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 Northern California Water Association

Blog: New drought relief program for agricultural businesses

A coalition of agricultural associations and the Northern California Water Association have launched the CA Drought Grant Website – a portal for information on the CA Small Ag Business Drought Relief Grant Program. The site,, provides key information about the $75 million program, grant eligibility and the ability to sign up to receive instant program updates as it becomes available in the upcoming months. When applications are available, they can be accessed from the site as well.

Aquafornia news Colorado Newsline

Senators ask USDA for equal consideration of Western drought needs

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, and Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, led a bipartisan group of senators in asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to give parity to Western drought needs with existing programs and funding. In a letter addressed to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack the senators from across the Western states asked for continued resources to support projects for ranchers and farmers to conserve water, improve their infrastructure and efficiency, and provide technical support. The senators want to see funds for agriculture conservation equally allocated “to reflect the contribution of every region, including the West.”

Aquafornia news Hanford Sentinel

Kings County adopts groundwater export ordinance

Despite opposition from an impressive who’s-who list of water districts and agencies and the Kings County Farm Bureau, the Kings County Board of Supervisors on a 3-2 vote adopted a groundwater export ordinance that will require a permit to move groundwater out of the county. Leading the charge was Supervisor and farmer Doug Verboon, who says the passage came after 12 years of battling to adopt an ordinance here to protect local groundwater, an ordinance that most counties already have. The county’s aim is to preserve groundwater for local use, critical for both domestic, city, military and agricultural users. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California water wells are drying up in record numbers

For almost four decades, water flowed faithfully from Fred and Robin Imfeld’s private well here in rural Tehama County, a region where thirsty orchards of walnuts, almonds, plums and olives stretch across thousands of acres. But that reliable supply of household water began to sputter last year, and then ceased completely this summer amid California’s driest three-year period on record. … Across California, domestic wells are drying up in record numbers due to severe drought and the overpumping of underground aquifers. The crisis has hit rural farming areas particularly hard and left some families to fend for themselves or wait years for permanent solutions as nonprofits, state water officials and well drillers struggle with a growing backlog of assistance requests.

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Aquafornia news News 13 - Tucson

Historic water cuts set to hit Arizona on Jan. 1

Arizona is preparing to enter for the first time into a Tier 2A shortage for the lower Colorado River basin, with cuts beginning at the start of the new year. For the state, this means a reduction of 21% of Arizona’s Colorado river supply and about 9% of the state’s total water use, according to the Central Arizona Project. Cities that use the Colorado river will see a 3% reduction while tribal supplies will be reduced by 7%. And for the users of CAP water, there will no longer be excess water and agriculture pools from the Colorado River. According to the Agriculture & Water Council of Arizona, it will have a big impact on farmers as they work out ways to operate with less water.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

After years of turmoil in water district, California farmers want a friendlier face

When Sen. Dianne Feinstein weighed complex water policy decisions that stood to impact the livelihood of farmers and fish, she often dialed Tom Birmingham. On visits to Washington, the longtime head of the state’s most influential farmland water agency would meet in her office over glasses of chilled California chardonnay. Cultivating relationships with power is a hallmark of Birmingham’s 36-year career at the Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest farm water utility that serves a few hundred Central Valley families and corporations growing nearly $2 billion in nuts, fruit, and vegetables a year. Birmingham spearheaded the agency’s quest to keep water flowing as its longest serving general manager, largely through attempts to loosen environmental regulations. 

Aquafornia news The Hill

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Senators urge Agriculture secretary to help Western states in ’22-year mega-drought’

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is leading a letter signed by 14 other senators urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to help Western states survive what they are calling a “22-year mega-drought” that is threatening farms and ranches across the West. … The letter is the latest sign of growing economic pressure posed by the changing climate and the competition for federal money to help communities across the country cope with severe weather. … The senators argue that many existing Department of Agriculture programs “do not translate well to the needs of Western agriculture” and want the department to promote projects to help basins such as Colorado River Basin, the Rio Grande Basin, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basin and the Columbia River Basin.    

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Report: Water and energy in California

California’s water system uses energy to pump, convey, treat, and heat water. Although agriculture uses roughly four times more water than cities, cities account for most water-related energy use. Water is also required for hydropower generation, thermoelectric power plants, and oil and gas extraction. Improving water use efficiency can reduce energy consumption; conversely, improving energy efficiency can reduce impacts on water supply and quality. … The water system uses approximately 20% of the state’s electricity and 30% of its natural gas for business and home use, according to data from 2001—accounting for more than 5% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Aquafornia news E&E News

Ranchers, greens on edge as BLM rewrites grazing rule

For the first time in almost three decades, the Bureau of Land Management is preparing a new rule to guide its management of cows and other livestock grazing on federal lands, a long divisive issue that has only grown more contentious in the West after two decades of drought. But advocates on both sides expressed skepticism that BLM’s update, which is expected to be released in draft form early next year, will include sweeping changes to the current regulations in place since 1995. That would be just fine with the livestock industry, ranchers and some local government leaders who say BLM has begun reaching out to them for input over the past several weeks. 

Aquafornia news Holtville Tribune

Opinion: IID’s Four-way deal bad for Imperial Valley

Seems like most people are falling all over themselves celebrating the “historic” deal between the Imperial Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District, the U.S. Department of Interior (Bureau of Reclamation), and the California Natural Resources Agency that will supposedly bring up to a quarter-billion dollars to the Salton Sea for restoration projects. I certainly understand the need to conserve water and help bolster the elevation at Lake Mead to try to restore some kind of balance to the Colorado River, but at what cost to the people of the Imperial Valley? The Imperial Valley is giving up 1 million acre-feet of water over four years for maybe $250 million and that just doesn’t seem like an even trade off; it feels like a bad deal – like my friends over at Comite Civico del Valle so aptly put it – “half-baked.”
-Written by John Hernandez, a Brawley resident and executive director of Our Roots Multicultural Center.

