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 Estuary News Magazine

VA agreement highlights habitat questions

Restoring marsh and wetland habitat can have significant benefits for dozens of species throughout the Bay and Delta—that’s beyond dispute. But when it comes to saving the Estuary’s most imperiled fish, how much habitat improvements can help in the absence of dramatically increased freshwater flows is a question that has dogged and divided scientists and policy makers for years. As the State Water Resources Control Board considers the latest proposal from the State and water agencies for a flows agreement that would restore thousands of riparian and wetland acres—while dedicating less water to the environment than proposed under an alternative regulatory framework—critics argue that science doesn’t support its underlying assumptions. 

Aquafornia news NPR

In California, leafy greens farmers both suffered from floods and welcomed the water

Most of the country’s lettuce and other leafy greens come from California’s Salinas Valley, where 13 atmospheric rivers this winter have obliterated local drought conditions. Farmers have welcomed the water and also sometimes struggled with the deluge. Reporter Amy Mayer has this look at what it all means for spring salads. AMY MAYER, BYLINE: Andrew Regalado and his father trudge through sticky mud on the edge of a field at World’s Finest Farm in Hollister, Calif. They’ve owned the organic vegetable and herb farm for about 17 years. In a creek bed just beyond the field, cloudy brown water leaps at the banks, and that’s days after floodwaters have mostly receded. Another storm is coming. ANDREW REGALADO: If this water’s still here, there’s a good chance we might get flooded again. Yeah, so it’ll be a tough year.

Aquafornia news Stormwater Solutions

Study confirms nitrate can release uranium into groundwater

New research experimentally confirms that nitrate can help transport naturally occurring uranium from the underground to groundwater, according to a press release from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The new research backs a 2015 study led by Karrie Weber of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The 2015 showed that aquifers contaminated with high levels of nitrate — including the High Plains Aquifer residing beneath Nebraska — also contain uranium concentrations far exceeding a threshold set by the U.S. EPA. Uranium concentrations above that EPA threshold have been shown to cause kidney damage in humans, especially when regularly consumed via drinking water.

Aquafornia news ABC 10 - Sacramento

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increases water allocations for 2023

The Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday water allocations to the Central Valley Project will increase thanks to the incredible amount of rain and snow the state has received. The initial allocation issued Feb. 22 was conservative due to below-average precipitation in February, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The increase is due to the persistent wet weather that dominated the end of February and almost all of March. The atmospheric river events have greatly boosted reservoir levels, including the two main reservoirs in the state north and south of the delta – Shasta and San Luis, respectively. … The latest allocations raised irrigation water service to 80% from 35% of their contract total, and municipal and industrial water service to 100% from 75% of their historic use.

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Aquafornia news Union of Concerned Scientists

Blog: Repurposing cropland in California: a solution for everyone?

[A]gricultural practices, especially in California, must be updated to survive the future. One powerful change that is growing momentum is strategic cropland repurposing. Doing cropland repurposing right can benefit many, including landowners. … Cropland retirement has direct negative effects on agricultural revenues and farmworker employment, with ripple effects in other sectors that depend on agriculture (such as transportation and agricultural services). But cropland retirement also means a decrease in pesticide, synthetic fertilizers, and water use that can bring significant environmental and local public health benefits. How do we weigh these scenarios and decide if cropland repurposing makes sense?

Aquafornia news The New Republic

Opinion: Why is Arizona using precious water to grow alfalfa for Saudi Arabia?

To understand the virtual water trade, let’s start with cows. In recent years, public attention and anger has grown over the way water in the rapidly drying Colorado River Basin is used to grow food for cattle, whose emissions are driving climate change, which is exacerbating this drought in the first place. And part of why people are irritated is that some of the water isn’t even going to American cows, but rather Saudi dairy cows. … In the 17 Western States, 7 percent of water is used in people’s homes according to a recent study in Nature; commercial and industrial use account for another 5 percent. But a whopping 86 percent of water is consumed by crop irrigation, including the 32 percent of water used to grow crops that humans don’t even eat directly, such as alfalfa, hay, and corn silage for livestock.
-Written by Noah J. Gordon, acting co-director of the Sustainability, Climate, and Geopolitics Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.​

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

House panel hones in on Calif.’s lackluster water storage

Tuesday, the House Committee on Natural Resources discussed the increased need for water storage in California and the rest of the western United States given the highly above average precipitation after years of drought.  The Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries held a hearing on long-term drought and the water storage issues throughout the reasons to discuss the situation and possible solutions. … Bourdeau, the Vice Chair of the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority … [and] a director for Westlands Water District … noted that farmers throughout the Central Valley have spent billions of dollars to put drip irrigation systems in place, among other water-saving measures, to go along with the conservation efforts from municipal water users. But without proper water storage solutions, the nation’s future could be imperil if the Valley’s food production wanes. 

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Farmers look forward to full water delivery

As the rain year continues to look promising, rice farmers are happy to expect most if not all of their water allocations will be delivered. This week the Department of Water Resources announced a 75% water allocation to the irrigation districts served by the State Water Project. Farmers on the east side of the valley served by Lake Oroville are expected to receive 100% of their water rights, according to Louis Espino, rice farming systems adviser and director at the University of California Butte County Cooperative Extension. Butte County Ag Commissioner Louie Mendoza said he expects 100% of the rice acreage to be planted — about 100,000 acres. Mendoza said in 2022, around 80-85% of rice acreage was planted.

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Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Napa Water Forum looks at how nature, humans can both thrive

Ideas flowed at a recent forum on how to manage Napa Valley water, which is the lifeblood for local cities, world-famous wine country and the environment. Save Napa Valley Foundation — formerly Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture — and other groups put on the Napa Water Forum. It took place Friday, March 24 in the Native Sons of the Golden West building in downtown Napa. … [W]ater runs from local mountains in streams to the Napa River, giving life to fish and other aquatic life. The Napa River runs for about 50 miles from Mount St. Helena through the Napa Valley to San Pablo Bay. Some water is captured behind dams that form reservoirs for local cities. Some water seeps into the aquifer, becoming groundwater that feeds streams and the Napa River during the hot summers and provides well water for vineyards, wineries and homes.

Aquafornia news Associated Press

California farmers flood fields to boost groundwater basin

A field that has long grown tomatoes, peppers and onions now looks like a wind-whipped ocean as farmer Don Cameron seeks to capture the runoff from a freakishly wet year in California to replenish the groundwater basin that is his only source to water his crops. Taking some tomatoes out of production for a year is an easy choice if it means boosting future water supplies for his farm about 35 miles (56 kilometers) southwest of Fresno. He’s pumping 300 acre-feet a day — enough to supply hundreds of households for a year — from the gushing North Fork of the Kings River onto former vegetable fields and others dotted with pistachio trees, which can withstand heavy flooding.

