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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Salmon need help in California, but what kind?

August 6, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Fisheries, Food Production, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Salmon, Water Management, Water Supply

Salmon need help in California, but what kind?

Salmon need help in California. Unfortunately, L.A. Times opinion writer, Michael Hiltzik, isn’t doing them any favors by furthering the notion that more water in the Delta’s sterile waterways is the solution.

Hiltzik completely ignores the economic consequences that have devastated San Joaquin Valley farms, farmworkers, and communities as a result of water supply cuts that were designed to help endangered salmon and Delta smelt. These practices have failed to achieve their intended benefit- restoring fish populations- and instead have wreaked havoc on a large part of one of California’s prime food-producing regions.

Water doesn’t fix poor ocean conditions, predators or habitat

There is little evidence backing the claim that more water flowing in the river will help restore salmon populations. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the bigger issues have been poor ocean conditions, the loss of salmon rearing habitat, channelized waterways, and non-native predators.

In addition to addressing all of these factors, another strategy that has been proven helpful is the use of “functional flows,” which utilize timing and more moderate amounts of water to meet the specific needs of fish. In the case of the Butte Creek Salmon Recovery project, functional flows plus improvements in habitat and better access to the upper reaches of Butte Creek achieved far more than simply pouring more water down the river. The project effectively increased the number of returning salmon from about 100 spring run Chinook per year in the mid-1990s to as many as 20,000 in just a few short years. And it was done without devastating impacts on farms and communities.

We should all work together on scientific approaches that help fish thrive without devastating farms, farmworkers, and communities

Hiltzik and California’s commercial salmon fleet would do more to help their cause if they supported ongoing, more scientific approaches to salmon restoration. Butte Creek is just one example of successful science-based approaches undertaken by a progressive partnership that included Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley farmers, environmental groups, California urban water agencies, the Department of Interior, and State Department of Fish and Game. Other efforts underway include projects where farmers use harvested fields to mimic flood plains with broad support from researchers, community leaders, farmers, and conservationists. These projects help build the food chain from the bottom up by taking advantage of the natural process that supports the growth of phytoplankton, the foundation of the food web. Salmon that are allowed to linger in managed farm fields grow faster, stronger and are more vigorous than fish left to forage for scant food supplies in the levee-constrained Sacramento River. And these are just a few of the collaborative efforts around that state that are showing us how to help fish thrive.

Sadly, while one-sided advocates like Hiltzik push for the same old failed strategies, salmon, and the commercial fishermen who depend on them for their livelihoods, will fare no better because their supporters are focusing on what experts say is “lazy science” and is an oversimplification of a complex issue.

Solving the many issues affecting the viability of the salmon industry is complex, but doggedly pursuing wasteful water policy won’t fix the plight of commercial salmon fishermen. Merely seeking to shift blame and avoid the hard work of establishing functional flows, habitat restoration, food web development, predation controls, and discharge reduction is a proven path to failure. 

Statement: State Water Resources Control Board adopts wasteful approach in latest water quality plan

July 9, 2018 in CFWC Blog

California’s agricultural industry suffered another blow today when the State Water Resources Control Board released the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan’s Supplemental Environmental Document (SED). Details in the SED confirm that the Water Board’s Plan will leave thousands of acres of farmland with zero surface supply in certain water year types, stripping the Central Valley of over 6,500 jobs and $3.1 billion in economic output.

“Despite dozens of meetings, testimony from experts representing public water agencies, cities, farms, school districts and more, as well as mounting scientific proof that their approach is wrong, the State Water Board has not budged an inch, said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.

“The State Water Board’s unimpaired flow strategy does nothing to address major stressors in the system, such as the loss of habitat for native species and overwhelming predators that have gained a problematic foothold on the Delta. What is needed, instead, are functional flows, which can meet multiple needs from farming to habitat protection, recreation, and urban water supply needs.

“This sort of unresponsive bureaucracy is extremely frustrating for people at the local level who are committed to viable environmental restoration activities, said Wade. Simply dumping more water down the river with the hope that it will solve the Delta’s water issues is an incomplete solution to a complex set of problems.”Californians are being asked to make good water management a way of life. We are being asked to be adaptive and seek flexible, creative approaches to how we use water at home, at our jobs, and on our farms. We are being asked to be reasonable with the water we use, to be good stewards, to avoid waste, and to limit our water use to what is reasonably required.

“Californians have risen to those challenges and we should expect no less of California’s State Water Resources Control Board,” he said.

The solution to pollution is not, in fact, dilution.

July 6, 2018 in California Water, CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, Water Management, Water Rights, Water Supply

The solution to pollution is not, in fact, dilution.

While a catchy phrase, scientific and other experts generally agree that the “solution to pollution is dilution” approach leaves much to be desired. Relying on dilution to solve the Delta’s water quality problems is at best wasteful of this precious resource, and at worst destructive to the lives of millions of Californians.

