Topic List: Agriculture

Overview

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 SJV Sun

California Farm Water Coalition announces new leadership

The California Farm Water Coalition announced Thursday Greg Johnson has been elected as its next president. Johnson owns Far West Rice in Durham. Johnson succeeds Bill Diedrich as president, who served in the role for the last eight years. Along with Johnson, the Coalition also announced that Imperial Valley farmer Gina Dockstader has been elected Vice President. Fresno County farmer Wayne Western of Hammonds Ranch has been elected as the secretary and treasurer of the board. Brett Lauppe and Jeff Sutton also join the board as new members. The organization’s returning directors are Peter Nelson, Mark McKean and Diana Westmoreland.

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Aquafornia news The Associated Press

Climate change, cost and competition for water drive settlement over tribal rights to Colorado River

A Native American tribe with one of the largest outstanding claims to water in the Colorado River basin is closing in on a settlement with more than a dozen parties, putting it on a path to piping water to tens of thousands of tribal members in Arizona who still live without it. Negotiating terms outlined late Wednesday include water rights not only for the Navajo Nation but the neighboring Hopi and San Juan Southern Paiute tribes in the northeastern corner of the state. The water would come from a mix of sources: the Colorado River that serves seven western states, the Little Colorado River, and aquifers and washes on tribal lands. The agreement is decades in the making and would allow the tribes to avoid further litigation and court proceedings, which have been costly.

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Aquafornia news Sierra Club Angeles Chapter

Blog: The water we eat!

Growing your food can be a wonderful and fulfilling activity to connect with nature, improve your health and well-being, and, oh yeah, save water. California grows more than 400 agricultural commodities, which translates into over one-third of the vegetables and almost three-fourths of the country’s fruits and nuts. Regardless of your view on commercial agriculture, one thing is true, California has prime weather for growing a wide range of edible plants in your backyard, balcony, or indoor window sill.  Sometimes, gardening is easier said than done. And more often than not, when we think about water efficiency and conservation, we think about removing turf and installing beautiful native landscapes. This is certainly a wonderful endeavor and can supply a needed habitat for beneficial pollinators, improve soil health, support local ecology, and save water.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Will a $16-billion water tunnel destroy California’s delta?

In the heart of California, at the place where two great rivers converge beneath the Tule fog, lies the linchpin of one of the largest water supply systems in the world. [T]he Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta … is also the site of a bitter, decades-long battle over a proposed plan known as the Delta Conveyance Project — a 45-mile tunnel that would run beneath the delta to move more water from Northern California to thirsty cities to the south. State officials say the tunnel is a critical piece of infrastructure that would help protect millions of Californians from losing water supplies in the event of a major earthquake or levee break. … Opponents say the tunnel is a boondoggle that would further imperil the delta’s fragile ecosystem, which has already been eroded by heavy water withdrawals for agriculture and cities. 

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Aquafornia news Yale E360

How a solar revolution in farming is depleting world’s groundwater

There is a solar-powered revolution going on in the fields of India. By 2026, more than 3 million farmers will be raising irrigation water from beneath their fields using solar-powered pumps. With effectively free water available in almost unlimited quantities to grow their crops, their lives could be transformed. Until the water runs out. The desert state of Rajasthan is the Indian pioneer and has more solar pumps than any other. Over the past decade, the government has given subsidized solar pumps to almost 100,000 farmers. Those pumps now water more than a million acres and have enabled agricultural water use to increase by more than a quarter. But as a result, water tables are falling rapidly. There is little rain to replace the water being pumped to the surface. In places, the underground rocks are now dry down to 400 feet below ground. 

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Tempe

Auditor blasts Arizona Land Department over leases to Saudi-owned farm with low rent, no water rules

Arizona’s Auditor General has released a scathing report, criticizing the State Land Department for leasing land to a Saudi-owned company in western Arizona at cheap rates. The company, Fondomonte, used the land — and the groundwater beneath it — to grow alfalfa for dairy cattle in the Middle East. State Auditor General Lindsey Perry says the Land Department’s practices for valuing the land it leases don’t align with what’s recommended. In addition, state law requires the department to conduct a mass appraisal of its properties at least once every 10 years to determine its agricultural rental rates. But the last one was done in 2005. This resulted in $3.4 million less in revenues going into the land trust that provides revenues for K-12 education and other beneficiaries.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento Bee