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Aquafornia news Decanter

California’s ban on pesticides by 2050 sees the state’s wineries embracing ‘slow wine’

While environmentally-conscious wine producers like Shannon are making a difference in California, so is the state which recently announced its long-range commitment to promoting ecosystem resilience. The sustainable pest management roadmap for California was released by the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. It charts a course for California’s elimination of high-risk pesticides by 2050. Yet, wine producers like Sam Coturri of Enterprise Vineyards in Sonoma County, whose family oversees 35 estate vineyards, and produces their own label, Winery Sixteen 600, have been farming organically since 1979.

Aquafornia news Aspen Public Radio

‘It’s going to cost us a pile’: Livestock producers in Mountain West in grip of winter’s weather

On a recent morning on a snow-covered farm in Western Nevada, Lucy Rechel had a spring in her step. Rechel, who manages the cattle operation at Snyder Livestock Company, said the cows in the feedlot were feeling good, too, because it was clear-skied and sunny. … Nice weather has been in short supply in Mason Valley this winter. Many days have been filled with wind, rain or snowstorms. And when that happens here? In fact, Snyder Livestock has spent about $75,000 – and counting – just dealing with mud. That includes renting large mining equipment to haul it out and paying for the labor and fuel to run it. In a normal winter, the company will spend maybe $10,000 on mud removal, Rechel said.

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Aquafornia news Reuters

California farmers flood their fields in order to save them

When Don Cameron first intentionally flooded his central California farm in 2011, pumping excess stormwater onto his fields, fellow growers told him he was crazy. Today, California water experts see Cameron as a pioneer. His experiment to control flooding and replenish the ground water has become a model that policy makers say others should emulate. With the drought-stricken state suddenly inundated by a series of rainstorms, California’s outdated infrastructure has let much of the stormwater drain into the Pacific Ocean. Cameron estimated his operation is returning 8,000 to 9,000 acre-feet of water back to the ground monthly during this exceptionally wet year, from both rainwater and melted snowpack. That would be enough water for 16,000 to 18,000 urban households in a year.

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Aquafornia news NBC - Palm Springs

Wall Street is thirsty for its next big investment opportunity: The West’s vanishing water

Situated in the Sonoran Desert near the Arizona-California border is the tiny rural town of Cibola — home to roughly 300 people, depending on the season. Life here depends almost entirely on the Colorado River, which nourishes thirsty crops like cotton and alfalfa, sustains a nearby wildlife refuge and allows visitors to enjoy boating and other recreation. It’s a place few Americans are likely to have heard of, which made it all the more surprising when investment firm Greenstone Management Partners bought nearly 500 acres of land here. On its website, Greenstone says its “goal is to advance water transactions that benefit both the public good and private enterprise.” But critics accuse Greenstone — a subsidiary of the East Coast financial services conglomerate MassMutual — of trying to profit off Cibola’s most precious and limited resource: water. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Solving water crisis will mean less for California farms

A modest proposal for western water: Turn off the spigot to the Imperial Valley and let the farms go fallow. In return, provide a water future for Arizona, Nevada and Southern California. Sure, there would be a price to pay. California’s Imperial Valley, which sits in the southeastern corner of the state, bordered by Arizona and Mexico, produces alfalfa, lettuce, corn and sugar beets, among other crops. It’s home to more than 300,000 head of cattle. Cutting off the water would end all of that, along with the livelihoods of the farmers and ranchers who produce it and the communities that depend on it. But let’s face it, the whole valley defies nature. It’s a desert that became an agricultural area when the All-American Canal was built just over 100 years ago.
-Written by Jim Newton, a veteran journalist, best-selling author and teacher.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Explore drought-to-deluge impacts & opportunities on Central Valley Tour

The feast or famine nature of California water has never been more apparent than now. After three years of punishing drought, the state has been slammed by a dozen atmospheric rivers. On our Central Valley Tour next month, you will see the ramifications of this nature in action. Focusing on the San Joaquin Valley, the tour will bring you up close to farmers, cities and disadvantaged communities as well as managers trying to capture flood waters to augment overpumped groundwater basins while also protecting communities from damaging flood impacts. Despite the recent rains, the San Joaquin Valley most years deals with little to no water deliveries for agricultural irrigation and wetland habitat management. 

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Forget all the rain and snow, California is still short of water

During a winter of blizzards, floods and drought-ending downpours, it’s easy to forget that California suffers from chronic water scarcity — the long-term decline of the state’s total available fresh water. This rainy season’s inundation isn’t going to change that. … It’s all about groundwater. It is the long-term disappearance of groundwater that is the major driver behind the state’s steady decline in total available fresh water, which hydrologists define as snowpack, surface water, soil moisture and groundwater combined. … The gains made during wet years simply can’t offset the over-pumping during the dry years in between. In fact, the state’s groundwater deficit is now so large that it will never be fully replenished.
-Written by Jay Famiglietti, a global futures professor at Arizona State University. ​

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Commentary: Here’s why farm water use reports are exaggerated

You may have heard it repeatedly through local and national news outlets or from organizations critical of California’s agricultural water use. At the height of a historic drought in 2015, for example, The Washington Post published a report titled “Agriculture is 80% of water use in California.” And a 2022 report by Food and Water Watch, titled “These industries are sucking up California’s water and worsening drought,” again noted that, “in California, 80% of our water goes toward agriculture.” Really? Before we explain just how much that 80% figure is taken out of context, this fact is worth noting: Water for farmers in California produces by far America’s largest food supply, including staples that are affordable, safe, nutritious and essential for our daily lives.

Aquafornia news Axios

What a deluged California means for farmworkers

As the latest storm associated with a strong atmospheric river sweeps through California, already strained farmworkers across the state are bracing for yet another setback. The big picture: The rounds of atmospheric river events have decimated crops and reduced work opportunities for many of the state’s farmworkers, who lack access to social safety nets. What they’re saying: Hernan Hernandez, executive director of the nonprofit California Farmworker Foundation, tells Axios that lasting structural damages from the rounds of storms are compounding with the loss of work for farmworkers, particularly in Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

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Aquafornia news The Business Journal

Westlands new general manager hired from Mojave Water Agency

The Westlands Water District board of directors has elected its newest general manager — also the organization’s first woman to serve in the role. Allison Febbo comes to Westlands by way of the Mojave Water Agency north of San Bernardino, where she is currently general manager. Before that, she was the deputy operations manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley operations office. She has nearly 25 years of experience in natural resources, hydrology and water operations. Febbo took the position with Mojave Water Agency on Dec. 1, 2021, according to the Victorville Daily Press.

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Aquafornia news Somach Simmons & Dunn

Blog: USDA announces new framework to help guide investments in projects addressing water supply, climate change in the West

In furtherance of its efforts to address the considerable challenges related to water scarcity in the West, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled the Western Water and Working Lands Framework for Conservation Action (Framework) on February 13, 2023, a blueprint designed to help individuals and entities navigate the complexities of resource conservation and climate change resilience. Developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Framework provides guidance and strategic support for programs that address impacts from drought and climate change, and defines clear goals and strategies that communities can use to respond to threats to agricultural productivity and environmental quality.