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Aquafornia news Water Wrights

Blog: Tom Birmingham; Reflections on Westlands

Fortunes are made and lost on the weather. In 1588 Spain went to attack England and a storm wiped out its armada. The loss was so devastating even with its New World holdings Spain never again arose to its former place of prominence as the greatest European power. From 1930 to 1936 a drought centered in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles caused 2.5 million people to leave the center of the country for other parts. And while bad weather can lead to major problems, what about the good weather? California is blessed with a Mediterranean climate. Hot summers, cool but not frozen winters, plenty of sunshine and good soil. And due to the foresight of others since gone, California’s fickle water supply has been harnessed for the beneficial use of us all. 

Aquafornia news Fox Business

California’s drought disaster is turning into an economic disaster: ‘It’s unprecedented’

In the early hours of a cold fall morning, thousands of birds would sit in the puddles of water in the empty rice fields just outside the Sacramento Valley. At many of those fields this year, there isn’t a single bird that can be seen. It’s because there’s no water. There are no plants. The fields are empty and bone dry. They’ve become fallowed. The streams of water that once flowed to allow the beavers and deer feed and drink are gone. The ground looks like slabs of cracked concrete. Economists and farmers warn that there could be severe environmental and economic consequences that stretch beyond these dry fields that farmers are challenged with. California is now experiencing the driest three-year period since late 1800s.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

State kicks off water year with anticipated 5% allocation

The state Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced Dec. 1 that it would provide 5% of contracted amounts across the board for agricultural and municipal customers in 2023. That may sound bad, but the initial allocation announced for 2022 was 0% for ag and only enough water for municipal contractors to protect health and safety. At this early stage of the water year, it’s hard to get too excited one way or another about the initial allocation, said Ted Page, Chair of the Kern County Water Agency Board of Directors. … With a La Niña winter predicted this year, the state is preparing for a fourth dry year, according to the DWR announcement reprinted below.

Aquafornia news Voice of San Diego

These Imperial Valley farmers want to pay more for their Colorado River water

Colorado River water was virtually free in the early 20th Century when pioneers dug the valley’s first canals that would later transform this desert landscape into a $2 billion agricultural industry. Imperial Valley farmers now pay about $20 an acre foot to transport Colorado River water to their fields, a price unchanged since 2011. … Farmers next door in San Diego County pay between $799 and $1,109 per acre foot. Even the Coachella Valley Water District, just north of Imperial Valley, charges farmers about $37 per acre foot, nearly twice what the Imperial Irrigation District charges its farmers…. Because water is so cheap, Imperial Irrigation District doesn’t make enough selling it to cover expenses on water revenues alone…. 

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Aquafornia news Grist

Salton Sea public health disaster gets a $250 million ’shot in the arm’

Last week, the federal government announced it will spend a quarter of a billion dollars over four years to clean up what remains of the Salton Sea, a lake in southern California that has been shrinking due to climate change-driven drought.  For decades, communities living near the sea have been afflicted by health problems caused by algae blooms and dust storms spurred by wind kicking up drying sediment from the sea’s ever-widening shores. The government’s new plan aims to help remediate some of those health impacts while simultaneously encouraging farms in the region to reduce their reliance on water from the Colorado River.

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Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

An idea that could help replenish California’s groundwater supplies

When drought strikes, California farmers often pump water from underground aquifers to water their crops. But increasingly dry conditions are straining that resource. … [David Freyberg of Stanford University] says many people are looking at ways to replenish the state’s dwindling groundwater supplies. In California, a lot of water typically comes from winter snow that falls high in the mountains. During warmer months, that snow melts and trickles down to farmland. But as the climate warms, more precipitation is falling as rain instead of snow. So it rushes into rivers and runs past many areas where it’s needed.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Farm delegation advocates for ag in nation’s capital

As the nation learned that the midterm election led to a change in the balance of power in the next U.S. Congress, a delegation of California Farm Bureau leaders met with representatives during an advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., to discuss pressing issues affecting agriculture. … Farm Bureau executives, the organization’s Leadership Farm Bureau class and county leaders were joined by the organization’s federal policy team and met face to face with lawmakers Nov. 14-17 in the nation’s capital. Discussions focused on issues including California’s ongoing drought, water, labor and trade, as well as the next federal farm bill.

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Aquafornia news Cronkite News

Sustainable cattle ranching is a time-honored tradition at Date Creek Ranch in Arizona

Savannah Barteau dropped out of college to become a rancher nearly nine years ago. Now, the 26-year-old Flagstaff native runs the beef business at Date Creek Ranch outside Wickenburg with her husband.  … Date Creek Ranch still uses Knight’s grazing management techniques. It sells beef locally instead of transporting cattle out of state. It uses water from the creek instead of relying on groundwater or the Colorado River. The ranch’s herd is only 120 head because the fewer cattle on pastures, the better. In addition, Date Creek Ranch recently installed solar panels that provide power to structures on the property, irrigation and beef freezers.

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Aquafornia news Civil Eats

Climate-driven drought is stressing the Hopi tribe’s foods and traditions

Corn goes back to their very creation story. As the Hopi people emerged into this world, the Creator gave them three things: a gourd of water, a planting stick and a short ear of blue corn. … Clark grows heirloom Hopi blue, gray, red and white corn in the valley between First Mesa and Second Mesa in the middle of the 2,532 square mile Hopi Reservation in northern Arizona. The seeds that he plants have been cultivated over countless generations to grow in this dry climate of the high desert. He, like most Hopi farmers, uses traditional dryland farming methods in which, rather than irrigating crops, he relies solely on snowmelt and the rain that falls directly on his fields. … But now, more than two decades into the worst drought in the southwestern United States in a millennia, making the desert bloom is harder than ever.

Aquafornia news San Diego Magazine

Old drought, new wines

Things are popping in Baja’s emerging wine scene. Earlier this century, there were only a dozen or so wineries. Now, there are almost 200. By all indications, Valle de Guadalupe is ready to take its place among the world-class gastronomic destinations. But, under the surface, there’s something larger lurking. “The big problem today is lack of water,” says Camillo Magoni, the 82-year-old winemaker of Casa Magoni, who’s worked 58 harvests in Baja. … San Diego County’s own winegrowers are also facing a water crisis. … With all the crises facing the world, some might dismiss the issue of growing grapes for premium wine to be a minor, bougie, first-world problem. But wine has always been a window into much larger farming issues.