Opinion: California’s Bay-Delta ecosystem needs regulatory protection

California’s Bay-Delta is in trouble, and its outdated water regulations need to catch up with the challenge. For a generation, the State Water Resources Control Board has not updated legally required and much needed rules for sharing water between the environment and other water uses throughout the Bay-Delta watershed. These new rules should result in additional flows for this water-starved system to protect fish and wildlife and improve water quality. Instead of finishing more than a decade of work and establishing long-overdue protections for the Bay-Delta ecosystem, the state is banking on voluntary agreements among water users to guide its actions. Some voluntary agreement proponents suggest there must be a choice between such agreements to provide flows and habitat and updated environmental protections.
-By Felicia Marcus, visiting fellow at Stanford University Water in the West Program; Michael Kiparsky, water program director at UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE); Nell Green Nylen, senior research fellow at CLEE; and Dave Owen, a professor at UC Law San Francisco.

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Aquafornia news GV Wire

One of CA’s ‘largest almond growers’ goes bankrupt. It owes millions to local companies.

A private equity farming giant with more than 1,500 acres of land in Fresno and Tulare counties and 8,600 acres statewide declared bankruptcy Monday. Even with “extremely favorable water rights and competitive water costs,” Redwood City-based Trinitas Partners could not keep up with high borrowing costs and consistently low almond prices, according to bankruptcy filings. The firm owes $190 million in secured and unsecured debt. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Northern District of California. … Trinitas Partners began buying land in the Central Valley in 2015. It focused on land with superior water rights and young almonds, making the orchards more valuable for long-term growth, according to court filings.

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Aquafornia news Fox Weather

Grape vines love pace of California’s atmospheric river storms this year while people suffer

Amid all the tragedy wrought by the series of atmospheric river-fueled storms this winter in the West, there is a silver lining. California’s winemakers are expecting a “bumper” crop. “With the rainfall from last year and the high vigor of the canopy in 2023, we are expecting even bigger yields for 2024,” said Jordan Lonborg, Vineyard Manager at Tablas Creek Vineyard. “The rainfall we have received thus far will go a long ways in supporting the crop that will most likely be what we call a ‘bumper’!” The winery is in Paso Robles on the Central Coast of California. Tablas Creek’s owner, Jason Haas shared his vineyard manager’s optimism for the vines but said people have been hit hard.

Aquafornia news USA Today

Podcast: Restoring the Klamath River and a way of life

According to a 1908 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as the Winters Doctrine, Native American reservations are entitled to enough water to meet their tribe’s needs. That doctrine was recently invoked during a push by tribes to restore the Klamath River, which flows through Oregon and California. The goal, in part, is to restore the spawning grounds for fish for the first time in more than 100 years. Indigenous Affairs Reporter Debra Krol from the Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network, joins The Excerpt to discuss the ongoing battle over Indigenous water rights.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Experts urge California to avoid water pitfalls in the delta

Some of the thorniest debates over water in California revolve around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, where pumps send water flowing to farms and cities, and where populations of native fish have been declining…. State water regulators are considering … “voluntary agreements” in which water agencies pledge to forgo certain amounts of water while also funding projects to improve wetland habitats. … To learn more about these issues, I spoke with Felicia Marcus and Michael Kiparsky, two experts who wrote a report outlining what they say should be “guiding principles for effective voluntary agreements.” … Marcus said if voluntary agreements go forward without adequate standards in place, “the ecosystem will continue to collapse and more species will go extinct.”

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Aquafornia news E&E News

California water regulator declines implementing river diversion limits

The State Water Resources Control Board handed environmental and fishing groups a surprise loss Friday when it denied their petition for permanent instream flow restrictions on the drought-stricken Shasta River in Northern California. The denial came as a surprise because both the water agency and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom have said they want to prioritize making some emergency drought rules for rivers permanent this year in order to better insulate the state from recurring drought. The board already extended the emergency limits it put on the Scott and Shasta rivers during the drought in a December decision, but the temporary rules run out in February 2025.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Agenda posted for Water 101 Workshop in April; optional groundwater tour nearly full

Don’t miss a once-a-year opportunity to attend our Water 101 Workshop on April 5 to gain a deeper understanding of California’s most precious natural resource. One of our most popular events, the daylong workshop at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento offers anyone new to California water issues or newly elected to a water district board — and really anyone who wants a refresher — a chance to gain a solid statewide grounding on California’s water resources. Some of state’s leading policy and legal experts are on the agenda for the workshop that details the historical, legal and political facets of water management in the state. 