Aquafornia news AgWeb

California dairy farmers prayed for rain – now it’s forcing some to evacuate

Not long ago, California dairy producer Ryan Junio prayed for rain. The ongoing water scarcity challenges that faced the Golden State was the No. 1 concern for this Tulare County dairy farmer. “As a dairy producer, water scarcity is an ever-growing challenge and is my top concern,” Junio said last summer. Junio wouldn’t have thought that nine months later he would be dealing with a different water crisis, as massive flooding has wreaked havoc on California’s largest dairy hub, Tulare County, home to 330,000-plus dairy cows. Recently Junio’s farm, Four J Jerseys, which consists of two dairies located in Pixley and home to 4,200 cows, had to evacuate one dairy that sits south of the Tule River.

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Aquafornia news Inside Climate News

Roundup, the world’s favorite weed killer, linked to liver, metabolic diseases in kids

For Brenda Eskenazi, what once seemed merely a rich vein of epidemiological knowledge has turned out to be a mother lode. Eskenazi, who runs the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas study (known as CHAMACOS, Mexican Spanish slang for “little kids”), has tracked pairs of mothers and their children for more than 20 years. She’s collected hundreds of thousands of samples of blood, urine and saliva, along with exposure and health records. … So when Charles Limbach, a doctor at a Salinas health clinic, saw an explosion of fatty liver disease in his young patients and found a study linking the condition in adults to the weed killer glyphosate, he contacted Eskenazi.

Aquafornia news KCBX - Central Coast

California storms are taking a toll on farmworkers like those in the town of Pajaro

California is finally seeing a break from the rain. That is giving people time to take stock of the damage in flooded areas, areas including the town of Pajaro in the state’s central coast. A levee broke there last weekend and forced thousands of residents, many of them farm workers, to evacuate. Farida Jhabvala Romero from member station KQED went there yesterday. And, Farida, what did you see? … The first thing is that the water has receded a lot in the main parts of town. And so I was able to drive through Main Street, which was impossible just a couple of days ago, when everything was underwater. And you could really tell the water mark about two to three feet up on building walls. You could tell the damage is going to be really extensive. I saw a beauty salon, for example, that was missing part of its front wall. 

Aquafornia news Farm Progress

Calif. strawberry fields devastated by flooding

The winter of 2022-23 has been devastating for California’s strawberry industry. After storms in December and January caused over $200 million in crop damage from wind, rain and floods, damage from recent flooding from the Pajaro and Salinas rivers in Monterey County has caused hundreds of millions of dollars more in losses, the California Strawberry Commission reports. The latest disaster comes as farmers had borrowed money to prepare the fields and were weeks away from beginning to harvest, said Rick Tomlinson, the commission’s president. As soon as the cleanup is complete, farmers will begin the process of preparing the fields and starting over, he said.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Colorado River crisis tests a proud region

Despite its arid climate, California’s Imperial Valley produces most of the U.S. winter vegetables, providing the lettuce, celery, cilantro, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and other crops that allow people from Seattle to Boston to eat salads and cook fresh produce year-round. Unlike most agricultural regions, the Imperial Valley—with little rain and no groundwater—depends on a single source of water: the Colorado River. … Now, that lifeblood may be threatened, as competing interests battle over supplies from the depleted river and federal officials threaten to intervene. Despite holding senior water rights, which give them priority in times of scarcity, [farmer Mark] Osterkamp and other Imperial Valley growers face an uncertain future.

Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Water is life! Exploring modern Water management from ridgetop to river mouth in the Sacramento Valley

Last summer Governor Newsom released California’s Water Supply Strategy–which calls for the modernization of our water management system. We know that the Sacramento Valley continues to modernize everything we do, from our farms, communities and businesses, to the way we approach water. These improvements include adopting improved water efficiency, irrigation systems, and tools to measure water use. We are planting new varieties that are more productive and produce more crop per drop. We are investing millions to improve water delivery systems for the environment as well as for farms, cities, and disadvantaged communities.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Storm flood: Can California aid those the feds exclude?

It was late Friday morning when muddy, brown water started rushing onto Michelle Hackett’s Salinas Valley farms. On one side of her family’s Riverview Farms cannabis business, a county-mandated retention pond overflowed. Next door, a farm abandoned by another grower — one of dozens of cannabis businesses to shut down in Monterey County in recent years — spawned another small river headed straight for Hackett and her skeleton crew. … Cannabis businesses like Hackett’s —  along with thousands of undocumented farmworkers and the area’s unhoused residents — fear they’ll be left to fend for themselves as yet another winter storm batters California’s Central Coast, local officials and advocates say. 

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

Supreme Court case could reshape indigenous water rights in the Southwest

The U.S. government has yet to uphold its end of a deal struck over 60 years ago, in which the Navajo Nation traded some of its water rights to divert San Juan River water, a major tributary to the Colorado River, to the growing urban areas along the Rio Grande in exchange for irrigation infrastructure for NAPI. Sixty years later, and as water resources dwindle, the remaining 40,000 acres of irrigation originally promised to the farm remain undeveloped….later this month, the Supreme Court will hear a high-profile case in which the federal government has decided to push back on its responsibility to provide tribes with an adequate water supply. 

Aquafornia news Union of Concerned Scientists

Blog: California’s agriculture has outstanding economic performance, but at what cost?

The San Joaquin Valley in California (southern Central Valley) is the most profitable agricultural region in the United States by far with a revenue of $37.1 billion in 2020. The San Joaquin Valley itself generates more agricultural revenue than any other state, and more than countries like Canada, Germany, or Peru. Other agricultural regions of California are also very profitable, such as the Sacramento Valley (northern Central Valley), the Salinas Valley, and the Imperial Valley. However, this economic profit has a steep health and environmental toll, and that toll is paid for by the residents of rural communities in California. The three regions with the worst air quality (by year-round particle pollution) in the United States are in the San Joaquin Valley, corresponding to five of its eight counties.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California to store San Joaquin River floods as groundwater

Fresno County’s newest large-scale water storage project is happening below ground. With California inundated by rain and snow, state and federal water regulators hatched a plan to help replenish underground aquifers further depleted by heavy agriculture pumping during the recent drought. In an agreement announced last week, more than 600,000 acre-feet of floodwater from the San Joaquin River system will be diverted and allowed to soak back into the earth in areas with permeable soils and wildlife refuges. How much water is 600,000 acre-feet? Enough to overflow Millerton Lake, which stores 520,000 acre-feet at capacity. Or enough to meet the annual needs of more than 1 million average households.

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Aquafornia news Growing Produce

California’s blueprint for ag growth rooted in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

The atmospheric rivers that flowed over California in January dumped about a foot of rain — equal to an entire year’s average — in many parts of the state’s parched Central Valley, which encompasses only 1% of U.S. farmland but produces 40% of the nation’s table fruits, vegetables, and nuts. With February, ordinarily the second wettest month, still to be counted, talks of all the land that will have to fallowed as a result of the drought have quieted for now. But most Golden State growers have come to realize that droughts will simply be a part of farming going forward, and the safety net is gone. That safety net was groundwater pumping. For more than a half-century, farmers in the Central Valley, the multi-faceted state’s chief production area, have been pumping more water from aquifers than can be replenished, causing wells to be drilled deeper and deeper.