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

PPIC commends agriculture’s resilience—but fresh hurdles lay ahead

Policy researchers are hopeful the agricultural industry in California will continue to thrive with continued adaptation. But conditions are shaping up for another dry year and the Colorado River shortage is creating challenges that will require more changes for growers and landowners.

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Opinion: California needs to be bold and enact water supply infrastructure now

As California confronts another extended drought and its impacts, it is more obvious than ever that the state has failed to address its water supply and management challenges for far too long. The immediate fallout of the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in is frightening: local residents with wells running dry; urban water rationing and critical shortages; massive fallowing of some of the nation’s most productive agricultural land and the resulting impacts on food prices; and significant uncertainty about our ability to adapt to the future. The long-term effects are even more dire. The viability of California’s $3.4 trillion economy is at stake. 
-Written by Tom Coleman, General Manager at Rowland Water District; and Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

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Aquafornia news Forbes

Why California’s $46 billion wine industry is better prepared for climate change than some of its competitors

Climate change poses a significant threat for all of agriculture, but it has particularly disruptive potential for the wine industry. This is because wine quality is closely linked to weather and quality is linked to value. … There are many potential impacts to consider. Climate Change will probably mean more frequent and severe droughts such as the one that the California is currently experiencing. The availability of ground or surface water varies greatly between regions in the state, but it is possible that this issue will inhibit any further planting and render some vineyards inoperable. Severe temperature spikes can lead to sunburning and yield/quality loss for the fruit and those events are likely to become more common.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Kings Co. wants to block selling groundwater to Southern California. Will a new measure solve the problem?

Kings County Supervisors took a crack at a long-promised push to restrict the ability of swashbuckling Kings County farming giants to sell their groundwater to far-flung southern California locales. Tuesday, the Kings County Board of Supervisors approved the Groundwater Export Ordinance, which was initially conceived to reign-in major water players in the area, including water maven John Vidovich. Instead, based on lingering commentary from local farmers, it may only create additional red tape with the lack of teeth necessary to stop outsiders from buying up water rights for the express purpose of selling the resources to Southern California water agencies.

Aquafornia news Napa Register

Big Napa Valley habitat restoration project to begin next year

Vintner Ted Hall’s wish that steelhead trout could more easily go from the Napa River on the Napa Valley floor to the Bear Creek spawning grounds in the Mayacamas Mountains is getting a boost. Bale Slough is a key. … Bale Slough over the decades has been channelized and straightened. Next summer, the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District will launch a Bale Slough restoration that ultimately could total $6.6 million. The multi-year project at 14 sites over 1.6 miles will create floodplains and seasonal wetlands — in short, a more natural habitat for steelhead and other wildlife.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Surplus and shortage—California’s water balancing act

After three years of virtual events, the PPIC Water Policy Center’s annual fall conference made a welcome return to an in-person format in Sacramento on Friday, November 18. The half-day event began with a welcome from PPIC Water Policy Center assistant director Caity Peterson and a presentation by senior fellow Jeffrey Mount. “The elephant in the room is that conditions have changed,” said Mount. “We’re no longer talking about some future existential threat….we have now moved into the era of the hot drought.” Hotter droughts, he said, coupled with a thirstier atmosphere, are testing California’s water system as never before. 

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California’s Salton Sea to get $250 million in U.S. drought funding

The federal government said Monday it will spend $250 million over four years on environmental cleanup and restoration work around a drying Southern California lake that’s fed by the depleted Colorado River. The future of the Salton Sea — and who is financially responsible for it — has been a key issue in discussions over how to stave off a crisis in the Colorado River. The lake was formed in 1905 when the river overflowed, creating a resort destination that slowly morphed into an environmental disaster as water levels receded, exposing residents to harmful dust and reducing wildlife habitat. The lake is largely fed by runoff from farms in California’s Imperial Valley, who use Colorado River water to grow many of the nation’s winter vegetables as well as feed crops such as alfalfa.

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Aquafornia news The Revelator

Opinion: ‘Free water’ was never free, writes a historian of the American West

The West uses too much water. For such a simple problem, the obvious solution — use less — lies frustratingly out of reach. That inability to change may seem hard to understand, but the root of the problem becomes clearer if we consider the role of the West in the historical development of the United States: The purpose of our system of “free water” — heavily subsidized water for irrigation — was to provide opportunities to settlers. … With the New Deal, the Bureau of Reclamation came into its own: Hoover Dam, completed in 1935 as the world’s largest dam, served as a symbol for the country’s ability to conquer nature. Progressives championed desert reclamation at the turn of the century, but the federal government’s willingness to build infrastructure and give water away on extravagantly lenient terms was just as appealing for conservatives after World War II.
-Written by Revelator contributor Nate Housley.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Is the water safe at Point Reyes beaches? Here is what we know

Looking down at the coast from a hill above the historic L Ranch at Point Reyes National Seashore, rolling swells appear on the ocean surface like blue corduroy. The peninsula that stretches south toward the horizon is almost entirely taken up by ranchland and weathered buildings. Among them, coyotes stalk gophers on the dun hillsides, red-tailed hawks perch on fence posts and a skunk waddles along the road’s asphalt margin. Those beef and dairy ranches are the focus of a recent water quality report showing high levels of fecal bacteria downstream from the cattle, and their manure, in lagoons and beaches popular with park visitors. The report, which was commissioned by an environmental group and is disputed by the ranching industry, is the latest flareup in a decades-long debate over the ranching that occupies more than one-third of the national seashore.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

A massive effort – restoring the San Joaquin River

The San Joaquin River is a vital source of water for agriculture and the environment and it is also home to a unique program that hopes to restore native fish runs. It is a complex program and SJV Water was fortunate to take advantage of a tour offered through the Water Education Foundation Nov. 2-3 that helps break down the various aspects of restoration efforts. The restoration program is a nearly one billion dollar endeavor to restore spring-run Chinook salmon to the river which went extinct there after Friant Dam and other obstructions were built.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Ecosystems and rural communities bear brunt of drought

