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.
California water regulators will be delivering the bare minimum
of water supplies to the state’s municipalities via the State
Water Project, the Department of Water Resources announced to
water users on Wednesday. For Valley farmers, who hoped for an
ounce of good news related to water supplies heading into 2022,
they will see a zero-percent water allocation from state water
agencies to start the year. It’s the first time in the history
of the State Water Project for officials to kick off a water
year with a zero initial allocation.
Much of Brazil’s vast northeast is, in effect, turning into a
desert — a process called desertification that is worsening
across the planet…. Climate change is one culprit. But local
residents, faced with harsh economic realities, have also made
short-term decisions to get by … that have carried long-term
consequences. Desertification is a natural disaster playing out
in slow motion in areas that are home to half a billion people,
from northern China and North Africa to remote Russia and the
Most Americans are aware that much of the West is suffering
unrelenting drought, but they may not recognize how
dramatically broader climatic shifts are affecting farmers’ and
ranchers’ options for the future. … Economists question
whether dairies and feedlots for beef production are now
reaching their breaking points because of the cost of
irrigated hay. The price of water from Central Valley
wells for forage production has now topped $2,000 an acre
foot, compared to $250 an acre foot in the most recent years
when drought and heat waves were not as challenging. -Written by Gary Paul Nabhan, the W.K. Kellogg chair in
food and water security for the borderlands at the University
of Arizona Southwest Center.
On November 18, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced the availability
of a pre-publication version of a proposed rule (Proposed Rule)
to amend the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
This much anticipated rulemaking is the latest attempt by the
agencies to provide regulatory clarity on what water features
are subject to the protections of the Clean Water Act.
Illegal marijuana grows continue to show up in our national
forests but removing the sites is only half the battle,
according to Ryan Henson, Senior Policy Director with the
California Wilderness Coalition. Henson says, “Cartels are
able to get away with establishing these grows. By now, there
are literally thousands of them out there, even when they are
found out, mostly the marijuana is removed and not the
waste.” Waste like illegal pesticides. … Those
chemicals can potentially leak into the Kern river and
watersheds impacting native fish species.
The worsening drought is cause for concern for all. But for
agricultural loan lenders, it’s all about risk management.
Keith Hesterberg, CEO of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, said that
although the experience in dealing with drought hasn’t changed,
the surrounding issues have grown more complicated. … Lenders
need to understand the water basin that growers are operating
in and the underlying diversity of their operations. Water
operations can change year to year depending on the challenges
for the given season.
California agricultural operations have been significantly
impacted by the wildfires and ongoing, severe drought. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) has technical and financial
assistance available to help farmers and livestock producers
recover. Impacted producers should contact their local USDA
Service Center to report losses and learn more about program
options available to assist in their recovery from crop, land,
infrastructure and livestock losses and damages.
Whites Valley is the prime candidate for a 30-year-old dam and
reservoir proposal to tap and store, in the words of the Utah
Legislature, “one of the last major sources of developable
water in the state.” … Whether the Bear River project makes
sense, though, is a focus of intensifying discussion in a
growing state contending with worsening water scarcity. State
authorities want to develop new sources of water. But public
interest advocates assert that spending billions of dollars to
build pipelines to transport water from distant sources is
foolish. Utah, they insist, can do much more to conserve its
existing freshwater reserves.
Delegates and activists from nearly 200 countries returned from
the COP26 global environmental forum in Glasgow, Scotland, with
a long list of climate-related promises and targets to discuss
and implement. While many countries made a renewed commitment
to climate-resilient and sustainable agricultural systems, some
groups accused leaders at COP26 of not doing enough to improve
water security globally.
48 organizations have signed on to a letter demanding Governor
Newsom address California’s water crisis with specific actions
targeted at the corporate abuse of public water resources.
While drought ravages the state and freshwater supplies
dwindle, more than 1 million Californians lack access to clean
drinking water. Wells in dry and under-resourced areas like the
Central Valley are predicted to go dry at astonishing rates.
Yet unsustainable amounts of California’s water are being
allocated to multibillion dollar industries like fossil fuel
production, industrial dairy operation and almond crop
The Kern River is the lifeblood of Kern County — supporting
families, farmers, small businesses and disadvantaged
communities according to the law of the river. The river is
governed by more than a century of well-established water
rights laws and court decisions that protect the river’s highly
variable and limited water supplies for beneficial uses like
irrigation, water for homes and business, groundwater recharge
and recreation. -Written by farmer Edwin Camp of DM Camp & Sons.