Aquafornia news Modern Farmer

To cultivate modern sustainability, a California wine region is turning to very old methods

Ask any of the wine grape growers planting own-rooted stock why they’re farming these massively risky grapevines and they’ll all tell you the same thing: They just want to make really great wine. But there’s another benefit to the gamble, too—unlike most American wine grapes, which are overwhelmingly grown on grafted rootstock, own-rooted vines are especially drought-tolerant, produce a more predictable crop and use significantly fewer resources. There’s a huge downside to using own-rooted vines, though. If they get attacked by phylloxera, the entire crop will die. It won’t be a loss of just one season’s grapes—the entire vineyard itself will be totally destroyed. And the invasive species is present in the soil in vineyards throughout America.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Arizona rancher takes an old approach to growing crops on Gila River

Regenerative agriculture is a holistic land management approach with principles that date back to Indigenous farmers. Instead of letting the land fallow or repeating a cycle of planting water-intensive crops that cannot survive the harsh conditions along the lower Gila River, Hansen has worked to develop strategies to make less water go further. He has successfully introduced arid-adapted crops, integrated livestock on his land and used non-traditional farming methods to improve soil health and biodiversity. While regenerative agriculture has been a way to conserve water and grow healthier crops for centuries, the alternate farming method has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years as a way to potentially reverse the effects of climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity, resulting in both carbon drawdown and improvements to the water cycle.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Age, drought, rodents and neglect weaken California levees, heightening flood danger

The levee breach that left an entire California town underwater this weekend is putting a spotlight on how the state’s vital flood control infrastructure is being weakened by age, drought, climate change, rodents and neglect — leaving scores of communities at risk. On Friday night, the swollen Pajaro River burst through the worn-down levee, flooding the entire town of Pajaro and sending its roughly 3,000 residents into what officials are now estimating to be a multi-month-long exile. A second breach was reported on Monday…. Experts say similar weaknesses plague levee systems across California and the nation. As climate change threatens to intensify and exacerbate extreme weather events — such as flooding and even drought — the unease and desperation of residents and emergency responders in communities near these crumbling systems is growing.

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Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Valadao’s take on Biden’s Valley water grab: Where’s the beef?

The Biden administration’s move to throw out the Trump-era biological opinions that govern California’s water flow is nothing more than a political move to Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford).  In an upcoming interview on Sunrise FM, Valadao discussed the history of the biological opinions and the Congressional investigation into the Biden administration’s decision.  The backstory: The latest biological opinions which govern the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project were signed by President Donald Trump in 2019, capping the process of formulating the new opinions that started under President Barack Obama.  When President Joe Biden took office two years ago, his administration quickly began the process of removing the 2019 biological opinions to revert back to the previous opinions issued in 2008 and 2009.  

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Tempe, AZ

Arizona Legislature fails to take up groundwater and other conservation issues

In January, water policy analysts hoped that the Legislature would take action on Arizona’s shrinking groundwater supplies. But it appears that lawmakers will back burner the issue once more. Groundwater in most of rural Arizona is largely unregulated. In some counties, large feedlots or farms have taken advantage of the lack of oversight and sunk deep wells. But a number of bills that would help manage rural water supplies have stalled, not on the House or Senate floor but in committee.

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Weather provides mixed bag for Butte County agriculture

Winter storms this year have created hope for many Californians suffering from years of drought but for agriculture, it’s more complicated. More water means crops will be well provided for, but additional weather trends create new hazards for orchards, especially during this year’s almond bloom which requires some consistency in temperature and sunlight. Colleen Cecil, executive director for the Butte County Farm Bureau, said almonds have likely been impacted the most by the weather events, especially since the trees are still in bloom.

Aquafornia news Greenhouse Grower

Blog: New water management tools for an emerging ag landscape

Water is one of the most basic elements of any type of agriculture production system, and this precious resource is under more stress than at any time in our history. From a changing climate and drought to regulation and increasing expectations for sustainability efforts, the development and adoption of technologies to use water more efficiently and effectively is paramount. The new “Water, Technology, and Sustainability” digital report from the editors at Meister Media Worldwide, part of the 2023 Global Insight Series, dives deep into topics such as the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, technologies to address drought, digital modeling for weather, and worldwide market views from companies on the front lines.

Aquafornia news Audubon

Blog: Who gets harmed as the Colorado River changes?

National and regional media love a good fight, and lately a day doesn’t pass without a major news story or op-ed focused on Colorado River disagreements, particularly amongst the seven states of the Colorado River Basin (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming). Which state must bear the brunt of shortages needed as Colorado River flows decline? Which sector of water users takes the hit as climate change continues to diminish the river? Should urban water supplies be protected because that’s where all the people are? (Municipal water supply representatives will quickly remind us that if all urban uses of Colorado River water were cut off, there would still be a shortage). Should agricultural water supplies be protected because we all need to eat? 

Aquafornia news Wall Street Journal

In California, a race to capture the water before it escapes

Neil McIsaac has something many other dairy farmers here don’t: a storm-runoff capture system that can provide backup water for his herd when local reservoirs go dry, as they did last year. Already, he and others involved in the project say it has proven its worth. It has captured 670,000 gallons so far this winter, enough to slake the thirst of his 700 cows for a month, Mr. McIsaac said.

Aquafornia news State Water Resources Control Board

News release: Petition approved to capture flood flows, recharge groundwater

To capitalize on strong flows resulting from higher-than-average snowpack, the State Water Resources Control Board approved a petition by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert over 600,000 acre-feet of San Joaquin River flood waters for wildlife refuges, underground storage and recharge. With this approval, the State Water Board has authorized nearly 790,000 acre-feet in diversions for groundwater recharge and other purposes since late December 2022 – the amount of water used by at least 1.5 million households in a single year.

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Aquafornia news Public Policy Institute of California

Blog: Helping the San Joaquin Valley find new uses for fallowed farmland

In Sarge Green’s 40-plus year career, he’s worn an astonishing number of hats. Now a water management specialist with California State University, Fresno, Sarge has worked on water quality issues at the regional water board, served as general manager of an irrigation district, and managed two resource conservation districts (RCDs). He’s also a director for the Tule Basin Land and Water Conservation Trust and the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District. He’s been a long-time partner with the PPIC Water Policy Center in our San Joaquin Valley work as a trusted member of our research network. Sarge remains deeply involved in efforts to help San Joaquin Valley farms and communities cope with the challenges of implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. We spoke with him about a pressing issue in the valley: how to manage farmland that will be transitioning out of intensive irrigation.