Drought, human-caused climate change, invasive species and a “legacy” of environmental issues are permanently altering California’s landscape and placing some communities and ecosystems at increasing risk, a panel of experts told water officials recently. Invasive species and decades of disruptions from massive land and water developments are partly responsible for a continuous decline in native California species, experts told the California Water Commission on Nov. 16. Also, rural communities, many of whom are lower income and rely on privately owned wells, are disproportionately contending with water contamination and scarcity amid recurring cycles of drought, experts said. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Study: California drought causes economic losses

As California prepares for a fourth consecutive year of drought and farmland across the Golden State increasingly goes idle, growers continue to face mounting economic challenges. In a new report about the financial toll of the state’s extreme drought conditions, researchers estimated that the state’s irrigated farmland dropped by 752,000 acres, or nearly 10%, from 2019 to 2022. Fields meant to harvest rice, almonds and other crops are instead going unplanted, causing the level of fallowed land across California to surpass the prior peak seen during the state’s last drought that ran from 2012 to 2016. As a result, the researchers found, California crop revenues fell by $1.7 billion, or 4.6%, during that time …

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Aquafornia news Fresno Bee

Westlands boss Thomas Birmingham retiring after ‘change coalition’ elected to board

Thomas Birmingham, general manager of the massive Westlands Water District since 2000, Wednesday announced plans to step down at the end of 2022. His announcement follows the election of four new members to the Westlands Board of Directors on Nov. 8 who would give a so-called “change coalition” a solid majority of six seats on the nine-member board. The top priority for the coalition is “a change in leadership,” according to Sarah Woolf, who along with Jon Reiter helped coordinate a group of increasingly frustrated Westlands farmers to run the slate of change candidates, SJV Water reported. 

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Aquafornia news Ag Net West

Agronomic minute: Potential of on-farm groundwater recharge

Drought conditions and the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) are putting a squeeze on California growers. Principal Analyst with the Almond Board of California, Jesse Roseman said efforts to improve statewide water storage and conveyance are underway. However, those are more long-term solutions to current water constraints. Implementing groundwater recharge projects in almond orchards presents a more immediate option for helping to address water issues in California. … Implementing groundwater recharge projects in orchards can require frequent communication with local irrigation districts and Groundwater Sustainability Agencies. Roseman explained that projects can often require new water rights, permits, and new conveyance. However, the efforts can prove exceptionally beneficial when surplus water is available.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: ‘It’s a disaster.’ Drought dramatically shrinking California farmland, costing $1.7 billion

In the fall, rice fields in the Sacramento Valley usually shine golden brown as they await harvesting. This year, however, many fields were left covered with bare dirt. “It’s a disaster,” said rice farmer Don Bransford. “This has never happened. Never. And I’ve been farming since 1980.” … California has just gone through the state’s driest three-year period on record, and this year the drought has pushed the fallowing of farmland to a new high. In a new report on the drought’s economic effects, researchers estimated that California’s irrigated farmland shrank by 752,000 acres, or nearly 10%, in 2022 compared with 2019 — the year prior to the drought. That was up from an estimated 563,000 acres of fallowed farmland last year.

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Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Colorado lesser prairie chicken now a threatened species

Federal wildlife officials have declared the boom-or-bust lesser prairie chicken a threatened species in Colorado, and endangered in states to the south, a goal of a long environmental campaign but a disappointment to farmers who fear new restrictions. … Wildlife scientists and advocates say the bird is a leading indicator of healthy continuous grassland and prairies, and the species once ranged across nearly 100 million acres in the Southwest with a population possibly in the millions. It’s now limited to a range of a few million acres broken up by row crops, overgrazing and oil and gas development, with aerial surveys putting the population at 32,000 across five states. … With a threatened designation, farmers and ranchers are able to continue most land uses but face new reviews on significant changes. 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

San Joaquin Valley residents, growers vying for water in fourth year of drought

Noemi Barrera has spent four months without running water for herself and her four children, and is among many people in California living without it as wells across the state run dry.  …  Tooleville sits on a well that is now nearly unusable due to contamination from groundwater overdrilling. The state stepped in last year after the neighboring town Exeter refused to connect municipal water to the community’s residents. … Barrera grew up in the citrus-covered community but never faced this lack of running water until she brought Ruby home from the hospital and could not take a shower. And she is aware that many communities across the state’s vital Central Valley are staring down the same daily life, as their basins are depleted by unprecedented drought and ongoing groundwater pumping.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Monday Top of the Scroll: Drought has pushed 100-year-old Colorado River Compact to the brink

100 years ago, Wyoming signed onto a deal to divide the water that flows through the Colorado River basin among seven states. It’s based on a formula — one likely based on mistaken beliefs about the river itself — that did not award extra credit for living in the mountains where the snow piles up. Instead, the states signed a compact allocating the water where it would readily be put to work. It meant the more populated states of California, Colorado and Arizona would get the biggest shares. … But more than two decades into a punishing drought that climate scientists say will likely intensify with more warming, the system can no longer supply everything that some 40 million people in a warming and drying region desire from it, or that grocers nationwide sell from its verdant fields. 

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Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

SLO city signals interest in selling recycled water to Edna Valley

Could San Luis Obispo’s wastewater help save Edna Valley agriculture? That was the question of the night on Nov. 15 for the SLO City Council, which took a deep dive into the future of its recycled water program—including whether it wants to sell any “extra” water to Edna Valley to help neighboring farmers reduce their draw on groundwater. By a 4-1 consensus (with Councilmember Jan Marx dissenting), the City Council agreed that it’d be a good use of city resources to explore short-term sales of recycled water to the Edna Valley region.