Advocates for the environment hailed the state’s recent
decision to implement updated water-flow standards in the San
Joaquin River, but what the move will mean for Sacramento River
flows remains to be seen. The action taken by the California
Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and the California
Environmental Protection Agency (CEPA) ended the voluntary
agreement process for the San Joaquin River watershed.
As California experiences a second year of drought, with no end
in sight, the effects on California’s largest-in-the-nation
agricultural industry are profound and perhaps permanent. State
and federal water agencies have cut deliveries to some farmers
to zero while others, thanks to water rights dating back more
than a century, still have access to water. Farmers are
reacting to shortages in three, often intertwined ways —
suspending cultivation of some fields or ripping up orchards
for lack of water, drilling new wells to tap into diminishing
aquifers, and buying water from those who have it. -Written by Dan Walters, a CalMatters columnist.
Last week, on Nov. 18, 2021, the California Department of Water
Resources (DWR) released assessments of eight additional
Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs), adding to the four
assessments released as reported in our June 4, 2021, alert
titled “GSAs Shooting 50% on GSPs—DWR Releases First GSP
Assessment Results for High Priority Basins.” Of the eight
additional GSP assessments, four were approved and four were
found to require additional information. To date, DWR has not
concluded that any GSP is inadequate.
A coordinated effort between the Biden and Newsom
administrations to drop two-year-old environmental rules
governing water deliveries to the Central Valley and Southern
California reached a new benchmark two days before
Thanksgiving. In a flurry of pre-holiday filings, Federal
officials, in consultation with Newsom administration
officials, requested that a Fresno-based Federal judge adopt a
hastily-arranged plan to govern water pumping in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
In fields on the Arizona-California border, farmers draw water
from the nearby Colorado River to grow alfalfa, irrigating
crops as they have for decades. That could change soon. An
investment company has purchased nearly 500 acres of farmland
and wants to strip it of its
water and send it 200 miles across the
desert to a Phoenix suburb, where developers plan to build
thousands of new houses. Similar deals could follow as the
demand for water in the growing Southwest outpaces the
If you’re truly interested in making a dent in the amount of
water our civilization consumes, sad showers are not really the
way. Flushing the toilet twice doesn’t make much of a
difference in the context of global water consumption, either.
(If there’s an acute drought in your local area, the calculus
is different.) It’s a side dish in a king’s feast when it comes
to confronting our aqua problems. -Written by Jack Holmes, Politics Editor at
The Rosamond Community Services District Board of Directors, on
Thursday, agreed to begin eminent domain proceedings to obtain
water rights from agricultural land owned by the Calandri
family on Rosamond’s west side. The Board unanimously approved
a Resolution of Necessity, which declared it in the public
interest to acquire the property for the water rights. Ed Lear,
a litigation attorney representing the Calandri family, said
they will challenge the action as a violation of the water
When farmers turned the San Joaquin Valley into an agricultural
powerhouse in the 20th century, they dammed and drained its
central river … siphoned water from Northern California’s
river systems and brought it south to thirsty farmland.
… Released on streaming platforms earlier this month,
[the documentary film] River’s End is an urgent crash
course on the water wars that are shaping California—and, by
extension, the U.S. food system. Viewers get a primer on
California’s major rivers and salmon runs, then watch as
agribusiness—and the city of Los Angeles—wreak havoc on them,
with moneyed interests seizing water through lobbying
and shady deals. –Written by Teresa Cotsirilos, a staff writer and
producer at FERN, where she covers food systems, labor, and
climate change in the Western US.
A profound reduction in the Colorado River water earmarked for
Arizona’s crops has at last triggered the rationing that
irrigation farmers have dreaded. The Tier 1 shortage will
prompt a 512,000-acre-foot reduction in Arizona’s Colorado
River deliveries. That amounts to about 30% of Central Arizona
Project’s normal supply. … Farmers will need to expand
their horizons and tighten down their faucets, even more than
they have done over the last three decades, as they
successfully cut average per-acre water use by a fifth. -Written by Gary Paul Nabhan, the W.K., Kellogg
endowed chair for food and water security at the University of
In actions that carry out President Biden’s economic agenda,
the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed two pieces
of significant legislation, including a $1.2 trillion
bipartisan package that includes $8.3 billion for critical
water projects in drought-parched California and the West. On
Friday, the House also passed the president’s social safety-net
bill, the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, on a party-line
On the parched west side of the San Joaquin Valley, the drought
has created a windfall for companies like Big River Drilling. A
water-well contractor based in the Fresno County community of
Riverdale, Big River can hardly keep up with demand for new
wells as farmers and rural residents seek to extract more water
from underground. … But talk about poor timing:
California farmers are supposed to start throttling back their
groundwater pumping to comply with a state law called the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA.
