest significant drop in California production

Olive oil pro­duc­tion in California is expected to drop sig­nif­i­cantly in the 2022/23 crop year com­pared with the pre­vi­ous har­vest. According to the Olive Oil Commission of California (OOCC), which rep­re­sents 90 per­cent of the Golden state’s pro­duc­tion, its mem­bers will pro­duce 1.8 mil­lion gal­lons (8.2 mil­lion liters) in the cur­rent crop year. Previously, OOCC mem­bers com­bined to pro­duce three mil­lion gal­lons (13.6 mil­lion liters) in 2021/22 … [P]ro­duc­ers faced a range of chal­lenges, from high winds dam­ag­ing trees dur­ing blos­som­ing to the state’s unre­lent­ing drought.

Aquafornia news Food and Environment Reporting Network

In Ojai, California, home of the Pixie tangerine, climate change has citrus farmers on edge

The climate in California’s Ojai Valley has been ideal for citrus, but that climate is changing—getting windier, drier, and hotter. A recent study showed that Ventura County’s temperature has warmed more in the last 125 years than any other county in the lower 48 states … 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Friday Top of the Scroll: California deepens water cuts amid drought, hitting farms

California regulators have begun curtailing the water rights of many farms and irrigation districts along the Sacramento River, forcing growers to stop diverting water from the river and its tributaries. The order, which took effect Thursday, puts a hold on about 5,800 water rights across the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers’ watersheds, reflecting the severity of California’s extreme drought. Together with a similar order in June, the State Water Resources Control Board has now curtailed 9,842 water rights this year in the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds, more than half of the nearly 16,700 existing rights.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

L.A. wins water battle with Mono County amid worsening drought

A state appellate court has reversed a judge’s ruling that would have required the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to conduct an environmental review before making annual decisions about deliveries of water on pastureland it owns east of Yosemite. The city agency on Thursday said the previous ruling had “set an impossible standard” as it faces the complex challenges of servicing ratepayers and meeting environmental requirements in a time of drought, dwindling snowpack and changing water availability. 

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

East Valley farmers and cities may get more surface water this summer

Farmers and cities on the east side of the Valley may get more water than they originally thought.  Friant Water Authority, which operates the Friant-Kern Canal, said in a recent memo on its website it is confident its contractors will not only get the 15% allocation of surface water deliveries announced in February but that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will likely increase the amount to 20%, possibly as early as this week. … Better snow and rainfall in the Sacramento area late in the spring has allowed the Bureau of Reclamation to budget more water to be delivered to the San Joaquin Exchange Contractors …

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news Fresh Plaza

California pistachio growers face more water challenges

The next six weeks, California pistachios will be on close watch around how much–if any, the current drought in the state is affecting its growth or “nut fill.” … So while some growers are located in areas with good groundwater and/or are receiving some supply of surface water, others have zero surface water and also limited sources of groundwater. … At the same time, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is starting to be implemented. This legislation, which passed in 2014, requires that all groundwater basins in California be sustainable and agencies were formed to ensure compliance with the act.

Related articles: 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: State’s leaders must change water agreements to reflect climate realities

California’s once-abundant salmon runs are on the verge of collapse. That’s a tragedy, but this story is bigger than the extinction of an iconic fish that once fed millions of people and was the basis of thriving commercial, tribal and sport fisheries. … Our salmon are flirting with extinction because they’re not getting the cold water they need to survive. … Although they were aware of the growing water crisis, state and federal water managers have drawn down reservoirs rapidly over the past three years, leaving cold water — indeed, any water — in short supply. Why? To provide water to a small subset of commercial growers.
-Written by Tom Stokely, a member of the board of the California Water Impact Network, a nonprofit working for the equitable distribution of water resources.

Related article: 

Aquafornia news High Times

California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife announces enforcement for illegal cannabis growing season

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) and State Water Resource Board (SWRCB) announced in a press release on July 1 that it would be collectively authorizing enforcement teams for the 2022 cannabis growing season. … This effort is funded by Proposition 64 which enables these government agencies to focus on protecting “priority watersheds and areas with sensitive habitat and/or threatened or endangered species.” … The water streams of California, and the wildlife that depends on them, suffer when illegal cannabis grow operations divert water. 

Northern California Tour 2022
Field Trip - October 12-14

Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape while learning about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Click here to register!

Water Education Foundation
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 205
Sacramento, CA 95833
Tour Nick Gray

San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2022
Field Trip - November 2-3

Travel along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Click here to register!

Hampton Inn & Suites Fresno
327 E Fir Ave
Fresno, CA 93720

Central Valley Tour 2022
Field Trip - April 20-22

Central Valley Tour participants at a dam.This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.

Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2022
Field Trip - March 16-18

The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles

Northern California Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - October 14

This tour guided participants on a virtual exploration of the Sacramento River and its tributaries and learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project.

Tour Nick Gray Jenn Bowles Layperson's Guide to the Delta

Bay-Delta Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - September 9

This tour guided participants on a virtual journey deep into California’s most crucial water and ecological resource – the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The 720,000-acre network of islands and canals support the state’s two major water systems – the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project. The Delta and the connecting San Francisco Bay form the largest freshwater tidal estuary of its kind on the West coast.