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Aquafornia news Merced County Times

Water at center of dispute over Planada dairy expansion 

Some residents in Planada are calling on county officials to block a proposed expansion of a dairy. Merced County is currently in the process of deciding whether to allow the Hillcrest Dairy just north of the town to expand its herd from 8,050 cows to 9,750 cows. Some residents are saying that the expansion would make current problems with bad smells and flies worse, as well as threaten the community’s supply of groundwater. … The matter is still in the process of review, and has yet to come before the Board of Supervisors. But it will ultimately be their call as to whether or not the expansion with the dairy moves forward. 

Aquafornia news North Bay Bohemian

The befouling of Point Reyes National Seashore

It’s an October morning at Point Reyes National Seashore and I’m scooting under barbed wire fences, wary of sliding into cow pies.  My guide on this safari is Jocelyn Knight, wildlife photographer. We’re stalking a toxic waste dump hidden from public view behind a hill at “Historic E Ranch, established circa 1859” land lorded by the National Park Service. Park regulations require Seashore pastures to remain open to the public, but the dump is inside the E Ranch “core” of barns and dwellings, and the public is disallowed. … According to EHS investigators, a septic tank was installed without the required permit; its sewage level exceeded the operational limit; they could not locate a leach field. The ranch land drains into the Pacific.

Aquafornia news The Desert Review

Farm groups highlight the importance of alfalfa in the face of ongoing Western drought

With drought conditions continuing to blanket the Western U.S., and farmers struggling to find adequate water supplies, competing interests are pressuring the federal government to cut the water supply farmers are using to grow our food, including alfalfa, which is a foundational food chain crop. In response, the Family Farm Alliance and California Farm Water Coalition have produced a White Paper titled, “Our Food Supply at Risk; The Importance of Alfalfa Production in the American West,” detailing the valuable role alfalfa plays as a principal feed source for the nation’s livestock and diary industries, its environmental benefits, and contribution to effective drought management.

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Aquafornia news KSL - Salt Lake City

What role can history play in saving the Great Salt Lake, solving Utah’s water woes?

John Wesley Powell offered a poignant message for Western U.S. communities when he was the featured speaker in a room full of developers and government leaders at a major irrigation conference held in Los Angeles in October 1893. Powell, then director of the U.S. Geological Survey, started off strong, receiving applause from those listening to him, noted Greg Smoak, a professor of history and director of the American West Center at the University of Utah. … “There is not enough water to irrigate all the lands … There is but a small portion of the irrigable land which can be irrigated when all the water, every drop of water, is utilized,” Powell warned the crowd, adding that he foresaw a future filled with battles over water rights.

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Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Opinion: Bill would impose water tax on exported crops

Alfalfa is often the target of critics of irrigated agriculture who frequently rely upon simplistic explanations to heap scorn upon growing a forage crop in the West during times of drought. Two Democratic congressmen from Arizona — Ruben Gallego and Raúl Grijalva — last month introduced the “Domestic Water Protection Act of 2022” (H.R. 9194), which would impose an excise tax on the sale of a “water-intensive” crop. The tax is 300% of the price for which the crop is sold and is paid by the manufacturer, producer, or importer of the crop. The bill defines water-intensive crop as a crop grown in an area experiencing prolonged drought at the time such crop is grown, and by a manufacturer, producer, or importer that is a foreign corporation or foreign government.
-Written by Dan Keppen, executive director of Family Farm Alliance.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Water rules add to challenges for farmers

Already grappling with drought, lower commodity prices and higher production costs, more farmers are feeling the added pinch of groundwater regulations as local agencies implement plans that include pumping limits and new fees to balance long-term groundwater resources as required by the state. … Regulations and fees by local agencies as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, affect farmers more directly this year, including farmers in Madera County. Madera County farmer Jay Mahil said groundwater sustainability agency fees that are part of his county property tax bill are “coming at a time when growers are receiving all-time low returns on commodity prices, and farm input costs have doubled.”

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Districts agree to collaborate on Tuolumne River

Modesto Irrigation District, Turlock Irrigation District and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have signed a memorandum of understanding with the state to advance a voluntary agreement for the Tuolumne River. MID and TID, which jointly operate the Don Pedro Reservoir on the Tuolumne River, joined dozens of other California water agencies in committing to collaborate with the state to finalize agreements that will provide water supply reliability to communities, while enhancing river ecosystems. Contra Costa Water District signed onto the agreement in September. … The action by the districts signals momentum towards an alternative to regulations adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board in 2018, as part of the first phase of the state’s Bay-Delta water quality control plan.

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Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Westlands shake-up: Reformers sweep election, oust water board’s president. Is its GM next?

A slate of candidates aiming to reform the powerful Westlands Water District swept into victory on Monday night, cementing a new board majority and likely spelling the end of the line for the district’s general manager. The four candidates – Justin Diener, Ernie Costamagna, Jeremy Hughes, and Ross Franson – captured the four available seats in preliminary results. In the process, they are primed to boot the lone incumbent running for re-election from his seat – current Westlands board president Ryan Ferguson.

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Aquafornia news Natural Resources Defense Council

Blog: Colorado Basin tribes address a historic drought—and their water rights—head-on

To the Ute Mountain Ute, grappling with its water supply is an ongoing challenge. Despite having senior water rights dating back to 1868, when the Kit Carson Treaty created the reservation, the tribe received none of its rightful water for decades as non-Native settlers dammed rivers and diverted flows. And like many tribes across the Southwest, it still struggles to properly quantify and settle some of the water claims already validated by a long stream of court decisions. Even when tribes have been able to secure their water rights, they have often lacked the expensive infrastructure for getting it to their reservations, which means their water gets used, without payment, by non-native groups.

Aquafornia news Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

New research: Global expansion of sustainable irrigation limited by water storage

Expansion of sustainable irrigation (i.e., using sustainable water resources to irrigate water-limited croplands) can increase food production, while neither depleting water stocks nor encroaching upon nature. Yet, there is a mismatch in timing of water availability and of irrigation needs in many geographies, necessitating temporary water storage. We quantify global volumes of water that requires temporary storage to be leveraged for an expansion of sustainable irrigation and discuss options to provide that storage. While dammed reservoirs are crucial for today’s irrigation, dams alone will not suffice to fully leverage sustainable water resources in the future and while creating major impacts on nature and people. This highlights the urgent need for alternative solutions to water storage and demand side approaches to food security.