At the September meeting of the California Water Commission,
Kealiʻi Bright, Assistant Director of the Division of Land
Resource Protection at the California Department of
Conservation (or DOC), gave a presentation on a new program
being spun up to repurpose farmland being retired due to SGMA
implementation. Mr. Bright began by acknowledging that the
Department of Conservation being at a Water Commission might be
unusual because they are not a groundwater agency or any kind
of water agency, but they are an agency with a suite of
programs that invest in natural and working lands’ land use
The simple way to think about this crisis: There’s no longer
enough water to go around to meet the needs of farmers and
Native American populations as well as fish and birds. For more
than a century, the federal government has overseen an
intricate and imperfect system of water distribution intended
to sustain an ecosystem and an economy. The whole precarious
balance was based on the assumption that enough snow would
I’m your host Michela Tindera, and this is Priceless. In this
episode, we’re headed West to the epicenter of one of the most
productive farming regions in the world—California’s Central
Valley—where the area is in the throes of a megadrought that
has been drying up wells and damaging crops across the western
United States. It’s there in the Central Valley, where a
billionaire couple own a majority stake in one of California’s
largest water storage facilities.
Say this for Central Valley Republicans and Big Ag backers:
When it comes to proposing water projects that benefit Central
Valley farmers at the expense of urban users and the state’s
fragile environment, they are as persistent as an annoying,
leaky faucet. The most glaring example is the ongoing and
thus-far unsuccessful push for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River
Delta tunnels … The latest scheme comes in the form of a
proposed 2022 ballot measure that would require 2% of
California’s general fund — about $4 billion a year — be set
aside to fast-track water projects with limited environmental
The Colorado River is a vital lifeline for the arid U.S.
Southwest. … Southwestern states, tribes and Mexico share the
Colorado’s water under the century-old 1922 Colorado Compact
and updates to it. But today, because of climate change and
rapid development, there is an enormous gap between the amount
of water the compact allocates to parties and the amount that
is actually in the river. With users facing unprecedented water
shortages, the compact is hopelessly inadequate to deal with
current and future realities.
-Written by Daniel Craig McCool, Professor Emeritus of
Political Science at the University of Utah.
Farmers, ranchers, and community resource managers know all too
well that climate change can contribute to increased drought in
the western United States. A new web-based platform called
OpenET puts NASA data on water in 17 western states into the
hands of users, helping them better calculate crop water
requirements, use water more efficiently, and better plan
irrigation. The “ET” in OpenET stands for evapotranspiration,
which is the process through which water leaves plants, soils,
and other surfaces and returns to the atmosphere.
Almond production in California is expected to drop 10% to 1.3
million tons this year because of high temperatures and
drought. Apart from this, the return of La Niña conditions
could bring another weak crop next year. The crop shortfall
threatens to drive almond prices sharply higher, with some
growers expecting a price jump of 50% or more from last year’s
$1.83 per pound.
Hoori Ajami, groundwater hydrologist Q: What will happen
to the Central Valley, in terms of groundwater and sinkholes,
if farmers continue to grow highly water intensive crops?
A: If farmers continue to pump groundwater at the current rate
and do not implement any conservation measures such as managed
aquifer recharge, the land subsidence issues become worse. The
groundwater levels will drop so far it will not be economically
feasible to pump groundwater anymore. The Central Valley
aquifer system is already amongst the top three highly depleted
aquifer systems in the country.
Local grower Fritz Durst is a sixth generation farmer out of
Capay Valley. Over the last 30 years, Durst says he and his
family have taken a no-till approach to farming. … Tilling
the land rids it of weeds, pests, and prepares the soil for
planting seeds. In the process, it also emits carbon dioxide,
and causes soil to erode. Erosion of top soil happens much
faster through tillage because the natural elements of rain and
wind remove nutrients from the earth.
