Food Grows Where Water Flows

For more than 25 years, the California Farm Water Coalition has been working with our members to share information about farm water issues, and reminding Californians that "Food Grows Where Water Flows."

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CFWC Blog

Salmon can thrive without State’s unimpaired flow plan

November 17, 2017 in CFWC Blog, Fisheries, Regulations, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Salmon

Peter Fimrite’s story in the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/2AOyfBh) brings a positive message about higher numbers of this year’s Fall run Chinook salmon on the Mokelumne River. According to Fimrite, near record numbers of fish have returned, thanks to efforts behind stream bed and habitat improvements.

Mokelumne River

Interestingly, this success has been achieved without a massive increase in flows on the river, such as the plan proposed by the State Water Resources Control Board for the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Merced and Sacramento rivers. Can there be any better evidence that habitat improvements are a better solution than flushing a lot of water down a river under the assumption that more water equals more fish?

The returning salmon are three years old. That means they started their journey as youngsters in 2014, a critically dry year and right in the middle of the driest period in California history. How do you explain the disconnect between big salmon numbers and low river flows? Maybe it’s not the amount of water so much as it is the quality of habitat the salmon have in the river.

Smart Policies- Multiple Benefits in Floodplains

October 11, 2017 in CFWC Blog, Water Management

Securing California’s water future for farms, families and native species is possible. California Rice FieldWhen we pursue smart policies that foster innovative solutions, everyone benefits. One example of these smart policy solutions is the use of strategically expandable floodplains found in the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan.

How can changing how we think about storm flows and floodplains improve water management for all of California? When precipitation is abundant, like this year, water managers are sometimes forced to release water from reservoirs early to be ready for possible future rain, instead of safely storing it and releasing it in ways that provide multiple benefits.

With expanded floodplains, water is allowed to overflow onto farmland that is managed in a way to accommodate higher seasonal flows. Strategically expanding floodplains onto suitable farmland helps protect levees, communities, and farms from potential flood damage. Native species are provided habitat, food, and protection, and opportunities to recharge groundwater aquifers are enhanced.

Smart policies that encourage collaborative approaches to improve how water is managed for everyone can protect communities, nurture the environment, and ensure vibrant local farms.

Learn more about how California’s farmers in the Sacramento Valley are working on innovative ways to improve water management in this Sacramento Bee piece on floodplains.

California’s family farms are hardly “Big Ag”

October 4, 2017 in CFWC Blog, State Legislation

A recent San Jose Mercury editorial on Assemblyman Adam Gray’s AB 313 is an over-the-top attack on farms that grow a sizeable portion of the nation’s food. The bill, which has passed both the California Assembly and Senate, allows for an administrative law judge to review water rights decisions by the State Water Resources Control Board if the affected party appeals the Board’s decision. AB 313 is awaiting Governor Brown’s signature.

The Mercury’s editorial claims that AB 313 would hand more power over to “Big Ag.” Few things in California water get trotted out as frequently as the bogeyman of “Big Ag”. After all, who would want to support policies that will benefit some deplorable, like “Big Ag?” It’s a loaded term meant to conjure images of monolithic, faceless industry.

The trouble is- California’s not a “Big Ag” state.

  • Our farms are almost all family-run. (More than 99% are family run in California.)
  • Our farms’ are small.  In fact, much smaller than the national average (26% smaller.)
  • Our farms are diverse; we produce more than 400 different commodities across the State.
  • Our farmers are not only passionate about producing safe, affordable farm products, they’re also careful stewards of the land, water and air. They’ve invested more than $3 billion in recent years just to enhance irrigation efficiency, and will continue to invest in technology and improvements that make farms even more efficient.
  • While total agricultural water use in California has remained about the same over the last 50 years, the amount of food farmers produce with that water has actually increased over 43 percent. No matter how you measure it, that’s a pretty efficient use of resources.

No story is complete without a villain, and the menacing threat of “Big Ag” has long been a popular one, even if it’s nothing but smoke and mirrors.

California’s water will always be a contentious issue. Ensuring that conflicts are resolved fairly and impartially is a worthy goal of any government.

Improving our farms’ water footprint

September 25, 2017 in CFWC Blog

Improving the water footprint in food production, or put another way, improving water use efficiency, is a priority for California’s farmers. Our farmers are dedicated to producing affordable, local farm products as efficiently as possible.

Compared to many of our major trade partners, many locally-produced farm products require less water to produce. California’s farmers have long been early adopters of innovative farm technologies and techniques that help them produce more crop per drop of water.

Good stewardship of California’s precious water and soils is central to the livelihoods of farmers, who recognize that a bountiful California is important not only for their success, but also for future generations.

Producing affordable, local farm products while working to reduce the water footprint of California-grown foods and fibers is a worthy goal. Learn more about some of the innovations in farm water management that are helping farmers achieve success.

Check out these graphics and compare how California’s farmers are doing next to our major trade partners for each crop.

CFWC Corrects Confused Economist

September 18, 2017 in CFWC Blog

CFWC posted the following comment in the LA Times that corrected Beacon Economics’ confusion about the difference between “record revenues” and “net farm gate sales.”

Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics says California agriculture enjoyed “record revenues” during the drought and, therefore, should be able to afford the tunnels. He confuses “revenue” with “income.” Costs were skyrocketing at the same time revenue spiked, resulting in reduced income for farmers. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in 2013 when farm sales rose 5.1 percent to a record high of $53.5 billion, costs rose even more pushing net farm income down 11 percent.

Readers should beware of the difference between facts and reckless commentary. And it is facts that public water agencies will use to make decisions on whether it’s affordable to participate in big projects like WaterFix.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-tunnels-bill-20170918-story.html

 

Managing water under California’s broken water system

May 26, 2017 in CFWC Blog, Regulations, State Legislation, Water Management

Managing water under California’s broken water system

California’s farm water suppliers don’t shy away from hard work. They never have-but our broken water system (graphic) continues to erode their ability to do the most important part of their job- managing and delivering the water used to grow the food and fiber we all depend on.

With the ever-escalating demand of more than 15 different overlapping agencies that require farm water suppliers to meet perpetually-changing regulatory processes, it’s little wonder that despite bountiful water provided by nature- scarcity and uncertainty continue to burden farms, rural communities, and even our cities.

A recent Sacramento Bee Editorial underscored the complexity of managing water under California’s broken system, claiming that not filing a form with the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has left Californians in the dark about where and how the water used to grow our food and fiber is delivered.

This deceptively simple form represents many hours of labor to complete- and it represents only one small element of the complex network of data reporting that farm water suppliers must complete and submit to various State, federal and regional agencies on a regular basis- each using different methods, timelines, and procedures.

The Bee’s fixation is the product of AB 1404, a bill passed in 2007 that directed DWR to develop a farm gate delivery form- but was promptly followed by the vastly more complex Water Conservation Act of 2009.

This Act, which includes the more specific legislative bill SBx7-7, instructed DWR to consult with engineers, academics and other experts to develop a comprehensive approach to implementing and reporting on water management for farm water suppliers.

SBx7-7 included comprehensive Water Management Planning protocols and a set of Efficient Water Management Practices, and mandated the development and implementation of a water measurement regulation, but also instructed DWR to work with more than five different State agencies to build a Standardized Reporting Portal to collect data, including the AB1404 form.

Over the past 10 years, farm water delivery reporting and management has changed and evolved. The goal should be to settle on a system that provides the people of California with useful information to assess how our water resources are being managed. Continuing to rely on a 10 year-old reporting process is not an efficient way to accomplish that goal.