Aquafornia news Olive Oil Times

California’s wet winter leaves groves susceptible to disease, waterlogging

The El Niño cycle bring­ing wet weather to California is one of the strongest such cycles on record, accord­ing to researchers from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA). Their asser­tions are cor­rob­o­rated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s cli­mate pre­dic­tion cen­ter, which also reported a 62 per­cent chance El Niño would con­tinue from April through June with his­tor­i­cally strong con­di­tions early in the year. … Record-shattering rains poured over sections of California this week, with rainfall totals as high as ten inches (25 centimeters), bringing widespread flash floods. As atmospheric rivers pound California, olive growers face the challenge of potential diseases and problems that may ensue.

Aquafornia news Farm Progress

Opinion: Western dam removal in the spotlight

Much of the recent news in my neighborhood has been dominated by mainstream media coverage of the removal of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. This is the largest dam removal undertaken in U.S. history, and NGOs, tribes and the states of California and Oregon are understandably euphoric right now. … Dam removal represents the peak of success for certain environmental interests, and that bandwagon is overflowing now with gushing supporters. However, the very unique circumstances that led to the removal of the Klamath dams are often lost in the media coverage. 
-Written by Dan Keppen, executive director of the Family Farm Alliance.

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Aquafornia news KSL - Salt Lake City

Utah passes agriculture water optimization measure, weighs another change

A bill that allows farmers and ranchers who optimize their water use to sell their conserved water for conservation purposes without losing their water rights cleared the Utah Legislature on Wednesday, as efforts to better track “saved” water intensifies. The Utah House of Representatives voted 66-3 on Wednesday to adopt SB18 after the Senate approved the measure with a 27-0 vote last month. The bill will head to Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk for his signature. The vote happened after members of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee unanimously voted to advance HB448 earlier in the day. That bill would require the Utah Division of Water Resources to monitor state legislative water optimization efforts along the Great Salt Lake, Colorado River and Sevier River basins, and report its findings back to the state.

Aquafornia news SJV Water

Water district between two counties and two subbasins forges its own groundwater sustainability path

The small Kern-Tulare Water District moved forward recently in breaking away from two other groundwater agencies to form its own independent groundwater sustainability agency (GSA). As the state’s historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) turns 10 this year and the 2040 deadline to bring aquifers into balance edges closer, groundwater agencies have splintered and reformed throughout the southern San Joaquin Valley. Most notably, the Kern Groundwater Authority which initially had 16 water district members,  reorganized as most of those members have broken off to form their own, or regional GSAs. Kern-Tulare, which covers 19,600 acres, and straddles two water subbasins and two counties, had always planned to go independent …

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Biden administration announces truce in Klamath Basin water wars

The Biden administration announced Wednesday it has brokered a “historic” agreement between tribes and farmers in the Klamath Basin over chronic water shortages, a problem that has fueled enduring water wars in the rural area along the California-Oregon border. … The agreement is technically a memorandum of understanding between the three tribes, the Klamath Water Users Association and the Interior Department. It does not lay out a new plan for how water supplies will be allocated, which is the underlying source of tension in the region. Instead, the deal calls for a wide range of river and creek restoration work as well as the modernization of agricultural infrastructure. It comes with $72 million of federal funding.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Daily Star

Arizona lawmakers advance rural-groundwater-regulation bill

On a party-line vote, an Arizona Senate Committee approved a bill Wednesday to establish a rural groundwater management setup that’s favored by many farming interest groups but opposed by many environmentalists and some rural community leaders. The bill, introduced by Buckeye Republican Sen. Sine Kerr, would establish a complex legal and governmental process to designate groundwater basin management areas with the goal of reducing groundwater depletion while maintaining the area’s economy and agricultural base. The Republican-led Senate Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee voted 4-3 to support the measure. It would allow some mandatory conservation measures while still protecting existing farmers’ groundwater rights, as certified by the Arizona Department of Water Resources. It would also appropriate $40 million to ADWR to pay for unspecified measures for farmers to achieve better water conservation.