Two Fresno area Democrats who attended the signing of President
Joe Biden’s $1 billion infrastructure bill into law on Monday
say the package will improve the lives of Valley residents and
strengthen the local economy. … Over the next five
years, the package will provide: $1.15 billion to improve water
storage in California and the San Joaquin Valley … ; $3.2
billion to repair aging California water infrastructure
projects; $3.5 billion to improve California’s drinking water
infrastructure; $1 billion for rural water projects; $500
million to repair aging dams and ensure safety, for projects
like the San Luis Reservoir …
The Santa Margarita River flows through town but Fallbrook had
to fight for 70 years to finally use it. The narrow river winds
its way from Riverside County, through Fallbrook, and
eventually onto Camp Pendleton in northern San Diego County
where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. For the longest time,
the military base did not want to share the river’s water with
Fallbrook. The federal government filed a lawsuit against
Fallbrook in 1951.
An estimated 40 million people rely on water that originates in
the Colorado River Basin, but the river can no longer keep up
with demand, and it’s raising serious questions about the
future of water in the west. Surrounded by bright orange
pumpkins and empty shanks of corn outside his store east of
Pueblo, Shane Milberger surveys his field.
The Solano Irrigation District is anticipating having less
water – about 1 acre-foot per acre – to deliver to its
agriculture customers in 2022. The SID directors on Tuesday
will receive a presentation on the preliminary agriculture
water allocation for the new season. … Part of the issue, the
report states, is the district’s carryover supply is down, as
well as delivery needs to Maine Prairie during this past
As the Sacramento River Basin pursues ridgetop to river mouth
water management, the Public Policy Institute of California
(PPIC) Water Policy Center has recently published its
Priorities for California’s Water: Responding to the Changing
Climate. The authors of the new brief have stated that: “the
current drought and a changing climate are affecting
California’s ability to manage water, offering a stark reminder
that we must accelerate our response to the disruptive changes
There are no shortages of critical issues facing Oakdale
Irrigation District in central California. As the
state looks to take 40% of the district’s springtime river
flows, district directors are searching for their next water
champion. … In October the State of California informed
OID and five other water districts, including the City and
County of San Francisco, that it would no longer negotiate over
stream flow agreements commonly known as “voluntary
agreements.” Under these coerced negotiations, the state seeks
to take 40% of river flows…
All over Pinal County, you see the signs of the drought: empty
fields, abandoned cotton gins and it may get worse. The water
allocation for Pinal County farmers from the Central Arizona
Project is set to drop in January. It could disappear
altogether in 2023. But north of Pinal County’s dusty
fields, an industry that also relies on large amounts of water
is thriving and expanding. Two giant semiconductor projects are
In 2014, the California Farm Federation warned of “huge
long-term economic impacts” if Gov. Jerry Brown signed the
package of bills that comprised the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act and put groundwater under state regulation for
the first time in California history. … It’s happening now.
Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are idling so many thousands
of acres that the region is now facing an issue of dust
Don’t be surprised if the citrus you find at the grocery store
this season is smaller than in years past. Growers say early
navel varieties generally are running smaller this year,
putting a premium on larger offerings. Matt Fisher, a
Central California farmer who has citrus groves from Orange
Cove to Bakersfield, said multiple factors come into play,
including the state’s ongoing drought and triple-digit heat
Amid the unpredictable impacts of climate change, UC Davis has
been recently awarded $10 million in grant funding by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and
Agriculture. Researchers from a wide range of fields — from
socioeconomics to agricultural groundwater and soil health —
will collaborate to optimize groundwater and agricultural
irrigation sustainability in the Southwest for farmers to
improve crop yield and cost efficiency.
The California Farm Bureau is applauding Congress for passing
the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commending the
benefits it extends to local agriculture and rural communities.
The one trillion dollar plan passed by congress late Friday
night is set to fund improvement projects across the country
and projected to create some 2 million jobs. In the bill are
benefits for local agriculture and rural communities like water
storage and conveyance, road and highway improvements and
broadband internet for areas currently without coverage.
Amid this year’s severe drought, Hmong farmer June Moua had to
leave a portion of her 10-acre plot of land in eastern Fresno
County dry and fallow. Large sections of the rows of crops she
did plant, including bunches of water-intensive greens, have
wilted and shriveled into crunchy bits of brown foliage. Her
kale and bok choy are casualties of the central San Joaquin
Valley’s dwindling water supply. Declining groundwater levels
have made it harder for her to pump water from her well into
There’s no question that California needs to better manage our
water supply for people and the environment. However, drastic
technological “solutions” like desalination, which is energy
intensive and harmful to marine wildlife and our climate, are
not the answer. California is fortunate to have natural
water supplies, but it has mismanaged this public
good. -Written by Elizabeth Reid-Wainscoat, a
campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity.