Lower Colorado River Tour 2021
A Virtual Journey - May 20

This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour. 

Lower Colorado River Tour 2020
Field Trip - March 11-13

This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Silverton Hotel
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139

Central Coast Tour 2019
Field Trip - November 6-7

This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that have potential applications statewide.

Northern California Tour 2019
Field Trip - October 2-4

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of Oroville Dam spillway repairs.


Lower Colorado River Tour 2018

Lower Colorado River Tour participants at Hoover Dam.

We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.

Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2019

This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.

The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour. 

Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119

Northern California Tour 2018

This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.

All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the Oroville Dam spillway. 


San Joaquin River Restoration Tour 2018

Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.

Fishery worker capturing a fish in the San Joaquin River.

The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.

Aquapedia background

Groundwater Replenishment

Groundwater replenishment happens through direct recharge and in-lieu recharge. Water used for direct recharge most often comes from flood flows, water conservation, recycled water, desalination and water transfers.


To Prop 1 and Beyond! Aligning Local, State & Federal Dollars for a Resilient Watershed
Learn more at the Santa Ana River Watershed Conference May 25th in Ontario

Water is expensive – and securing enough money to ensure reliability and efficiency of the state’s water systems and ecosystems is a constant challenge.

In 2014, California voters approved Proposition 1, authorizing a $7.5 billion bond to fund water projects throughout the state. This included investments in water storage, watershed protection and restoration, groundwater sustainability and drinking water protection.

Western Water Gary Pitzer

Climate Change Impacts Here to Stay for California Farmers, Grower Says

California agriculture is going to have to learn to live with the impacts of climate change and work toward reducing its contributions of greenhouse gas emissions, a Yolo County walnut grower said at the Jan. 26 California Climate Change Symposium in Sacramento.

“I don’t believe we are going to be able to adapt our way out of climate change,” said Russ Lester, co-owner of Dixon Ridge Farms in Winters. “We need to mitigate for it. It won’t solve the problem but it can slow it down.”

Aquapedia background


From the Greek “xeros” and Middle Dutch “scap,” xeriscape was coined in 1978 and literally translates to “dry scene.”  Xeriscaping, by extension, is making an environment which can tolerate dryness. This involves installing drought-resistant and slow-growing plants to reduce water use.

Aquapedia background


Irrigation is the artificial supply of water to grow crops or plants. Obtained from either surface or groundwater, it optimizes agricultural production when the amount of rain and where it falls is insufficient. Different irrigation systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but in practical use are often combined. Much of the agriculture in California and the West relies on irrigation. 

Aquapedia background


Excess salinity poses a growing threat to food production, drinking water quality and public health. Salts increase the cost of urban drinking water and wastewater treatment, which are paid for by residents and businesses. Increasing salinity is likely the largest long-term chronic water quality impairment to surface and groundwater in California’s Central Valley.

Western Water Excerpt Jenn Bowles

Allocating Water in a Time of Scarcity: Is it Time to Reform Water Rights?
July/August 2015

California’s severe drought has put its water rights system under scrutiny, raising the question whether a complete overhaul is necessary to better allocate water use.

(Read the excerpt below from the July/August 2015 issue along with the editor’s note. Click here to subscribe to Western Water and get full access.)


California’s severe drought has put its water rights system under scrutiny, raising the question whether a complete overhaul is necessary to better allocate water use.

Western Water Magazine

The View From Above: The Promise of Remote Sensing
March/April 2015

This issue looks at remote sensing applications and how satellite information enables analysts to get a better understanding of snowpack, how much water a plant actually uses, groundwater levels, levee stability and more.

Tour Images from the Central Valley Tour

Central Valley Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

This 3-day, 2-night tour, which we do every spring, travels the length of the San Joaquin Valley, giving participants a clear understanding of the State Water Project and Central Valley Project.

Aquapedia background Dams

Friant Dam

Friant DamLocated just north of Fresno, the Friant Dam helps deliver water as it runs towards the Merced River, though its environmental impacts have caused controversy.

Western Water Magazine

Nitrate and the Struggle for Clean Drinking Water
March/April 2013

This printed issue of Western Water discusses the problems of nitrate-contaminated water in small disadvantaged communities and possible solutions.

Western Water Magazine

Keeping It Down on the Farm: Agricultural Water Use Efficiency
March/April 2012

This printed issue of Western Water examines agricultural water use – its successes, the planned state regulation to quantify its efficiency and the potential for greater savings.

Western Water Magazine

Salt of the Earth: Can the Central Valley Solve its Salinity Problem?
July/August 2007

This Western Water looks at proposed new measures to deal with the century-old problem of salinity with a special focus on San Joaquin Valley farms and cities.

Western Water Magazine

Shaping the West: 100 Years of Reclamation Water
May/June 2002

The Reclamation Act of 1902, which could arguably be described as a progression of the credo, Manifest Destiny, transformed the West. This issue of Western Water provides a glimpse of the past 100 years of the Reclamation Act, from the early visionaries who sought to turn the arid West into productive farmland, to the modern day task of providing a limited amount of water to homes, farms and the environment. Included are discussions of various Bureau projects and what the next century may bring in terms of challenges and success.