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Aquafornia news Yuba Net

Opinion: Unimpaired flow proposal could devastate local agriculture, our community and the environment

While the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) is working hard to ensure the reliability of our water supply, the district is facing potential state regulations that would have dire negative impacts for agriculture, our community, fire protection, wildlife and aquatic habitat. State recommended regulations would affect NID operations and service, decreasing water supply and raising the cost of water to all customers if implemented. The California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) is working to update an action plan to improve water quality and save imperiled fish populations, including salmon and delta smelt, in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Bay-Delta). … If adopted, this alternative would effectively negate NID’s long-standing water rights to the Yuba and Bear River systems. A cascading effect would ensure a significant decrease in the amount of water NID has available for its customers while negatively impacting all aspects of the district’s operational and financial viability.
-Written by Rich Johansen, president of the Nevada Irrigation District. 

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Costa, Valadao introduce measures to help Valley farmers

Two Congressmen representing the Central Valley have introduced measures to assist California communities ravaged by drought and extreme heat, as well as to advance and promote policies essential to U.S. agriculture. On Feb. 1, California Congress Member David Valadao, R-22nd District, and Nevada Congress Member Dina Titus, D-1st District, introduced the Water Conservation Economic Adjustment Act (Act). According to a press release from Valadao’s office, the bill “aims to make additional resources available for regions experiencing adverse economic changes caused by drought and extreme heat.” The Act amends the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 by adding environmental conditions that contribute to increased water supplies, including drought and extreme heat, to the list of events that may make communities eligible for financial assistance.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Commentary: Where does water wind up? You might be surprised

Water, the essence of life, is an indispensable resource intricately woven into the fabric of our daily existence. From the food on our plates to the gadgets in our hands, water silently plays a pivotal role in the creation of almost everything we encounter. In a world where water scarcity is a looming concern, it is essential to explore the profound impact of water in the production of goods and services that shape our lives as well as the food we feed our families.
-Written by Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition

Aquafornia news Ag Info

Almonds use less water than you think

Danielle Veenstra is an almond grower as well as the senior manager for reputation management and sustainability communications for the Almond Board of California. She comments on how the production of almonds uses much less water than you think.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Newsom announces strategy to help salmon populations

As California experiences hotter, drier temperatures due to climate change, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced the state’s first strategy to protect and help restore salmon species to reduce their risk of extinction. The California Salmon Strategy, released last week, is a 37-page document that outlines actions state agencies are already taking to stabilize and recover salmon populations. It also maps out additional or intensified actions needed in coming years. The document identifies six priorities and 71 actions. The salmon strategy’s priorities call for: removing barriers and modernizing infrastructure for salmon migration; restoring habitat; protecting water flows in key rivers at the right times; modernizing hatcheries; transforming technology and management systems; and strengthening partnerships.

Aquafornia news KJZZ - Phoenix

Cattle are a part of Arizona’s history. Climate change, overgrazing concerns cloud their future

When you drive through parts of rural Arizona, it’s hard to imagine that cattle ranchers once came here for the grass. But Eduardo Pagan, a history professor at Arizona State University, says the state looked different a couple of centuries ago. … Cattle ranching helped shape rural Arizona into what it is today. It was one of the five C’s that once formed the backbone of the state’s economy, along with copper, citrus, cotton and climate.  But many ideas we have about the history of grazing are wrong, and researchers say that cattle have emerged as a major driver of climate change. Conservationists say it’s time to re-examine grazing on public lands. … Ranching has changed the way wildfire moves across the landscape. Ranching also helped introduce invasive plants, as new grasses were planted to offset overgrazing. Grasslands have been turned into deserts. Streambeds that once nourished shady cottonwoods and willows bake in the sun after cows eat the young trees. Wildfires burn bigger and hotter. 

Aquafornia news Food and Environment Reporting Network

Want farmers to protect the environment?

