The San Joaquin River, which helps drain California’s Central
Valley, has been negatively impacted by construction of dams,
inadequate streamflows and poor water quality. Efforts are now
underway to restore the river and continue providing agricultural
lands with vital irrigation, among other water demands.
After an 18-year lawsuit to restore water flows to a 60-mile dry
stretch of river and to boost the dwindling salmon populations,
the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement is underway.
Water releases are now used to restore the San Joaquin River and
to provide habitat for naturally-reproducing populations of
self-sustaining Chinook salmon and other fish in the San Joaquin
River. Long-term efforts also include measures to reduce or avoid
adverse water supply impacts from the restoration flows.
Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California
agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of
crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a
price, however, as decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in
the county and elsewhere in California have left some aquifers
severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less
than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects
groundwater for the long term yet ensures that Kern County’s
economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
Rate increases are being proposed in part to help pay for
improvements to the Regional Wastewater Control Facility, which
is set to go through the first phase of a modification project
aimed at extending the life of existing amenities at the plant.
The modification project will also improve working conditions
for employees, and bring the site into compliance with national
pollutant discharge standards.
On our Bay-Delta Tour June 5-7, participants will hear from a
diverse group of experts including water managers,
environmentalists, farmers, engineers and scientists who will
offer various perspectives on a proposed tunnel project that
would carry water beneath the Delta, efforts to revitalize the
Delta and risks that threaten its delicate ecological balance.
Any new path on California water must bring Delta community and
fishing interests to the table. We have solutions to offer. We
live with the impacts of state water management decisions from
loss of recreation to degradation of water quality to
collapsing fisheries. For example, how can new and improved
technology be employed to track real time management of
Field D-17 on the Bowles Farming Company’s ranch in
California’s Central Valley is dry and unplanted when I visit
it with Emery Silberman in the spring. … Mounted there, he
shows me, is a small piece of equipment from a company called
WaterBit that’s designed to provide more granular control of
conditions in the field … to save on valuable resources like
water and fertilizer.
Probably the least expensive option, estimated to cost $150
million to $250 million, would expand the canal’s upper portion
— the part visible from the surface — from about 60 feet to as
much as double that width, but only along the 25-mile problem
section. … An alternative approach, estimated to cost about
$400 million, would be to build a nearly identical canal
adjacent to the existing one in the areas that have experienced
the most subsidence.
Water storage at New Melones Reservoir in southeastern
Calaveras County is currently at 84 percent of its 2.4 million
acre-feet capacity – 35 percent higher than its 15-year average
for March… Although the dam’s emergency spillway has never
been tested, Reclamation has been proactively releasing water
in anticipation of snowpack runoff.
Here in California, the San Joaquin Valley is a hot spot for
unsafe drinking water. The region has more than half of all
public water systems that are out of water-quality compliance
in California, but just 10% of the state’s population. … We
talked to Veronica Garibay—co-founder and co-director of the
Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability—about ways to
ensure community involvement in water management
The statewide snowpack has reached 160 percent of its annual
year-to-date average and the snow-covered peaks of the Sierra
Nevada can be seen from Highway 198. … But, if you think
that’s a lot of rain, think again. Sunday marks the 113th
anniversary of the 1906 flood, which filled Visalia’s downtown
streets with about a foot of water. The water didn’t dissipate
for 10 days.
Water is coming out from Friant Dam into the San Joaquin River.
The dam is at about 82 percent of capacity, and the warm
weather is melting the mountain snow. Michael Jackson, area
director for the Bureau of Reclamation, says the flow out of
the dam is being increased. Flood releases don’t usually start
until April, so the extra water is good news for valley
growers, with extra irrigation water available.
When a wild river floods, water and sediment spills over its
banks onto adjacent land, it builds up a natural floodplain.
Floodplains allow a river’s high flows to spread out and slow
down, forming temporary reservoirs that pool over the rainy
season. That means more water percolating down into underlying
aquifers … and less floodwaters barreling toward cities.
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve
balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—could require
taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of
production in the San Joaquin Valley. … We talked to Soapy
Mulholland, president and CEO of Sequoia Riverlands Trust,
about this impending challenge.
Subsidence and socialism are two “S” words that wouldn’t seem
to have much in common, especially here in the San Joaquin
Valley. Nevertheless, for insiders in the Valley’s intricate
water game, the words are inextricably linked.
Months of record rain and snowfall has officially lifted the
Central Valley — and much of the state — out of official
drought conditions. Just 1 percent of California is
experiencing moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S.
Drought Monitor. That’s a far cry from 2014 when 54 percent of
the state was in severe drought. With the drought declared dead
in California, will Tulare County cities begin to ease
restrictions on residential watering?
For a region so crucial to the growth of California as we know
it today, you might think there would be libraries full of
books about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. And yet, as UC
Merced scholar Gregg Camfield wrote several years ago, the most
obvious thing about the literature of the Delta “is how little
there is.” Advocates of the largest estuary on the west coast
of the Americas are trying to collect those scattered bits and
pieces in a new anthology of the Delta.
When it opened in 1951, the Friant-Kern Canal carried at least
4,000 cubic feet of water per second along its route from
Millerton Lake, north of Fresno, to Bakersfield. Then something
unfortunate happened. A 25-mile stretch of land between Terra
Bella and Pixley began to sink, and kept sinking, to the point
that the canal’s gravity-powered water flow has slowed to about
1,700 cubic feet per second. … Federal and state officials
would like to restore the canal to its original capacity, as
would the seven municipalities and 18,000 family farms using
the canal. But how? And where would money for repairs come
Bills introduced last week by Bakersfield Republicans in
Sacramento and Washington, D.C., would redirect money from the
state’s high-speed rail project toward reservoir projects, as
well as repairs to Friant-Kern Canal. … The proposals by U.S.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Assemblyman Vince Fong seize upon
a common frustration among many valley Republicans that
billions of state and federal dollars dedicated to high-speed
rail would be better spent on capturing water from wet years…
Local growers and others met Friday for a triple tour of Madera
County water users and an on-farm groundwater recharge workshop
Wednesday. Participants visited AgriLand Farming Company in
Chowchilla, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmead, and
the Ellis Recharge Basin in northeast Madera. These include
farmers struggling “to figure out how to farm” under the
state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which
requires the formation of local agencies to manage underground
Congressman Kevin McCarthy introduced legislation
Thursday to repurpose federal funding for the high-speed rail
project. The Repurposing Assets to Increase Long-term Water
Availability and Yield (RAILWAY) Act would take funding from
the high-speed rail project and use it for water infrastructure
projects in California and the West… McCarthy’s proposed
legislation is cosponsored by every Republican member of the
California Congressional Delegation.
The San Joaquin Valley, known as the
nation’s breadbasket, grows a cornucopia of fruits, nuts and
other agricultural products.
During our three-day Central Valley Tour April
3-5, you will meet farmers who will explain how they prepare
the fields, irrigate their crops and harvest the produce that
helps feed the nation and beyond. We also will drive through
hundreds of miles of farmland and visit the rivers, dams,
reservoirs and groundwater wells that provide the water.