Aquafornia news Farm Progress

Opinion: Why the U.S. can’t afford to cut Yuma’s water

Yuma, Ariz. may be well known for its unforgiving summer heat, but did you know that 90% of North America’s leafy greens and vegetables available from November through April of each year comes from here? Yuma’s climate, its rich soil birthed from sediments deposited by the Colorado River for millennia, and over 300 cloudless days per year coalesce to create one of the best places in the world to grow such a diverse mix of crops. … At the crux of this production is water. The Colorado River ends its U.S. run at Morelos Dam, just a few hundred yards from the University of Arizona’s Extension research farm at Yuma. That water no longer makes it to the Sea of Cortez as Mexico consumes it for urban and agricultural uses.
-Written by Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Visit groundwater’s epicenter on April Central Valley Tour; check out groundwater resources

Explore the epicenter of groundwater sustainability on our Central Valley Tour April 26-28 and engage directly with some of the most important leaders and experts in water storage, management and delivery, agriculture, habitat, land use policy and water equity. The tour focuses on the San Joaquin Valley, which has struggled with consistently little to no surface water deliveries and increasing pressure to reduce groundwater usage to sustainable levels while also facing water quality and access challenges for disadvantaged communities. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater expert Thomas Harter, Chair for Water Resources Management and Policy at the University of California, Davis, the tour explores topics such as subsidence, water supply and drought, flood management, groundwater banking and recharge, surface water storage, agricultural supply and drainage, wetlands and more. Register here!

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

Threatened coho salmon at risk due to federal mismanagement, groups allege

A few weeks ago, federally threatened coho salmon swam up the Klamath River, spawned and laid egg nests. But some of these nests, or redds, holding as many as 4,000 eggs, may never hatch, owing to reduced water levels in the river. It’s the result of a severe water management bungling, say critics, by the Bureau of Reclamation, which controls how much water flows from Upper Klamath Lake into the river. … Tribal nations and commercial fishing groups argue the agency violated the Endangered Species Act when it reduced river flows in mid-March below a minimum level set in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biological opinion, a series of recommendations and requirements meant to help the salmon recover and ensure river management decisions don’t push the species to the brink of extinction…. The Bureau of Reclamation, which controls flows and water allocation on the Klamath, says it is caught between competing priorities.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Valley’s water managers celebrate winning key SGMA approval from Calif. regulators

In light of last week’s decisions regarding the groundwater sustainability plans, groundwater managers in Fresno County are celebrating.  The backstory: The California Department of Water Resources announced its decisions for the groundwater sustainability plans for 10 basins in the Central Valley, giving the green light to the Kings Subbasin and Westside Subbasin, both of which are anchored in Fresno County. Groundwater sustainability plans are required by 2014’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and govern how agencies in critically overdrafted areas achieve groundwater sustainability.  The big picture: The basins that received approval from the state will move forward to the implementation phase while those that were deemed inadequate will face direct oversight from the State Water Board.

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Aquafornia news Vox

Who’s really using up the water in the American West?

The Western United States is currently battling the most severe drought in thousands of years. A mix of bad water management policies and manmade climate change has created a situation where water supplies in Western reservoirs are so low, states are being forced to cut their water use. It’s not hard to find media coverage that focuses on the excesses of residential water use: long showers, swimming pools, lawn watering, at-home car washes. Or in the business sector, like irrigating golf courses or pumping water into hotel fountains in Las Vegas. But when a team of researchers looked at water use in the West, they uncovered a very different story about where most Western water goes. Only 14 percent of all water consumption in the Western US goes to residential, commercial, and industrial water use. 

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Central Valley farmworkers struggle to recover after floods

In 1910, the Los Angeles real estate developer J. Harvey McCarthy decided that this small agricultural town in the Central Valley would be his “city beautiful,” a model community and an automobile stop along the road to Yosemite. An infusion of money brought Planada a bank, hotel, school, church and its own newspaper, the Planada Enterprise, by the following year. A celebration for the town’s first anniversary drew an estimated 10,000 people (though Planada had only several hundred residents) as the city had become the best-known place in Merced County. But McCarthy eventually abandoned the community, located nine miles east of Merced, leaving its settlers to pick up the pieces. It remained a farming town and is now home to 4,000 mostly low-income and Spanish-speaking residents who work at nearby orchards.

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Aquafornia news Farm Progress

Editorial: Can the Colorado River be saved without cutting Calif.’s cord?

This winter will be one for the record-books in California. It looks like the winter I spent playing on 40-feet of snow in Mammoth Lakes in the mid-1990s will be topped by this year’s epic snowfall. So where will all that water go when it melts? Living in Bishop at the time, we had flooding in August as the runoff came off the mountains and made it to the Owens River – or as some might call it: the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Here’s my thought on this. Follow along. Los Angeles gets much of its water from the Sierra Nevada and runoff in various places in California. Yes, it gets water too from the State Water Project, but the mismanagement of that system tends to push more water out to sea than for human use.

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Aquafornia news CA Department of Water Resources

News release: DWR and partners promote California’s hidden water resource during Groundwater Awareness Week 2023

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today kicked off National Groundwater Awareness Week 2023 with an engaging educational event held at the California Natural Resources Agency headquarters in Sacramento. The event featured an array of groundwater partners who provided presentations describing their work in groundwater and why groundwater is such an important water resource in California. After the presentations, the in-person audience visited educational stations where they engaged with the day’s speakers and other groundwater professionals.

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Aquafornia news Ag Info

California water allocations up

From the Ag Information Network, I’m Bob Larson with your Agribusiness Update. **California farmers are expected to see increased federal water allocations this year, as winter storms bolster the Sierra Nevada snowpack and water levels rise in reservoirs. The Bureau of Reclamation has announced an initial allocation of 35% of contracted water supplies for agricultural customers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The February 22 announcement was welcome news after officials provided zero allocations for agriculture in both 2021 and 22. **The National Association of Conservation Districts released policy recommendations for the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

Could feds and farmers join forces to put groundwater back in Central Valley aquifers?

Jennifer Peters signed on to have her Madera ranch become the site of an experiment in replenishing groundwater in California’s Central Valley. Though this pilot program led by a subdivision of the United States Department of Agriculture is far from the first effort to address the depletion of groundwater stores, it offers farmers like Peters hope for the future of agriculture in the region. … Peters is a fourth-generation farmer who operates Markarian Family LP with her father and son. They cultivate wine grapes and almonds, crops that require irrigation to grow in the Central Valley. … The search for water has led growers to dig deep into underground water supplies. Many aquifers, geological structures that hold groundwater, are so depleted in the Central Valley that they are considered at an “all time low” or “much below normal,” … 

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Aquafornia news Record Searchlight

Low fall-run chinook salmon expected on Sacramento, Klamath rivers

It’s going to be a bad year for Sacramento River chinook salmon. That was the message from this year’s annual Salmon Information Meeting attended by state and federal fisheries scientists. State and federal officials announced one of the lowest adult fall-run chinook salmon population estimates since 2008, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The fall-run chinook is considered the predominant species of salmon in freshwater and ocean fisheries, the state said. This year, the state forecast 169,767 adults in the population.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

In dry West, farmers balk at idling land to save water

Tom Brundy, an alfalfa grower in California’s Imperial Valley, thinks farmers reliant on the shrinking Colorado River can do more to save water and use it more efficiently. That’s why he’s installed water sensors and monitors to prevent waste on nearly two-thirds of his 3,000 acres. But one practice that’s off-limits for Brundy is fallowing — leaving fields unplanted to spare the water that would otherwise irrigate crops. It would save plenty of water, Brundy said, but threatens both farmers and rural communities economically. … Many Western farmers feel the same, even as a growing sense is emerging that some fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West, where the Colorado River serves 40 million people.