Like a reveler who chases each of many tequila shots with a seltzer, U.S. farm policy consists of comically clashing impulses likely to result in a nasty hangover. The Department of Agriculture doles out substantial subsidies each year to entice farmers to maximize production of corn and soybeans. These commodities account for about 60 percent of U.S. farmland, are used to fatten animals on factory farms, and deliver many of the sugars and fats in our ultraprocessed diets. Unsavory side effects of their production include planet-warming emissions, soil erosion, and polluted waterways. Since 1985, the USDA has also offered farmers cash to adopt conservation practices meant to help counter those troublesome impacts. Growers can make extra money by adding soil-stabilizing crops such as rye and oats to their rotations or by establishing filter strips of grasses or legumes, which are designed to trap chemical runoff. 

Aquafornia news NASA Earth Observatory

Tracking the invisible movement of water

As the world looks for sustainable solutions, a system tapping into NASA satellite data for water management has passed a critical test. Called OpenET, the system uses an ensemble of six satellite-driven models that harness publicly available data from the Landsat program to calculate evapotranspiration (ET)—the movement of water vapor from soil and plant leaves into the atmosphere. OpenET does this on a field-level scale that is greatly improving the way farmers, ranchers, and water resource managers steward one of Earth’s most precious resources. Researchers recently conducted a large-scale analysis of how well OpenET is tracking evapotranspiration over crops and natural landscapes.

Aquafornia news Press Democrat

$20.6 million in federal disaster aid announced for salmon industry

Northern California’s struggling salmon industry will receive $20.6 million in federal disaster relief, but state and local officials say the amount is far short of what was needed to offset the loss of last year’s entire season. In fact, it is less than half of the $45 million California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office sought for struggling commercial fishers, seafood processors, charter boat operators and others affected by closure of the 2023 season. Five-year averages suggested $45 million would account for basic “coastal community and state personal income,” without taking into account broader economic impacts. David Goldenberg, chief executive officer of the California Salmon Council, said that figure was later revised down to $35.3 million but said he remained “sincerely disappointed” at what he called a “woefully underfunded” relief package.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Cannabis grower to pay $750,000 for violating water rules

A Humboldt County cannabis grower has agreed to pay $750,000, remove unpermitted ponds and restore streams and wetlands after state officials accused him of  violating regulations protecting water supplies, wildlife and waterways. Of the total, $500,000 is a record penalty for a water rights violation in California. … The companies’ 435 acres of land are part of the Emerald Triangle, where cannabis reins. Springs and streams of the Bear Canyon Creek Watershed cross the land and eventually drain into the South Fork Eel River — a wild and scenic river that provides critical habitat for threatened and endangered species of steelhead, Chinook and coho salmon. 

Aquafornia news E&E News

Will a shrinking Colorado River shrivel the produce aisle?

… At last year’s annual meeting of the Family Farm Alliance, Camille Calimlim Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, ticked off a few of her favorite [fruits and vegetables], listing lemons from California’s Imperial Valley and cantaloupe and leafy greens from Yuma, Arizona. “We are committed to you,” Touton told the group, “to make sure you can keep doing what you want to do, which is to continue to grow food to feed this country.” … But with the ongoing drought plaguing the Colorado River, that’s going to be a complicated promise to keep. … Given that agriculture consumes as much as 79 percent of annual flows, the sector will undoubtedly need to absorb a large share of cuts as states and the Biden administration work out a plan over how to conserve water over the next 20 years.

Aquafornia news Sierra Club Magazine

The push to save the coho at Dry Creek

Can a dam help restore a critically endangered coho salmon population in Northern California?  That sounds like heresy, but Warm Springs Dam, which impedes Dry Creek to create Lake Sonoma, is a source of cool, clean water. These flows may be an essential component of a broad recovery program the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) mandated in 2008. Dams have been a central reason that Pacific coast salmon populations have plummeted or vanished during the past century, but the Warm Springs Dam, completed 40 years ago for flood control and water storage, isn’t going to be removed anytime soon. So those tasked with trying to rebuild coho runs, from the US Army Corp of Engineers to local water agencies, are making use of the cool water released by the dam.

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Aquafornia news Yale Climate Connections

What are the odds that extreme weather will lead to a global food shock?

… Water shortages cause significant social disruption as populations vie for limited vital resources. The number of countries able to maintain a sustainable level of output shrinks dramatically, the global economy contracts at an accelerating pace, and political tensions rise as countries look to maintain food security. …A 2023 report by insurance giant Lloyd’s explores the odds of such a scenario, using weather data from the past 40 years and a crop model combined with a water-stress model to measure the economic impact of a sustained period of extreme weather.

Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

Opinion: Gov. Newsom is accelerating California’s extinction crisis

California is at the forefront of a global crisis known as the Anthropocene extinction. This rapid eradication of living diversity is not caused by meteor strikes or volcanic eruptions, but by human activity. No animal group is more at risk than fishes. Researchers recently concluded that our state is a world leader in the number of freshwater fishes likely to become extinct by the end of the century. Governor Newsom’s water policies are accelerating this race to oblivion. Many of California’s imperiled native fishes live in San Francisco Bay, including five species that are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Baykeeper recently sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service to add the Bay’s population of longfin smelt to that list. And, late last year, we and our partners petitioned state and federal agencies to protect the Bay’s white sturgeon population as threatened after decades of decline.
-Written by Jon Rosenfield, PhD, SF Baykeeper science director; and Eric Buescher, SF Baykeeper managing attorney.​

Aquafornia news Escalon Times

Court approves settlement for environmental violations

A Humboldt County Superior Court judge approved a settlement that requires a cannabis cultivator to pay $1.75 million for building and diverting water from illegal onstream reservoirs without first obtaining permits required by the California Water Boards and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The settlement, which was reached after a lengthy investigation, resolves violations by Joshua Sweet and his companies, The Hills LLC and Shadow Light Ranch LLC … 

Aquafornia news Desert Review

Salton Sea Authority hopes to begin reconciliation process with IID

Salton Sea Authority Directors held a meeting to discuss ongoing updates on Salton Sea proceedings,Thursday, January 18th. The first matter discussed, item B, was to review the fiscal year Audited Financial Report ending on June 30, 2023. Shannon Ayala from CPA / Partner, Davis Farr, LLP reported on the audit results an unmodified opinion on financial statements dated December 13, 2023. No material weaknesses in internal control and journal entries were detected as part of the audit procedures. Government auditing standards opinion recommended two practices to update the accrued vacation policy to include the executive directors, accrued vacation information, and to obtain a reimbursement agreement related to the salary and benefits of the executive director.  

Aquafornia news Colorado Sun

Decades of inaction left a water system in southwestern Colorado in shambles. Will the state step in to help?

…[Rural] water users and hundreds more like them in southwestern Colorado draw water from a federally managed irrigation system with a decades-long backlog of maintenance issues that would cost $35.3 million to address, according to 2024 federal estimates. It’s one of 16 similar irrigation systems in the West, called Indian Irrigation Projects, run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Parts of the projects are in complete disrepair, and they’ve been chronically underfunded for so long that it would cost more than $2.3 billion to completely fix them, according to the bureau’s 2024 estimate. To complicate matters further, the federal government and tribes do not agree on who is responsible for maintaining the system.

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Aquafornia news Nature Communications

New study: Greenhouse gas emissions from US irrigation pumping and implications for climate-smart irrigation policy

Irrigation reduces crop vulnerability to drought and heat stress and thus is a promising climate change adaptation strategy. However, irrigation also produces greenhouse gas emissions through pump energy use. To assess potential conflicts between adaptive irrigation expansion and agricultural emissions mitigation efforts, we calculated county-level emissions from irrigation energy use in the US using fuel expenditures, prices, and emissions factors. Irrigation pump energy use produced 12.6 million metric tonnes CO2e in the US in 2018 (90% CI: 10.4, 15.0), predominantly attributable to groundwater pumping. Groundwater reliance, irrigated area extent, water demand, fuel choice, and electrical grid emissions intensity drove spatial heterogeneity in emissions. … Previous studies have estimated on-farm irrigation pump energy use at 158 PJ nationally and 136 PJ for electricity use in the Western USA, in close agreement with our estimates. 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Watch: Bill Maher, Gavin Newsom tee off on almond farmers over water use

During an interview on Saturday’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on HBO, Gov. Gavin Newsom and host-comedian Bill Maher took a moment to knock California’s almond production for its excessive use of water.