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

Gov. Cox put new water rights on hold. Will it actually help the Great Salt Lake?

Gov. Spencer Cox announced this month that all new water rights in the Great Salt Lake Basin are on pause, given the lake’s crisis situation. The move sounds big, sweeping and dramatic — it applies to the lake’s main tributaries that drain nearly 10,000 square miles in Utah. Still, it’s hard to say how much of a difference it will make for the Great Salt Lake, which has continued to shrink after hitting another record low over the summer, almost entirely due to Utah’s water diversions. The governor’s current suspension only applies to new water right applications and does not interfere with existing ones. New water rights would be the most junior with the lowest priority anyway. And in periods of drought, junior water right holders sometimes don’t get to divert any water at all.

Aquafornia news Popular Science

Guayule farms are taking off in water-stricken Arizona

When the government declared an official “shortage” on the river last year, an unprecedented step, it triggered major water cuts in the central Arizona county. And those cuts have caused some farmers in Pinal County to look for more water-efficient crops, including Will Thelander, a third generation farmer in Arizona, who is testing a crop called guayule.  Guayule, a desert-adapted shrub pronounced “wy-oo-lee,” could be used for several products, most notably as a natural rubber for tires. And it requires only about half the water of cotton, alfalfa, and corn—the more water-intensive crops Thelander typically grows. … Native to the Chihuahuan Desert, it requires less water than many other crops, for one. And after it’s established, it doesn’t require any insecticides or tilling, limiting use of the chemicals and supporting carbon storage.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Top of the Scroll: San Francisco cuts deal with California water regulators to avoid severe restrictions

Three of California’s biggest water suppliers, including the city of San Francisco, have reached a deal with the state that calls for reducing their immense consumption of river water but not as much as the state had initially demanded. The compromise, announced Thursday, is the latest breakthrough in a years-long effort by state regulators to protect flows in California’s once-grand but increasingly overdrawn rivers. The toll on the waterways, where as much as 90% of the water is pumped to cities and farms, has been exacerbated by drought, leaving fabled runs of salmon and other plants and animals at risk of perishing. … But whether Thursday’s deal, known as “voluntary agreements,” will meaningfully increase river flows — and protect fish and wildlife — remains uncertain.

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Aquafornia news Water Sources IMPACT

The Klamath Basin is not a lost cause: compromise and controversy in one of America’s most contentious watersheds

As a society, what do we do when too little water has been promised to too many people? What should we be doing differently? In the United States, there is perhaps no better to place to turn for answers to these questions than the Klamath Basin. The Klamath Basin watershed is considered one of the most complicated areas for water governance in the United States owing to its transboundary location (the basin crosses the Oregon-California border), its history of complex litigation and persistent inter-institutional (and interpersonal) conflict, and more than 60 different groups of people who have an interest in the basin’s water allocation.

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Aquafornia news The San Diego Union-Tribune

Fallbrook, Rainbow could lower water bills by leaving San Diego wholesaler

Farmers and other ratepayers in Fallbrook and Rainbow could see an average savings on their water bills of more than $20 a month by joining the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County, according to a new report. However, the move may increase the cost of water for other San Diegans by more than $2 a month on average, according to the findings from the Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO. The San Diego County Water Authority has been hostile to the idea of losing two of its 24 member agencies. The wholesaler has seen its water sales plummet by more than 40 percent since 2007, largely as a result of unanticipated drought conservation.

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Aquafornia news Comstock's Magazine

Could agave spirits be a sustainable gold rush for California?

The bladed, Stegosaurus-looking plants that produce tequila might be associated with the deserts of Mexico, but researchers at UC Davis announced a $100,000 project in early September to study their viability in the state. Over the last eight years, Reynolds and several farmers have demonstrated that the crop can thrive on acres traditionally known for fruit, nuts and wine grapes. In an increasingly warm landscape, where severe droughts are predicted to be the norm and political battles over water are intensifying, agave could represent a game-changing possibility for the state. It’s generally dry-farmed in Mexico, meaning its water comes naturally from the sky for a few months, the rest of the year enduring the sun’s fiercest heatrays. 

Aquafornia news Utah Business

Not all of the ideas to save the Great Salt Lake are good ones

You’ve probably heard by now, but the Great Salt Lake is drying up. The lake reached record lows this summer, dropping to 4,190.1 feet in July. To put this in perspective, the lake was flexing about 3,000 square miles in the 90s. Now, it’s withered to less than 1,000.  There are some obvious things we can do about this, mostly on the agricultural side of things. But now we’re hearing of all kinds of less obvious ways we could save it, like amplifying snow storms or piping in water from California, among other ideas. … One of those ideas is called cloud seeding. The Utah Division of Water Resources explains it this way: “Ground-based seeders shoot silver iodide into winter clouds where it helps form ice crystals. 

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Farmers drained Shasta River and get $4,000 California fine

For eight straight days this summer, farmers in far Northern California drained almost all of the water out of a river in defiance of the state’s drought regulations. The move infuriated environmentalists and salmon-dependent Native American tribes downstream. California now knows the cost of the farmers’ blatant defiance: Less than $50 per farmer. It’s the latest example of California’s lax water-use enforcement process — problems that were first exposed in a sweeping Sacramento Bee investigation published online last week.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Video: Solar development in the San Joaquin Valley

Hundreds of thousands of acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland may come out of irrigated production in the coming decades to help balance overdrafted groundwater basins under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. At the same time, California needs to ramp up clean energy development to meet the goals of SB 100—and the valley has high solar potential. At a virtual event last week, PPIC Water Policy Center research fellow Andrew Ayres moderated a panel of experts and local stakeholders; they explored how solar development could help California meet multiple objectives while overcoming some challenges and delivering lasting benefits to the region.