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Aquafornia news Bloomberg

Video: How to keep the world from running out of drinking water

The megadrought that’s plagued the US West for years has impacted everything from the food Americans eat to their electricity supply. And while extreme weather can sometimes trigger wet winters like this one, in California and the rest of the region, the long-term future remains a very dry one. In this episode of Getting Warmer With Kal Penn, we explore what the future of water in the West may look like. In Nevada, Penn investigates the lasting impacts of the Colorado River Compact, the 1922 agreement that doles out water rights to the seven states along its path. Overly optimistic from the start, the system is now on the verge of collapse as water levels in key reservoirs approach dead pool-status.

Aquafornia news Monterey County Weekly

Opinion: Exploring solutions for the Salinas Valley’s water needs

David Schmalz here, thinking about water. More specifically, I’m thinking about the water supply in the northern Salinas Valley, which has long been in a critical state of overdraft.  In last week’s issue of the Weekly, I wrote a story about how seawater intrusion continues to worsen in the northern part of the valley, which is a result of that overdraft. In natural conditions, without any pumping, the water in the aquifers moves downward, toward the Monterey Bay, but when over-pumping occurs, that pressure differential reverses as groundwater levels decline—seawater starts to intrude inland into the aquifers, eventually reaching a point of salinity to where it can’t be used to irrigate crops.
-Written by Weekly columnist David Schmalz.

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Farmers expected to get increased water allocations

Winter storms that bolstered the Sierra Nevada snowpack and added to California reservoirs prompted federal and state water managers to announce increases in anticipated water allocations for the 2023 growing season. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last week announced an initial allocation of 35% of contracted water supplies for agricultural customers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The announcement brought a measure of certainty for farmers, ranchers and agricultural water contractors, after officials provided zero water allocations for agriculture from the federal Central Valley Project in 2021 and 2022.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: How California’s Big Ag wants you to think about all this rain

Despite the continued heavy winter rain and snow throughout California, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently extended his executive orders from 2022 that declared a drought emergency statewide. He also asked the state water board to waive water flow regulations intended to protect salmon and other endangered fish species, as well as San Francisco Bay and Delta estuary overall. Some viewed these moves as pragmatic steps to avoid “wasting” the bounty of California’s rains out to sea. Others saw them as a declaration of war against the health of the bay.  In fact, a war against the bay has been going on for decades. Newsom’s order was merely the latest skirmish. The war’s primary aggressors are agricultural interests in the Central Valley.
-Written by Howard V. Hendrix, the author of six novels as well as many essays, poems and short stories. 

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California may bar commercial salmon fishing, first time since 2009

California commercial and sports fishers are bracing for the possibility of no salmon season this year after the fish population along the Pacific Coast dropped to its lowest point in 15 years. On Wednesday, wildlife officials announced a low forecast for the number of the wild adult Chinook (or “king”) salmon that will be in the ocean during the fishing season that typically starts in May. The final plan for the commercial and recreational salmon season will be announced in April. …Salmon are highly dependent on how much water is available in their native rivers and streams, especially when they are very young. Even though the state has gotten a lot of rain and snow this winter, the population that is now in the ocean was born in 2020, in the beginning of the state’s current record-breaking drought. … This year, there will be about 170,000 adult salmon in the ocean from the Sacramento River fall run Chinook population, the main group that is fished commercially in the state and the lowest number since 2008.

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Aquafornia news Napa Valley Register

Yountville discovers recycled water line break under Napa River, responds with $1 million emergency repair

A break in Yountville’s recycled-water main serving the Vintner’s Golf Club and various vineyard ponds east and west of the Napa River has led to an emergency $1 million repair project, approved by the Town Council last week. The main in question is a 6-inch PVC pipe, first installed in 1977, that runs across the floor of the Napa Valley from the Yountville wastewater treatment plant west of Highway 29. It reaches as far as the Clos du Val Winery pond past the Silverado Trail, to the east, Yountville’s public works director John Ferons said at the council meeting. As such, the water line also runs below the Napa River, which is where the leak was discovered about two weeks ago. Yountville town staff discovered the leak at noon Feb. 15 because a low-flow alarm went off, and workers shut off the pumps to investigate the pipes, according to a staff report.

Aquafornia news CBS - Sacramento

California wineries are making changes to battle extreme weather

In communities across California, a Napa winery is implementing a strategy to save water and fight against drought conditions.  Reid family winery uses mounds of rice straw under their grapevines, which they said not only helped double their yield from the year before, but also produced some of the winery’s best quality grapes yet. … The owners said that they were able to water significantly less last year compared to years prior. Since laying the rice straw, they haven’t seen rivulets or erosion in their sloping vineyard.  They predict that they will have to replace the rice straw every 4 to 5 years. 

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Editorial: Newsom takes page out of Trump’s water playbook

Clean water is California’s most vital need. Our lives and the lives of future generations depend on it. Yet when it comes to protecting the state’s supply, Gov. Gavin Newsom is failing California. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta provides drinking water to 27 million Californians, or roughly 70% of the state’s residents. On Feb. 15, the governor signed an executive order allowing the State Water Resources Control Board to ignore the state requirement of how much water needs to flow through the Delta to protect its health. It’s an outrageous move right out of Donald Trump’s playbook. Big Ag and its wealthy landowners, including some of Newsom’s political financial backers, will reap the benefits while the Delta suffers.

Aquafornia news Water Talk Podcast

Episode 42: Regenerative Viticulture — Water Talk

A conversation with UCCE Viticulture Advisor Dr. Chris Chen (Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino Counties) and soil scientist Noelymar Gonzalez-Maldonado (UC Davis) about regenerative viticulture, soils, and climate resilience in vineyards. Released February 24, 2023.

Aquafornia news Sierra Sun Times

Cal/OSHA appeals board decision in heat illness prevention case ensures that potable drinking water is as close as practicable to workers

The Department of Industrial Relations’ Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (OSHAB) has issued a precedential decision regarding the provision of water at outdoor worksites, affirming that it must be as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working to encourage frequent consumption. … Cal/OSHA opened a complaint-initiated safety inspection at the Rios Farming Co. vineyard in St. Helena on August 6, 2018. Inspectors found some workers had to climb through multiple grape trellises to access drinking water. On January 7, 2019, Cal/OSHA cited Rios Farming Co. for a repeat-serious violation for not having water as close as practicable for their employees. Rios Farming Co. appealed the citation and an administrative law judge affirmed the citation on October 12, 2022, with a modified penalty of $27,000.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Judge extends plan to manage flows to California delta and protect endangered fish

A judge has extended a temporary settlement of a long-running dispute over California water rights and how the Central Valley Project and State Water Project manage the Sacramento River flows. … The opinions address how the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources’ plan for operating the Central Valley and State Water Projects affects fish species. The opinions make it possible to send more water to 20 million farms, businesses and homes in Southern and Central California via the massive federal and state water diversion projects, and eliminate requirements such as mandating extra flows to keep water temperatures from rising high enough to damage salmon eggs. … A federal judge approved plans to allow the biological opinions to remain in effect over the next three years with added safeguards. 