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Aquafornia news The Guardian

‘It smells bad’: the US farmworkers grappling with unsafe water at home

It’s easy to identify the residences of the farm workers who tend crops in the San Joaquin Valley, one of California’s agricultural hubs. They tend to be small homes. Sometimes, location is a giveaway – a trailer set between a dust-choked highway and groves of pistachio trees. Sometimes, the tell is water. “I see the difference between the green yards in east Fresno [a city in California] and the yellow yards in west Fresno,” said Leticia Compañ. The farm equipment operator is referring to the divide between the tonier, whiter part of the city on one side of Route 41 and the largely Latino, lower-income population on the other, where she lives with her family. Too little water creates more than eyesore lawns. Research, including in the journal Environmental Justice, shows farm workers across the United States – who hail mostly from Mexico and Central America – contend with consistently contaminated, unaffordable and/or insufficient water in their homes. It’s a finding echoed by farm workers themselves.

Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

Conservation groups seek a permanent flow requirement for the Shasta River

Since 1934, summer flows passing the Shasta River gauge in Yreka have regularly been below California state recommendations for a healthy salmon habitat. Drought has played a role in those low flows — but so has agriculture. Cody Phillips is a staff attorney for the California Coastkeeper Alliance, one of the groups behind the petition. He says the amount of Shasta River water used for irrigation is hurting fish. “Right now, agriculture essentially takes as much water as they want out of the river system with very little regard to any other uses of that river system,” he says. 

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Westlands Water District hires new Assistant General Manager

Westlands Water District announced Monday that Jeff Payne has been hired as Assistant General Manager.  Payne comes to the nation’s largest agricultural water district with previous experience working in the Central Valley. The big picture: In his new role, Payne will primarily oversee Westlands’ legislative and regulatory affairs. He was most recently the Deputy Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation’s California Great-Basin Region. Before that, Payne worked at Friant Water Authority as the Director of Water Policy. What they’re saying: Westlands General Manager Allison Febbo said Payne has a unique background in both policy and water resources management that will make him an excellent fit with the district.

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Foundation Event Nick Gray Jenn Bowles Thomas Harter

Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture
3ʳᵈ International Conference Linking Science & Policy

Click here to register!

Join us June 18-20 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport for the 3ʳᵈ International Conference, Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture: Linking Science & Policy. Organized by the Water Education Foundation and the UC Davis Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair, the conference will provide scientists, policymakers, agricultural and environmental interest group representatives, government officials and consultants with the latest scientific, management, legal and policy advances for sustaining our groundwater resources in agricultural regions around the world.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport
1333 Bayshore Hwy
Burlingame, CA 94010
Tour Nick Gray

Lower Colorado River Tour 2024
Field Trip - March 13-15

SOLD OUT – Click here to join the waitlist!

Tour participants gathered for a group photo in front of Hoover DamExplore 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 is the focus of this tour.

Hilton Garden Inn Las Vegas Strip South
7830 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV 89123
Tour Nick Gray

Eastern Sierra Tour 2023
Field Trip - September 12-15

This special Foundation water tour journeyed along the Eastern Sierra from the Truckee River to Mono Lake, through the Owens Valley and into the Mojave Desert to explore a major source of water for Southern California, this year’s snowpack and challenges for towns, farms and the environment.

Grand Sierra Resort
2500 E 2nd St
Reno, NV 89595

Northern California Tour 2023
Field Trip - October 18-20

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

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.

Tour

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. 

Tour

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.

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.

Announcement

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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Xeriscaping

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

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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Salinity

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.)

Introduction

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

Western Water Magazine

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

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

Tour Images from the Central Valley Tour

Central Valley Tour 2015
Field Trip (past)

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

Aquapedia background Dams

Friant Dam

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

Western Water Magazine

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

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

Western Water Magazine

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

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

Western Water Magazine

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

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

Western Water Magazine

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

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

Video

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.

Publication

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.

Publication

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).

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

Publication

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.

Publication

Layperson’s Guide to the Klamath River Basin
Published 2023

The Water Education Foundation’s second edition of the Layperson’s Guide to The Klamath River Basin is hot off the press and available for purchase.

Updated and redesigned, the easy-to-read overview covers the history of the region’s tribal, agricultural and environmental relationships with one of the West’s largest rivers — and a vast watershed that hosts one of the nation’s oldest and largest reclamation projects.

Publication

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.

Publication

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.