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 Antelope Valley Press

RCSD eyes eminent domain process to obtain water rights

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 basin adjudication.

Aquafornia news Food and Environment Reporting Network

Opinion: Back Forty — A crash course in California water politics

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.

Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

Opinion: Arizona farmers must use less water. Here’s how they can do it

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 Arizona. 

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Infrastructure bill passage to boost California projects

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 vote.

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Aquafornia news The Sacramento Bee

California farmers rush to drill wells for groundwater in drought

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.

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Aquafornia news Maven's Notebook

CA Water Commission: Department of Conservation previews SGMA multi-benefit land repurposing program

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 … 

Aquafornia news Washington Post

Klamath River basin drought leaves families, farms dry, reignites longstanding conflicts

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 always fall…

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Aquafornia news Forbes

How much is water worth? Why a billionaire-owned stake in a California water bank could be worth more than $1 billion

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.  

Aquafornia news Mercury News

Editorial: Pull the plug on proposed California water ballot measure

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 review.

Aquafornia news The Conversation

Opinion: As climate change parches the Southwest, here’s a better way to share water from the shrinking Colorado River

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.

Aquafornia news NASA

Blog: Tracking water in the face of drought – climate change: vital signs of the planet

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.

Aquafornia news Fresh Plaza

Drought and high temperatures in California drive down almond supplies

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.

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Aquafornia news UC Riverside

Blog: UCR experts weigh drought’s long-term impacts

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. 

Aquafornia news ABC 10 -Sacramento

The benefits of no-till farming in Northern California

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.

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Aquafornia news GV Wire

$1 trillion bill brings billions to the Valley. What are the projects?

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 …

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Aquafornia news NBC 7 San Diego

Fallbrook fights for 70 years to use water from nearby river

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. 

Aquafornia news KRDO - Colorado Springs

A Water Crisis: Colorado agriculture facing changes as drought continues

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.

Aquafornia news Daily Republic

Solano Irrigation District expects less water for ag customers in 2022

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 season.

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Aquafornia news Northern California Water Association

Blog: Advancing ridgetop to river mouth water management in California

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 underway.

Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Senior rights holders battle state over water pacts

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…

Aquafornia news KOLD - Tucson

Farmers see water cuts as semiconductor plants expand in Arizona

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 getting underway. 

Aquafornia news Daily Breeze

Editorial: State needs leadership on groundwater

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 control.

Aquafornia news ABC30 Fresno

California’s drought, heat waves causing lower citrus yield, smaller fruit

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 waves.

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Aquafornia news The Aggie

UC Davis researchers awarded $10 million to optimize groundwater, agricultural irrigation sustainability in long-term project

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.

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Aquafornia news YourCentralValley.com

$1T infrastructure bill benefits Valley ag and rural communities

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.

Aquafornia news The Fresno Bee

How does CA drought impact small farmers in Central Valley?

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 her fields.

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Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Reevaluate water distribution before resorting to desalination

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.

Aquafornia news NOAA Fisheries

Blog: Tide to table profiles – Hog Island Oyster Co.

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. 

Aquafornia news Economics Outside the Cube

Blog: Considerations for designing groundwater markets

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. 

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Newsom administration breaks off water talks

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.

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Aquafornia news MJ Biz Daily

Cannabis growers eye drought-resistant strains to cope with water shortage

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.

Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to register for Thursday’s Central Valley Tour; join online Q&A for 2022 Water Leader apps

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.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Flows to increase; water districts cry foul

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 increases.

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Aquafornia news Sacramento News & Review

Sacramento-area waterways see a rare legal win over SoCal special interests

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 against Westlands.

Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Commentary: Restore the California promise by securing our water future

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 Farm Bureau

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Farm revenue could actually rise this year, say economists

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. 

Aquafornia news Valley Public Radio

These small Fresno County farmers are struggling to get water from their wells amid the drought

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 position.

Aquafornia news Association of California Water Agencies

Opinion: Conservation is critical during drought, but not the only solution

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 Roseville.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

A California town refused to help its neighbors with water. So the state stepped in

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.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Drought, fire threaten family Christmas tree business

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.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Here is a plan to create more water for California

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 Coalition.

Aquafornia news MyNewsLA.com

Eastern Municipal Water District receives fed grant for drought relief

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.

Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

These charts show how California’s top crops are changing

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 severe drought.

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Aquafornia news Modesto Bee

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Storms bring pause for state drought orders in Modesto and beyond. They could return

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.