In California’s Tomales Bay, Hog Island Oyster Co. uses marine
biology to sustainably farm shellfish. It’s a zero-input crop
that is helping to restore the water quality of the bay. The
company founders are both marine biologists who focus on
growing oysters in a manner that enhances the health of the
ecosystem. Existing infrastructure is used when possible—many
buildings from the 1860s and 1870s have been restored and
incorporated into the farm.
The California Water Commission staff asked a group of informed
stakeholders and experts about “how to shape well-managed
groundwater trading programs with appropriate safeguards for
communities, ecosystems, and farms.” I submitted the following
essay in response to a set of questions. In general, setting up
functioning and fair markets is a more complex process than
many proponents envision.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration has signaled its desire
to go ahead with rigid fish flow increases despite the
deepening drought and hydrology changes in precipitating
patterns the state’s own experts are anticipating. The state
last week abruptly broke off negotiations with agencies
representing water users on the Stanislaus, Merced, and
Tuolumne watersheds regarding its desire to implement new fish
flows that will essentially reduce water available for urban
and farm uses.
With water scarcity an increasing problem, some marijuana and
hemp cultivators are seeking solutions beyond automation or
growing methods, including using drought-resistant plant
strains that require less water and can withstand higher
temperatures. Ryan Power, CEO of California-based Atlas Seeds,
said the California-based seed company is identifying what it
deems “drought-tolerant” marijuana and hemp varieties.
As the year comes to a close, so does our schedule of
educational programming with just two
more virtual journeys remaining this Thursday and next
Tuesday. And don’t miss your chance this Thursday to learn
more about applying for our
2022 Water Leaders program, now in its 25th year. You
still have an opportunity to experience the Foundation’s
remaining virtual journeys this fall as your favorite
tour guide Nick Gray whisks you away to explore key
California rivers and water regions.
The Newsom administration has informed regional water districts
that it will move forward with a plan to increase flows from
San Joaquin River tributaries in an action that may create more
water uncertainty for farmers. A notice from the California
Natural Resources Agency and state Environmental Protection
Agency represents a departure from the state’s earlier
willingness to consider voluntary agreements with water
districts, which includes aspects other than just flow
On October 27, Fresno Superior Court Judge D. Tyler Tharpe
tossed out the Westlands Water District’s proposed
permanent federal water contract from the Central Valley
Project that would have allocated roughly double the amount of
water from Northern California that Los Angeles residents use
in a year. Tharpe found Westlands, the largest
federal irrigation district in the nation, to have “misled
the court and the public,” according to a statement from
the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
(PCFFA), one of the organizations that joined in the lawsuit
California’s water history flows across my farm in the North
State community of Oroville. A canal carved in the early 1990s
passes beneath my olive groves. It was an extension of original
conveyance systems inspired by gold seekers, who fashioned one
of California’s earliest water delivery systems in the 1890s on
the Feather River, near my home. … Now, as president of
the California Farm Bureau, I am fighting to uphold and restore
the promise of sustainable water delivery in my
state. -Written by Jaime Johansson, president of the California
In a new report by the University of California Giannini
Foundation of Agricultural Economics, agricultural economists
have found a few surprises with the drought. For one, farm
revenues and prices this year may have only small impacts or
even be higher than in 2020, due to global supply and demand
conditions driving up prices. Feed grain and seed prices are
higher in the Midwest, along with beef and milk prices.
June Moua started growing cherries, tomatoes and grapes in east
Fresno County 10 years ago. Now she grows a few different types
of crops. But her most profitable are the water-intensive Asian
greens like mustard greens and bok choy. … She says she
learned how to farm from her father when she was younger. Since
then, she’s learned even more through trial and error. She
enjoys bringing these Southeast Asian crops to farmers markets
in Los Angeles, but the drought has put her in a tough
Gov. Gavin Newsom has extended the drought emergency statewide
and called on all Californians to redouble their efforts to
conserve water. His call to action is critical even with the
storms that recently soaked California, because we know that a
lot more rain and snow will be needed to lift the state out of
the drought. The Governor’s approach to statewide conservation
is laudable, as well, because it continues to empower water
managers with matching local water supply conditions with
conservation, rather than relying on statewide mandates. -Written by Steve LaMar, President of the
Association of California Water Agencies; and Sean
Bigley, chair of the Regional Water Authority and
Assistant Environmental Utilities Director for the City of
Exeter, less than a mile away … has refused to connect
Tooleville to its water system. The engineering is simple:
0.7 miles of pipe. The human risk of not doing it is high.