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Education on water solutions vital for California Latinos

Generations of Californians have taken for granted how water is engineered to enable the grand agricultural nature of this state. Now our water system suffers from severe drought and reduced snowpacks. The Colorado River is in peril. Wells are going dry. Water is getting contaminated. Land is losing value. People are losing livelihoods. Such dilemmas are exacerbated in disadvantaged communities. Large Central Valley growers overpump water from wells in direct violation of the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Meanwhile, families in farmworker towns go without clean and affordable water. They still pay high water bills while resorting to bottled water to cook, bathe and drink provided by government, nonprofits and labor unions.
-Written by Victor Griego, founder of Water Education for Latino Leaders.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

The Salton Sea, an accident of history, faces a new water crisis

The drought crisis on the Colorado River looms large in California’s Imperial Valley, which produces much of the nation’s lettuce, broccoli and other crops, and now faces water cuts. But those cuts will also be bad news for the environmental and ecological disaster unfolding just to the north, at the shallow, shimmering and long-suffering Salton Sea. “There’s going to be collateral damage everywhere,” said Frank Ruiz, a program director with California Audubon. To irrigate their fields, the valley’s farmers rely completely on Colorado River water, which arrives by an 80-mile-long canal. And the Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake, relies on water draining from those fields to stay full. But it’s been shrinking for decades, killing off fish species that attract migratory birds and exposing lake bed that generates dust that is harmful to human health.

Aquafornia news Arizona Capitol Times

Water augmentation tested as Colorado River dwindles

While the lack of groundwater regulation plagues rural Arizona, there are proposed ways to create a larger supply in the region without depending on dwindling amounts from the Colorado River and groundwater. The Colorado River and local groundwater supplies around 40% of Arizona’s water. Lake Powell in northern Arizona and southern Utah is at record-low levels, as of Feb. 18. It is the lowest level it has been measured at since its construction in the 1960s. Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, called the Colorado River crisis Arizona’s most imminent water problem. 

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

San Joaquin Valley projected to lose 20% of water by 2040

An updated report on the San Joaquin Valley’s water crisis shows the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is not enough and additional water trading measures will need to be taken in order to stabilize local agricultural economies. The Public Policy Institute of California put out a policy brief on the future of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. Its analysis of the next 20 years indicates that annual water supplies for the Valley could decline by 10 to 20%. The Valley has been long understood to be the breadbasket of the United States and is home to the nation’s top three agricultural counties. However, without more innovative solutions, the Valley will likely have to fallow 900,000 acres of farmland and and cost 50,000 jobs leading to a major loss in the local economies The report indicates that the loss of almost a million acres is unavoidable…

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Newsom cares more about almond growers than California’s salmon fishery

Gov. Gavin Newsom bills himself as a protector of wildlife, so you wouldn’t think he’d take water from baby salmon and give it to almonds. Or to pistachios, or cotton or alfalfa. Especially when California was just drenched with the wettest three-week series of storms on record and was headed into another powerful soaking of snow and rain. But Newsom and his water officials still contend we’re suffering a drought — apparently it’s a never-ending drought. So, they used that as a reason last week to drastically cut river flows needed by migrating little salmon in case the water is needed to irrigate San Joaquin Valley crops in summer.
-Written by columnist George Skelton. 

Aquafornia news CBS News

Will Utah’s Great Salt Lake disappear?

Utah’s Great Salt Lake doesn’t look so “great” these days. This place where tourists once bobbed up and down like corks in water far saltier than the ocean is now quite literally turning to dust. … Climate change and the West’s historic megadrought certainly haven’t done the lake any favors, but it’s the diversion of water away from the lake that Romney says is less than divine: “The water in this area helped us bloom like a rose, as the Scripture says. And yeah, we’ve got trees and beautiful lawns. But some of that’s gonna have to change.” Most of the lake’s water is spoken for long before it gets there. It’s not just those green lawns for Utah’s exploding population; 70% of the water goes to agriculture. And then there’s the billion-dollar-a-year mineral extraction industry. It uses the lake’s water, too.

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Friday Top of the Scroll: California invests in critical Central Valley water infrastructure projects

California’s water authorities will spend $15 million in three crucial water management zones within the drought-ravaged southern Central Valley.  The hub of agricultural production in the Golden State, the Central Valley has also faced the most dire impacts from another historic drought, as thousands of wells went dry last year and many communities faced a total lack of safe drinking water. The state’s authorities say they are releasing funds to begin projects to prevent such hardship in future droughts. The Department of Water Resources along with California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot came to the small city of Parlier on Thursday to announce three grants totaling $15 million to improve water infrastructure in the region.

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Aquafornia news Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Rivers have sustained vineyards for centuries, now it’s time to return the favor

What do Bordeaux, Loire, Mosel, Rhine, Rhône, Douro, Napa, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Tokaj and the Wachau all have in common? If you said they are all major wine regions split by rivers or laced with tributaries, pour yourself a glass of wine. It may seem obvious, but wine wouldn’t exist without water. And rivers deliver it. For centuries that has meant soil, sediment, nutrients, warming and cooling influences and, of course, water, all traveling along riverbanks. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), today the United States alone has more than 3 million miles of rivers and streams—and many of those miles have historically made agriculture, including viticulture, possible. … Running around 50 miles from Mt. St. Helena in the north and spilling into the San Pablo Bay, the Napa River is home to plants, endangered critters and some of the most valuable acreage of grapevines in the country.

Aquafornia news WBUR

With everything on the line, Arizona and California farmers prepare for fight over Colorado River

With the Colorado River teetering on the brink of disaster, farmers who rely on its life-giving water are preparing to make significant cuts to their operations. Near the U.S.-Mexico border, fourth-generation farmer Amanda Brooks grows broccoli, lettuce, dates, citrus and alfalfa on 6,000 acres. Her family’s farm in Yuma, Arizona, nearly touches the banks of the troubled river. … Last year, a top government official warned Congress the river was running dangerously low. Speaking before a Senate committee, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton said the seven Colorado River Basin would need to make drastic cuts to their water use to keep the reservoirs stable.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘Help us fight’: California farmers ask for more aid after deadly storms

As a series of deadly storms whipped through California’s wine country, liquefying fields and turning vineyards into wading pools, thousands of farm workers in the region were forced to stay home. Though the power has been long since restored and roads reopened – many of them are still confronting an economic catastrophe. For Isidro Rodriguez, the storms caused him to lose half his monthly income – about $1,100. For nearly two weeks, it was too wet and windy to safely prune the pinot noir vines at the estate vineyard where he worked. Even still, he risked the roads to drive over there during lulls in the storms, just in case.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: California farms, cities to get big jump in water from feds after storms

California farms and cities that get their water from the Central Valley Project are due to receive a large increase in water allocations this year after snowpack and reservoirs were replenished in winter storms, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday. Most recipients of the Central Valley Projects are irrigation districts that supply farms, and some are cities, including those served by the East Bay Municipal Utility District and Contra Costa Water District in the Bay Area. Farms that received zero initial water allocations last year, in the third year of the state’s historic drought, are due to receive 35% of their allocation this year, the most they’ve gotten since 2019. Others, including the Sacramento River Settlement Contractors, large shareholders with senior water rights, will receive 100% of their contracted water supply.