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Aquafornia news Fox 40 (Sacramento)

Historic rain causes problems for some San Joaquin County farmers

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 months.

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Aquafornia news Imperial Valley Press Online

Satellites track water use to aid crop efficiency

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 entities.

Aquafornia news Stanford - Water in the West

Blog: Reasons for hope amid California’s drought

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.

Aquafornia news The Modesto Bee

State moves toward higher flows on Tuolumne and nearby rivers. Irrigators vow a fight

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.

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Aquafornia news ABC30 Fresno

Storms come as relief for Valley farmers dealing with drought conditions

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.

Aquafornia news Mother Jones

Opinion: It’s just nuts – big almond and pistachio will likely make a killing despite the epic drought

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.

Aquafornia news KGET 17 - Bakersfield

Rep. Valadao requests emergency declarations from Biden and Newsom in the wake of drought and storms

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.

Aquafornia news PBS NewsHour

Drought-stricken California faces rise in water theft by illegal marijuana farms

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 farms.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Last chance to register for Thursday’s Water Summit; join online Q&A for 2022 Water Leader apps; journey into the Central Valley and headwaters

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.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

New suit attempts to squash late-calendar water transfers to Valley during drought

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.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Weaponizing California water against illegal pot growers

[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.

Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Free platform tracks agricultural water across West

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. 

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Aquafornia news Discover Magazine

Yes, people are now trading and investing in water as a commodity

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. 

Aquafornia news MarketWatch

Opinion: Drought is among the biggest dangers to the U.S. New water technology is making its way across the country

If you’re having a salad for lunch today, chances are it comes from the “Salad Bowl of the World,” the lush farmland that stretches for some 90 miles across California’s Salinas Valley. Lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, celery, cauliflower and more grow in abundance there, a source of pride and profits for farmers who work the land.  But none of it would be possible without water, and that’s the problem. 
-Written by Paul Brandus, a columnist for MarketWatch and the White House bureau chief for West Wing Reports.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Opinion: Drought a tough nut to crack for Newsom, California lawmakers

We just finished the second-driest water season on record in California. Worse, it was the driest two-year period. Only 1924 was drier, according to the state Department of Water Resources. And back then, California had a population of just 4.5 million. Now we have 39.5 million people gulping water — plus a lot of overplanted thirsty nut orchards in the arid San Joaquin Valley … So, what’s being done by the state government about this record drought?
-Written by George Skelton, LA Times columnist. 

Aquafornia news The Armenian Mirror-Spectator

California Dreamin’: a Mark Arax trilogy

As the L.A. Times correspondent responsible for covering the Central Valley, Arax would become aware of the danger posed by “Big Ag” and the ruthless use of technology to produce ever increasing amounts of crops that the soil and water of California cannot forever accommodate. The statewide water distribution system — a dizzying series of canals, aqueducts and rivers (redirected, merged, siphoned off) built mainly from the 1930-’60s represents so many engineering miracles and triumphs — yet it is also outdated and its growth today unsustainable. 

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Infrastructure bill seen as way to pay farmers to cut water use

Four states in the drought-wracked West considering whether to pay farmers to cut their water use see federal infrastructure legislation as a possible revenue source. The $550 billion bipartisan legislation approved in the Senate includes $25 million for the four states—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming…. Paying people to cut water use is an option under a 2019 drought contingency plan the four upper division states signed with three states in the Lower Colorado River Basin — Arizona, California and Nevada.

Aquafornia news SJV Sun

Biden vs. Feinstein, Costa, Harder & Calif. GOP: Temporary Calif. water plan gets pushback

California Democrats and Republicans are pushing back against a temporary plan to manage the state’s primary water projects as the Biden administration aims to dismantle Trump-era environmental rules which increased water delivery throughout the Central Valley. Last week, a federal judge reviewed an interim operations plan for the Central Valley Project (CVP) which was submitted by the California Department of Water Resources, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Aquafornia news Water Education Foundation

Announcement: Applications for 2022 Water Leaders class now available

Applications are now available for our yearlong Water Leaders class. One of our most popular programs, the Water Leaders class is aimed at providing a deeper understanding of California water issues and building leadership skills with class members by studying a water-related topic in-depth and working with a mentor.  The deadline to apply for 2022 is Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. Find the online application form and other required items for your application package here. Remember, this is a competitive program so make your application your best effort.

Aquafornia news Environmental Defense Fund

Blog: Measuring water use in California’s Delta is a “fool’s errand.” OpenET will change that.