Tooleville water is contaminated with the carcinogen hexavalent
chromium (chrom-6), and sometimes nitrates linked to
agriculture and bacteria….Among a slew of water bills signed
in September was one inspired largely by Tooleville’s struggle.
Called the “proactive water solutions bill,” SB 403 gives the
state the power to mandate and fund consolidation when there is
an at-risk water system.
Omer and Elinor McGee opened El Dorado County’s first Christmas
tree farm in 1952 in Grizzly Flats, a Gold Rush-era mountain
town some 25 miles from the county seat. The business
prospered, and their son Mike eventually took over.
… Then came the drought. Low rainfall and a
declining snowpack, combined with high temperatures, battered
the McGee Christmas trees. Of the seedlings Mike planted
in February, one of the hottest and driest on record, 80% died
by July. In August, thousands of mature Christmas trees became
kindling for a massive wildfire.
Re “California should create more water – much more“;
Commentary, Oct. 28, 2021 There is an answer to Jim Wunderman’s
position that “state and federal governments should commit to
creating 1.75 million acre feet – about 25% of California’s
current urban water use – of new water from desalination and
wastewater recycling by the end of this decade”: the Water
Infrastructure Funding Act of 2022, a constitutional initiative
proposed for the November 2022 state ballot. -Written by Shawn Dewane, vice president of the
Mesa Water District; Edward Ring, co-founder of the
California Policy Center; Stephen Sheldon, president
of the Orange County Water District; Geoffrey Vanden
Heuvel, director of regulatory and economic affairs for the
California Milk Producers Council; Wayne Western
Jr., board director of the California Farm Water
The Perris-based Eastern Municipal Water District received a
six-figure federal allotment to bolster conservation efforts
involving farmers and ranchers amid the worsening drought in
California, it was announced Wednesday. … The WaterSMART
Initiative is part of a collaborative strategy by the NRCS’
parent agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S.
Department of the Interior to improve water reclamation and
other drought-busting measures by encouraging farmers and
ranchers to work more closely with irrigation and water
districts on coordinated conservation plans.
California’s top crops have changed as drought strains the
state’s water resources and farmers’ ability to access them.
But that does not necessarily mean farmers are choosing crops
that consume less water. Drought pushes farmers to shift their
scarce water resources to crops with higher payoffs, such as
nuts and vegetables, said Daniel Sumner, an agricultural
economics professor at the UC Agricultural Issues Center — a
trend particularly noticeable this year with its uniquely
The recent storms allowed California to suspend the drought
curtailment orders that had been imposed during the summer.
Cities and irrigation districts now are free to capture river
runoff that had been unavailable because of the orders.
Officials warned that they could fall back into place if the
state gets another stretch of dry weather.
Despite the historic rainfall totals from the weekend, that
much rain in such a short amount of time caused problems for
some Central Valley farmers. Bruce Blodgett with the
San Joaquin County
Farm Bureau said the record rainfall from last
weekend was encouraging but it’s not enough to move the
needle on the statewide drought. … According to the farm
bureau, growers won’t know the true impact of the rain for
As California weathers another drought, tools that can help
farmers and ranchers maximize the water they do get are being
sharpened. The newest effort to measure such water use was
launched last week by a public-private coalition featuring
three federal agencies – the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S.
Geological Survey – and a number of universities and private
Despite the rain that drenched central and northern California
recently, drought still casts a long shadow over the state. The
consequences of a multi-year water shortage are dire:
reservoirs that serve millions of people and massive swaths of
farmland are disappearing, hydroelectric dams are in danger of
losing power and wild salmon are facing mass die
outs….Stanford water experts Newsha Ajami, Rosemary
Knight, Felicia Marcus and Barton “Buzz”
Thompson discuss lessons learned from previous droughts,
imperatives for infrastructure investment and reasons for hope
in this arid era.