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Aquafornia news WBUR

Future of the Salton Sea is tied to fate of imperiled Colorado River

A shortage on the Colorado River has put tremendous pressure on the water supply that serves more than 40-million people in the Western United States. But a punishing drought and the over allocation of the river have also created an urgent problem for California’s Salton Sea. The 340-square-mile lake was formed in 1905 when a canal carrying river water to farmers in the Imperial Valley ruptured. The flood created a desert oasis that lured tourists and migratory birds to its shore. A century later, the Salton Sea — California’s largest lake — is spiraling into an ecological disaster. At 223 feet below sea level, Bombay Beach occupies a low spot on the map. Many of the shoreline community’s trailer homes are rusting into the earth and tagged with graffiti. Artists have created large pieces of public sculpture, including a vintage phone booth that stands on the shoreline as a tribute to a bygone era.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Water board waives Delta rules that protect salmon

California’s water board decided Tuesday to temporarily allow more storage in Central Valley reservoirs, waiving state rules that require water to be released to protect salmon and other endangered fish. The waiver means more water can be sent to the cities and growers that receive supplies from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta through the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. The state aqueduct delivers water to 27 million people, mostly in Southern California, and 750,000 acres of farmland, while the Central Valley Project mostly serves farms. The flow rules will remain suspended until March 31. Environmentalists reacted with frustration and concern that the move will jeopardize chinook salmon and other native fish in the Delta that are already struggling to survive…. But water suppliers applauded the decision, saying the water is needed to help provide enough water to cities and farms. 

Aquafornia news KLCC

Water managers could withhold Klamath County drought permits this year

Not issuing the drought permits could have a significant impact on agriculture in the region if farmers don’t have access to irrigation water. …The department usually issues 40 to 50 drought permits per year. A spokesperson for the Klamath Water Users Association, which lobbies for the basin’s agriculture community, did not respond to an interview request. Groundwater levels in the Klamath Basin have declined significantly in recent years. OWRD said the water level dropped by 20 to 30 feet over the last three years alone, so additional access is unsustainable. Emergency drought declarations have been made in Klamath County in 16 of the past 31 years.

Aquafornia news California Sportfishing Protection Alliance

Blog: Water quality, fish and wildlife protection – It’s all voluntary

The future is now. Governor Newsom’s February 13, 2023 Executive Order ordering the State Water Board  to consider modifying flow and storage requirements for the State Water Project (SWP) and the Central Valley Project (CVP) is his blueprint for the Bay-Delta estuary and every river that feeds it.  When requirements to protect water quality, fish, and wildlife are inconvenient, water managers can ignore them. It’s all voluntary. For ten-odd years, California’s water managers have promised “Voluntary Agreements” to replace the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.  They could never figure out the details of what to propose.

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Aquafornia news KCBX - Central Coast

Cal Poly beekeeper optimistic about local honeybees after winter rains

Honeybees are essential pollinators for our local and global food supply, and after years of drought and other threats, a local beekeeper is optimistic about the coming season. Jeremy Rose teaches beekeeping at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also owns a local bee business. He said honeybee colonies managed by beekeepers live in wooden boxes that stack on top of one another. The boxes have small openings so the worker bees can go in and out.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Shrinking water supply will mean more fallow fields in the San Joaquin Valley

Downpours or drought, California’s farm belt will need to tighten up in the next two decades and grow fewer crops. There simply won’t be enough water to sustain present irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater is dangerously depleted. Wells are drying up and the land is sinking in many places, cracking canals. Surface water supplies have been cut back because of drought, and future deliveries are uncertain due to climate change and environmental regulations. … Agriculture is water intensive. And water is becoming increasingly worrisome in the West, particularly with overuse of the Colorado River. There’s plenty of water off our coast, but we’ve only begun to dip our toe into desalination.
-Written by columnist George Skelton.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Winter rain thrills winemakers, even amid threats of mudslide, ‘wet vintage’

As Prudy Foxx walked through rows of ripening fruit at several vineyards nestled among the Santa Cruz Mountains last September, she cringed at the spindly shoots rising from the stocky grapevine trunks. … A similar scene played out last fall at many vineyards around the Bay Area: years of drought taking a destructive toll on the vines, threatening a billion-dollar industry and putting more stress on California’s scant stored water resources. Then, like a “godsend,” the rains came. Over several weeks in December and January, storms dropped more than a foot of rain on Northern California, smashing historic records and leaving a wide swath of devastation in their wake. 

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

Benefits of rainstorms in Sonoma County far outweighed damage they caused

When atmospheric rivers drenched the North Bay in December and January, the Lockharts greeted those heavy rains with open arms and undisguised relief. Daunting and destructive as those storms were — causing widespread flooding, downed trees and mudslides — they brought a bounty that soaked a parched landscape, easing stress and strain on a wide range of flora and fauna. Joining the Lockharts’ chorus of hallelujahs were farmers and ranchers, anxious water supply experts and — if they could sing — coho salmon and steelhead trout now migrating up the recharged Russian River and its now-swollen tributaries, to spawn.

Aquafornia news High Country News

Are the feds risking endangered salmon for fries and potato chips?

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation … announced last week that it will cut flows on the [Klamath] river to historic lows, drying out the river and likely killing salmon farther downstream. … The basin has more than 200,000 acres of irrigated farmland, between 10,000 and 14,000 of which are dedicated to potatoes, an Indigenous food originally engineered from a toxic wild root by Andean horticulturists. Roughly three quarters of the basin’s potato yield go to companies like Frito Lay for potato chips, and In-N-Out Burger for fries, according to the Klamath Water Users Association.

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Satellite photos show hard-hit California sushi rice farms. Are they making a comeback?

The fierce storms and heavy rain that have pounded California in recent weeks could be the lifeline that one industry — and the communities that rely on it for their own survival — desperately needs. After years of drought, California has received an epic amount of rain already in 2023. While it was much-needed, the back-to-back heavy storms also ravaged the state for weeks, creating dangerous flooding and mudslides that led to at least 20 deaths and billions of dollars in economic losses, by some estimates. But in one part of the state, anxious communities are ready to embrace more rain.

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
Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2023
Field Trip - March 8-10

This tour explored the lower Colorado River firsthand 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 some 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

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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 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.

Publication California Groundwater Map

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.