Shaping of the West: 100 Years of Reclamation

30-minute DVD that traces the history of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and its role in the development of the West. Includes extensive historic footage of farming and the construction of dams and other water projects, and discusses historic and modern day issues.

Maps & Posters California Water Bundle

California Water Map
Updated December 2016

A new look for our most popular product! And it’s the perfect gift for the water wonk in your life.

Our 24×36 inch California Water Map is widely known for being the definitive poster that shows the integral role water plays in the state. On this updated version, it is easier to see California’s natural waterways and man-made reservoirs and aqueducts – including federally, state and locally funded projects – the wild and scenic rivers system, and natural lakes. The map features beautiful photos of California’s natural environment, rivers, water projects, wildlife, and urban and agricultural uses and the text focuses on key issues: water supply, water use, water projects, the Delta, wild and scenic rivers and the Colorado River.

Maps & Posters

San Joaquin River Restoration Map
Published 2012

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with implementation. 

Maps & Posters

Klamath River Watershed Map
Published 2011

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The map text explains the many issues facing this vast, 15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration; agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement, and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Maps & Posters

Truckee River Basin Map
Published 2005

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas and Indian reservations within the Truckee River Basin, including the Newlands Project, Pyramid Lake and Lake Tahoe. Map text explains the issues surrounding the use of the Truckee-Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe water quality improvement efforts, fishery restoration and the effort to reach compromise solutions to many of these issues. 

Maps & Posters

Nevada Water Map
Published 2004

This 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, illustrates the water resources available for Nevada cities, agriculture and the environment. It features natural and manmade water resources throughout the state, including the Truckee and Carson rivers, Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake and the course of the Colorado River that forms the state’s eastern boundary.

Maps & Posters

Water Cycle Poster

Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants, rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation. Excellent for elementary school classroom use.


Layperson’s Guide to Agricultural Drainage
Updated 2001

With irrigation projects that import water, farmers have transformed millions of acres of land into highly productive fields and orchards. But the dry climate that provides an almost year-round farming season can hasten salt build up in soils. The build-up of salts in poorly drained soils can decrease crop productivity, and there are links between drainage water from irrigated fields and harmful impacts on fish and wildlife.


Layperson’s Guide to California Water
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of water development and use in California. It includes sections on flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a section on the human need for water. 


Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project
Updated 2021

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the Central Valley Project explores the history and development of the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), California’s largest surface water delivery system. In addition to the project’s history, the guide describes the various CVP facilities, CVP operations, the benefits the CVP brought to the state and the CVP Improvement Act (CVPIA).


Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project
Updated 2013

The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to the State Water Project provides an overview of the California-funded and constructed State Water Project.


Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater
Updated 2017

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication that provides background and perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the history of its use in California.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law
Updated 2020

The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of California water rights.


Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing
Updated 2005

The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides background information on water rights, types of transfers and critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in 1996, the 2005 version offers expanded information on groundwater banking and conjunctive use, Colorado River transfers and the role of private companies in California’s developing water market. 

Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - Paperback

The story of water is the story of California. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.


Water & the Shaping of California
Published 2000 - hardbound

The story of California is the story of water. And no book tells that story better than Water & the Shaping of California.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Keeping It Down on the Farm: Agricultural Water Use Efficiency
March/April 2012

There are two constants regarding agricultural water use – growers will continue to come up with ever more efficient and innovative ways to use water and they will always be pressed to do more.

It’s safe to say the matter will not be settled anytime soon, given all the complexities that are a part of the water use picture today. While officials and stakeholders grapple to find a lasting solution to California’s water problems that balances environmental and economic needs, those who grow food and fiber for a living do so amid a host of challenges.

Aquapedia background

Land Retirement

Land Retirement

Land retirement is a practice that takes agricultural lands out of production due to poor drainage and soils containing high levels of salt and selenium (a mineral found in soil).

Typically, landowners are paid to retire land. The purchaser, often a local water district, then places a deed restriction on the land to prevent growing crops with irrigation water (a source of salt). Growers in some cases may continue to farm using rain water, a method known as dry farming.

Aquapedia background

Evaporation Ponds

Evaporation ponds contain agricultural drainage water and are used when agricultural growers do not have access to rivers for drainage disposal.

Drainage water is the only source of water in many of these ponds, resulting in extremely high concentrations of salts. Concentrations of other trace elements such as selenium are also elevated in evaporation basins, with a wide degree of variability among basins.

Such ponds resemble wetland areas that birds use for nesting and feeding grounds and may pose risks to waterfowl and shorebirds.

Aquapedia background

Coachella Valley

The Coachella Valley in Southern California’s Inland Empire is one of several valleys throughout the state with a water district established to support agriculture.

Like the others, the Coachella Valley Water District in Riverside County delivers water to arid agricultural lands and constructs, operates and maintains a regional agricultural drainage system. These systems collect drainage water from individual farm drain outlets and convey the water to a point of reuse, disposal or dilution.