The state is moving ahead with its proposal to boost flows on
the Tuolumne and nearby rivers, to the dismay of irrigation
districts and San Francisco. The reservoir releases are needed
to help fish and other wildlife on tributaries to the San
Joaquin River, two cabinet secretaries said in a letter
Thursday, Oct. 20. The water users contend that the releases
would take too much from farms and cities supplied by the
Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. They have instead
sought “voluntary agreements” that would increase reservoir
releases to some extent while enhancing fish habitat in other
ways, such as restoring spawning gravel for salmon.
The green beans growing on this Clovis farm were ready to be
picked. But now crews will have to wait a few days until the
muddy rows dry up. … [Farmer David] Sarabian says most of the
green beans should be fine as drier conditions settle in but
there will be some crop loss. … The slow, steady rain that
soaked his farm was more manageable than the windy storm he
watched whip through the [San Francisco] Bay Area on Sunday.
For farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley—the Saudi Arabia
of nuts—2021 brought many challenges. Scant snowfall in the
Sierra Nevada mountain range delivered almost no irrigation
water to the region’s vaunted complex of dams and aqueducts.
Record-high temperatures baked farm fields. Before this past
weekend’s furious storms, California endured its driest year in
recorded history. Yet the region’s ever-expanding and
very thirsty almond and pistachio operations are thriving
anyway. -Written by Tom Philpott, food and ag correspondent
for Mother Jones.
Congressman David Valadao (R-21) sent a letter signed by
several other congress members requesting federal and state
emergency declarations in the wake of the drought and recent
storms in California. Valadao, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-23)
and other Republican representatives sent a letter to President
Biden and Governor Newsom requesting that all limitations on
Delta pump operations be lifted to allow water from the recent
storm to be used to help the many farms that have been
devastated by the drought.
As California faces what is predicted to be one of its worst
droughts in recorded history, water managers are seeing record
increases in water theft, leaving communities angry and police
chasing water bandits constantly on the move. Byrhonda Lyons of
CalMatters, the nonprofit news site, has the story of how water
meant for residential use is flowing to illegal marijuana
Despite the deluge of rain sparked by an atmospheric river in
Northern California this week, the state is still gripped by an
unprecedented drought. Karla Nemeth, director of the California
Department of Water Resources, and others will discuss how the
drought has impacted wildlife, farms, cities and more
at our Water Summit on Thursday, and explore what
longer-term projects and partnerships are aiming to make the
state more drought-resilient.
Environmental advocates and a pair of Delta-centric water
agencies launched a suit seeking to halt water transfers to San
Joaquin Valley water users occurring in the late fall. It’s the
latest in a half-decade of litigation aimed at stopping all
water transfers – a key drought-era tool for parched Valley
water users – from water users awash with water north of the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
[T]he extreme water scarcity plaguing [Mount Shasta Vista, in]
… far Northern California was not the result of
dwindling snowpack or plummeting reservoir levels. Instead, it
was due to a concerted government effort to “choke out” a
problem that had vexed Siskiyou County officials for years: the
illicit, large-scale cultivation of marijuana in a single
subdivision that is largely Asian. In the spring of this year,
county supervisors effectively outlawed the transportation of
water into a rural tract that had become known for its prolific
cultivation of pot, squalid living conditions and large
population of Hmong farmers.
A new online platform launched yesterday that uses satellites
to estimate water consumed by crops and evapotranspiration
across the West. Called OpenET, the platform makes water
management data available in 17 western states. Data on the
amount of water used in agriculture has been fragmented and
often expensive, keeping it out of the hands of many farmers
and decision-makers. OpenET hopes to allow users to easily view
and download important water data.
Now California almond farmers and electric utilities, both of
which use massive amounts of water, can bet against the future
availability of water. And just last year, the Chicago
Mercantile Exchange started the first-ever futures market for
water, meaning farmers, as well as investors, municipalities
and hedge funds, can buy a legal agreement known as a “futures
contract” that locks in a predetermined price for water that
will be used in the future.
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.
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.
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.
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
“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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to
California Water provides an excellent overview of the history of
water development and use in California. It includes sections on
flood management; the state, federal and Colorado River delivery
systems; Delta issues; water rights; environmental issues; water
quality; and options for stretching the water supply such as
water marketing and conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of
the guide is a section on the human need for water.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Evaporation ponds contain agricultural drainage water and are
used when agricultural growers do not have access to rivers for
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
Such ponds resemble wetland areas that birds use for nesting and
feeding grounds and may pose risks to waterfowl and shorebirds.
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