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Aquafornia news California Water Impact Network

Blog: The difference between farmers and water privateers

Productive agriculture is essential to civilization, but water privateering – the seizure of public trust water for exorbitant private profit – is not. California’s water privateers often present themselves as farmers. But while they may use the water they’ve commandeered from state and federal water conveyance projects for industrial-scale agribusiness initiatives, they’re not farmers. They’re water brokers. If there’s money to be made in irrigating almonds or pistachios, they’ll do that. If there’s more money to be made by selling their allocated water to cities or other agribusiness operations, they’ll choose that option instead. It’s not about a devotion to agriculture – and certainly not about food security or land stewardship. 

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Water is essence of carbon sequestration

Carbon sequestration garners a lot of attention from those interested in climate change and sustainable agriculture. The piece that should be added to much of the conversation, however, is the relationship of water and carbon. “We should be considering that carbon sequestration and plant growth doesn’t happen without water,” says Nick Goeser, Principal and co-founder of Carbon A List … Goeser, who co-founded Carbon A List with Christophe Jospe, adds that raising public awareness that carbon sequestration and sustainability don’t happen without water is important.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Put solar in California deserts, not fertile farmlands

Successfully coping with severe droughts in California and the Southwest requires tough choices, all of them expensive and none of them perfect. But taking millions of acres out of cultivation and replacing them with solar farms is not the answer. California produces over one-third of America’s vegetables and three quarters of the country’s fruits and nuts – more than half of which is grown in the San Joaquin Valley. According to the California Farmland Trust, the San Joaquin Basin contains the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, which is the best there is.
-Written by Edward Ring, co-founder of the California Policy Center and author of the book “The Abundance Choice – Our Fight for More Water in California.” 

Aquafornia news Public News Service

Carbon credits versus the Big Gulp

Steve Deverel gazes out over a levee on the San Joaquin River to a buoy where half a dozen sea lions are barking. It’s a loud reminder that even here, 50 miles inland, some of California’s most productive farmland lies perilously close to the Pacific Ocean. At any moment, a weak spot in the more than 1,000 miles of earthen levees protecting islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta could unleash a salty deluge, threatening not just crops, but the drinking water for as many as 27 million Californians. Deverel, a Davis-based hydrologist, refers to this threat as “The Big Gulp,” a breach that would suck in tens of billions of gallons of river water, drawing ocean water in its wake. 

Aquafornia news Salt Lake Tribune

The Great Salt Lake’s brine flies are in crisis mode. What does that mean for birds?

As the Great Salt Lake continues to shrink to unprecedented levels, a key component of its landscape and food web is missing. The lake is known for thick, black clusters of brine flies by the billions, which pupate in its salty water then gather in dense mats to reproduce on shore. The insectile masses occasionally gross out beachgoers, but the bugs are harmless to humans. Crucially, they provide a nutrient-rich feast for millions of migrating birds. This year, however, the fly swarms are gone. And something’s off about the few bugs that remain. Scientists say it’s a sign the lake’s ecological demise is here.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

How can California boost its water supply?

Over and over again, drought launches California into a familiar scramble to provide enough water. Cities and towns call for conservation and brace for shortages. Growers fallow fields and ranchers sell cows. And thousands of people discover that they can’t squeeze another drop from their wells. So where can California get enough water to survive the latest dry stretch — and the next one, and the next? Can it pump more water from the salty Pacific Ocean? Treat waste flushed down toilets and washed down drains? Capture runoff that flows off streets into storm drains? Tow Antarctic icebergs to Los Angeles? The Newsom administration unveiled a roadmap for bolstering the state water supply.

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Aquafornia news KMPH - Fresno

Study details how devastating the drought has been on California agriculture

The latest drought in California has been costly to agriculture. Twelve-thousand people have lost their jobs and economic losses total three billion dollars. Josue Medellin-Azuara is one of four educators from U.C. Merced who sized up California’s drought on agriculture for the past two years. … California agriculture generates 50-billion dollars in revenue and employs more than 420,000 people. The 2020-21 water years account for the second driest two year period since records began in 1895. Little or no water cost growers $1.3 billion in 2021 and $1.7 billion in 2022. 752-thousand acres of farmland was fallowed and 12,000 people lost their jobs.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California’s water cops unprepared, overwhelmed in era of climate change, megadroughts

Jim Scala needed the water. So he took it. As the third devastating summer of drought dragged on, the Siskiyou County rancher knew his irrigation district could be fined up to $10,000 a day if he and his neighbors defied a state cutback order and pumped water from the Shasta River onto their lands east of Yreka. … While the Shasta River rebellion might have been the most brazen, a Sacramento Bee investigation reveals that farmers and other water users frequently ignore state drought regulations…. The Bee’s findings reveal a state regulatory system dramatically unprepared to address chronic water shortages and an ecosystem collapse.

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Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

California’s smallest farmers crippled by ‘regressive’ ag order

A controversial water quality regulation is levying a disproportionate burden on California’s smallest growers, who are often low-income and non-English speakers, according to advocates. Yet, others push for an even faster adoption timeline.

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Aquafornia news Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Wineries embrace worms in the fight to conserve water

Laura Díaz Muñoz, winemaker and general manager at Ehlers Estate in Napa Valley, is passionate about worms. They factor deeply into the notable focus on sustainability at Ehlers, a 130-year-old, certified-organic, family-owned property. It all begins with water. … Spread across five acres at the sprawling Parlier, California, facility of O’Neill Vineyards, what appear to be 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools are in fact sunken beds filled with worms. BioFiltro’s largest winery system to date, unveiled in September 2020, it’s capable of processing more than a million gallons of wastewater a day, and up to 80 million gallons a year.

Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Why California nut growers’ UC Davis gift is controversial

Stewart and Lynda Resnick donated $50 million to fund a new center for sustainable agriculture practices at UC Davis, but environmentalists reacted with suspicion to the school’s mid-October announcement of their gift. … $10 million of the Resnicks’ gift is earmarked for research grants that are focused on identifying value-added properties in pistachio, almond and pomegranate byproducts. These crops are all part of the billionaire couple’s portfolio. … As California faces a continuing record drought, the Resnicks’ companies are the state’s biggest single water users — an estimated 150 billion gallons a year for their crops, Forbes Magazine estimated in 2021. The annual amount of water they use to grow more than 120,000 thousand acres of their produce in the southern San Joaquin Valley …

Aquafornia news Food and Environment Reporting Network

California’s San Joaquin Valley looks to solar, not farming, as climate change worsens

California’s San Joaquin Valley will become increasingly difficult to farm as climate change intensifies. But with the right regulations and policies, the state’s multi-billion dollar agricultural belt could become something else — a clean energy powerhouse that the state desperately needs. At a panel event on Tuesday, energy professionals and community leaders gave a glimpse of the valley’s potential future — one where alfalfa fields give way to solar farms and carbon is sequestered beneath fallowed orchards. They also acknowledged how daunting an economic transition it would be.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

Waterlogged wheat, rotting oranges: five crops devastated by a year of extreme weather

Just three crops – rice, wheat and corn – provide nearly half of the world’s calories. And this year rice had a particularly tough growing season. In California, rice farmers sowed the lowest number of seeds since the 1950s. According to the California Rice Commission, only 250,000 acres of rice will be harvested this year, about half of a typical season. … In August, the USDA forecasted that California would only grow 10.5m tons of tomatoes, down 10% from its estimates at the beginning of the year, as drought causes them to dry up on the vine. California usually produces about 30% of the world’s processing tomatoes – the tomatoes used in paste, sauce and ketchup. But researchers predict that the global supply of processing tomatoes could fall by 6% in the next 30 years due to climate change.

Aquafornia news ABC 7 - Los Angeles

Can you have greener grass while using less water? UC Riverside researching new batch of water-saving grasses

We are living through the driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years across the western states. Many can see the effects simply by looking at their front yard and the results of water restrictions in place, which are especially tough on grass not meant for desert climates. … UC Riverside has bred grass to better adapt to California’s climate for decades, but Baird’s team has hit on a new strain that might be the best yet. Known by their field names, 17-8 and 6-3, the two patches among hundreds require 50% less water than most lawns to stay green and healthy.

Aquafornia news Spectrum News 1

In southern France, drought, rising seas threaten traditions

For centuries people from across the region have observed Camarguaise bull festivities in the Rhone delta, where the Rhone river and the Mediterranean Sea meet. But now the tradition is under threat by rising sea levels, heat waves and droughts which are making water sources salty and lands infertile. At the same time, there are efforts by authorities to preserve more land, leaving less for bulls to graze. … During summers plagued by high temperatures and diminished rainfall, the sea water can reach up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the Rhone river. During a heat wave in August this year, the Raynaud family’s water pump in the Petite Rhone, an offshoot of the main river, began pumping salt water. 

Aquafornia news 8 News - Las Vegas

Government funds compete with small private ranches in southern Nevada

The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants other western water districts to conserve resources in the face of the region’s 20-year drought, saying it’s wasteful to grow certain water-intensive crops in parched desert landscapes. But records show the agency is not heeding its own advice. … The Imperial Irrigation District gets more Colorado River water than the entirety of Nevada and Arizona combined. This is why Nevada water officials have urged changes in how water from the troubled river is used. … The Great Basin Ranch, as it’s known, is owned and operated by a public agency — the Southern Nevada Water Authority. And the only crop that is grown on that land? Alfalfa. 8,600 tons of it last year alone.

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Aquafornia news Capital Press

Klamath ranch seeks $1.5 million from Oregon water regulators

An Oregon ranch is seeking $1.5 million from the state government, claiming water regulators have effectively seized its irrigation water supply without paying just compensation. The Sprague River Cattle Co. in Klamath County has filed a lawsuit arguing that its water rights would normally be worth $1.5 million but the “value has been entirely destroyed” by flow restrictions that render them “no longer marketable.” According to the complaint against the State of Oregon, the ranch property was originally part of the Klamath Indian Reservation, which was established in 1864, setting the priority date for the water rights.

Aquafornia news New Times San Luis Obispo

Agriculture remains opposed to new Paso Robles basin ordinance

Local agricultural groups continue to speak out against a new proposed county ordinance regulating water use from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, which will go before the SLO County Planning Commission on Oct. 28. The new ordinance, championed by a majority of the Board of Supervisors, would lift a basinwide moratorium on groundwater pumping by giving all property owners up to 25 acre-feet per year of exempted water use. The current exemption is 5 acre-feet per year. After months of negotiating with county officials and dissecting its environmental impact report, SLO County farming groups remain adamantly opposed to the ordinance, claiming that it will exacerbate the basin’s overdraft and add “cumbersome” new layers of regulation on agriculture.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Change is coming to the Westlands Water District board. What will it mean for the future of the sprawling district and its controversial general manager?

The makeup of the Westlands Water District board will change this election – shifting power to a coalition of growers with a list of new actions, at the top of which appears to be ousting longtime General Manager Tom Birmingham. “There needs to be a change of leadership, that’s a foundational issue,” said Sarah Woolf, a member of a Westlands farming family, who helped organize the coalition. … Woolf applauded the district’s recharge efforts, but noted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires subbasins to bring aquifers into balance by 2040, was passed eight years ago and recharge efforts at Westlands have languished behind other districts. 

Aquafornia news Forbes

Drought expands east to the Mississippi river, where it’s really messing things up

Footprints, human and animal, dot stretches of the Mississippi River that have been underwater for as long as people remember, and eight barges have run aground this year. Rain has been scarce, with little prospect for more. Drought’s deadly fingers have moved east, from the dried-up wells of California’s Central Valley and into the American Midwest, where much of America’s food is grown, and even farther, into the Southeast. Its tentacles have parched parts of America’s most important river and now threaten a majority of the country — 52.7% by the U.S. Drought Monitor’s count, and 146 million people, 12 million more than a mere week ago. It’s the deepest national drought since 2012, and if nothing changes it’ll outpace that benchmark soon.

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Northern California Tour 2022
Field Trip - October 12-14

This tour explored 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.

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

This tour traveled 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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.