As the hub of California’s water system, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is one of the most hydrologically complex and hotly contested areas in the state, if not the world. That’s according to Brett Baker, a sixth-generation pear farmer and attorney for the Central Delta Water Agency, who also studied biology and fish in the Delta at UC Davis. The agency is one of three in the Delta that provided funding to OpenET, a new online water data platform that lets farmers and water managers easily track how much water crops use.

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Aquafornia news AgAlert

Opinion: For our water future, let’s fix Central Valley canals

Water is life for us here in the Central Valley. It impacts every facet of our day-to-day lives, from our jobs to sustaining our daily needs. This summer, a few communities in my district ran dry. One town —Teviston—was without running water for a full month. The families there were unable to turn their taps on to cook, bathe their children or even flush the toilet. Drought and water conservation is becoming a way of life for us across the state, but especially in the San Joaquin Valley. Fortunately, farmers and farmworkers are resilient and have found ways to cope.
-Written by Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, representing California’s 14th Senate District.

Aquafornia news Good Fruit Grower

Water, water nowhere, but apples get enough to drink

Nestled in the hills north of San Francisco lies a tiny microclimate where farmers grow apples with no irrigation at all. The multi-year drought that besets California? Not here. Sunburn? Not typically a problem. Those uber heat waves that baked the West Coast this summer? They skipped western Sonoma County.

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Aquafornia news Western Farm Press

Water district fights curtailment amid FERC relicensing

When the State of California issued its water curtailments late last summer, TID and neighboring districts pushed back. A coalition of water districts from Modesto, Oakdale, Manteca, and San Francisco sued the state over its curtailment order. Michelle Reimers, TID’s general manager and chief executive, says she understands the idea behind the curtailments. Aside from the pre-1914 water rights the districts own and what that means under California law, Reimers says TID is bothered by the blanket order because it fails to consider how well-managed irrigation districts like hers operate and manage their systems. 

Aquafornia news KDRV - Medford

Farmers propose solutions to drought conditions in the Western United States

The Family Farm Alliance aims to protect water for Western agriculture and describes itself as a powerful advocate before the government for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in 17 Western states. The drought-stricken Klamath Basin is one area that they’ve identified as needing legislative change. The alliance says it has this goal to ensure the availability of reliable and affordable irrigation water needed to produce the world’s food, fiber, and fuel.

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

State authorities destroy 1 million marijuana plants in crackdown on illegal operations

California law enforcement agents have seized more than 1 million illegally grown marijuana plants this year in an attempt to curb illicit cultivation of the cash crop that continues to undercut the state’s struggling legal market for pot, authorities said Monday. … The siphoning of water by illegal pot farmers increasingly has become an concern amid California’s worsening drought. The attorney general also said that insecticides banned in the state were found at grow sites, some of them so toxic that they kill wildlife and poison groundwater and public waterways.

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Aquafornia news NPR

Regulators are using satellites to monitor water use on farms

In a new push to stop further depletion of California’s shrinking aquifers, state regulators are turning to technology once used to count Soviet missile silos during the Cold War: satellites. Historically, California’s farmers could pump as much as they wanted from their wells. But as a consequence of that unrestricted use, the underground water table has sunk by hundreds of feet in some areas, and the state is now trying to stabilize those aquifers. Regulators need to calculate just how much water each farmer is using …

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Aquafornia news Jefferson Public Radio

Bitter Harvest: Klamath Basin farmers take stock of their losses

Tensions rose close to the boiling point early this summer amid a historic water shutoff in the Klamath Basin. Since then, irrigators in the Klamath Project have spent the growing season trying to make the most of a summer with no surface water from Upper Klamath Lake. Jefferson Public Radio spoke with farmers leading up to the Klamath Water Users Association’s annual harvest tour last month. As the town of Merrill hosts the 84th annual Klamath Basin Potato Festival this weekend, JPR looks at the harvest for the Project’s driest year on record.

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Aquafornia news KTNV - Las Vegas

Monday Top of the Scroll: VP Kamala Harris to visit Lake Mead Monday, talk climate change

Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Southern Nevada on Monday and is scheduled to talk about climate change and investing in climate resilience. … Harris is expected to emphasize that water shortages have a ripple effect on U.S. farmers, food supply, and economy – and that climate change will continue to make extreme weather including droughts and heat more frequent, costly, and harmful, according to the White House communications team.

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Tour Nick Gray Jennifer 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 Jennifer 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.

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. 

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Groundwater Replenishment

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

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 Jennifer 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 California Water
Updated 2015

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.

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

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

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.