Unlike the State Water Board, California’s environmental and water experts are River at sunsetfollowing the science and looking at the bigger picture question: How do we maintain the health of today’s Delta which has obviously changed since the days of the Gold Rush.  Yes, the Delta has been fundamentally altered over the years with the introduction of new species, inevitable population growth and more. But experts note that the Delta as it exists today, may in fact be an ecosystem in balance. Introduced species like bass have adopted specific roles in the ecosystem, while other species have adapted and filled other ecosystem niches as changes to water quality, food webs, and habitat have evolved.

In order to keep today’s Delta healthy, ecosystem experts generally recommend holistic strategies instead of single-tool approaches like flushing the Delta with additional water. These holistic strategies address many factors, like habitat loss, predation, and water quality as delicately balanced parts of an entire working network, instead of simply isolated components.

Californians are being asked to make good water management a way of life. We are being asked to be adaptive and seek flexible, creative approaches to how we use water at home, at our jobs, and on our farms. We are being asked to be reasonable with the water we use, to be good stewards, to avoid waste, and to limit our water use to what is reasonably required.

Californians have risen to those challenges and we should expect no less of California’s State Water Resources Control Board.

Salinas Valley Blogger Tour

June 12, 2018 in CFWC Blog

The California Farm Water Coalition partnered with Western Growers Association to hold its most recent tour for food and lifestyle bloggers in the amazing Salinas Valley.

The first stop of the day was at Tanimura and Antle near Salinas where artisan lettuce harvest was underway.

Hard at work harvesting lettuce, some of Tanimura and Antle's owners- It is an employee-owned family farm.

With multiple varieties of lettuce planted in each row, harvest crews moved quickly, cutting the lettuce and passing it to others who pack it into retail-ready containers.

Quality Control and packaging of artisan lettuce.

Next, Brent McKinsey at Mission Ranches discussed what it takes to grow snow white cauliflower: Securing the large leaves over the cauliflower head to shade it from the sun. Who knew?!

Learning about Cauliflower at Mission Ranches.

Cauliflower floret.

Near Moss Landing, Jackie Vasquez at Andrew & Williamson strawberry farms discussed irrigation sustainability and worker benefits designed to maintain employee health and wellness.

Strawberries at Andrew and Williamson- this variety of strawberry is called the Monterey.

Strawberry in fieldStrawberries ready to head to market

Lunch was hosted by Western Growers at their fabulous Center for Innovation and Technology, an incubator for new technology aimed at finding solutions to help make agriculture more efficient and sustainable. Kate Hitchcock from American Farms spoke about her experiences farming in California.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner- where farming matters most?

Good food, good conversation- learning about innovation in the Salinas Valley with Western Growers.

Taylor Farms processing plant was the final stop of the day where the tour made its way through an immense, energy independent operation that processes and packages fresh produce for wholesale, retail, and foodservice customers across the country.

Taylor Farms- producer of fresh veggies and salads to millions- Food Safety Matters

Batches of salad are washed, spun dry and packaged, ready for transport to the grocery store.

Salad. A. Lot. Of. Salad.

Broccoli waiting to be cut into florets. Unused parts go to cattle feed or compost, part of a zero-waste approach adopted by Taylor Farms.

Broccoli in bins. When every pound matters, nothing goes to waste.

Farm tours are a great way to help consumers make the connection between farm water and the food they eat. Learn more by following these wonderful bloggers who joined us on a fantastic tour!

Bloggers, Innovators, and Technology

Water allocation inches up despite abundant supplies in reservoirs

May 25, 2018 in CFWC Blog

Water allocation inches up despite abundant supplies in reservoirs

(The following is a statement by the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority on the updated Central Valley Project water allocation)

Water allocation inches up despite abundant supplies in reservoirs

LOS BANOS, CA – Today, the United States Bureau of Reclamation inched up the allocation for south-of-Delta Central Valley Project (CVP) agricultural water service contractors by raising the expected amount of water to be delivered from 40% to 45%. The new allocation is still less than reasonably could be made by Reclamation. Last year’s record hydrologic year left a tremendous amount of water in the system, yet allocations remain low for many Central Valley Project water users.

“Water users today were dismayed by the relatively small allocation increase announced by Reclamation,” said Cannon Michael, chairman of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. “It is unbelievable that the statewide average for CVP reservoirs is almost 108 percent of normal, yet South of Delta farmers are left with a 45 percent allocation,” he said.

The last hydrologic year, 2017, was the wettest year on record in the Sacramento River watershed, and presently, most CVP reservoirs remain above their historic average.

With the abundance of water, the 45% allocation reveals that regulations, not the availability of water, are creating supply shortages and impediments to the efficient operation of the CVP.

“If the system cannot provide an adequate amount of water when water levels are above average, then clearly changes need to be made to the regulations governing the CVP,” said Frances Mizuno, Interim Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

The allocations this year are particularly harmful to communities served by CVP water because they depend on higher allocations in years of water abundance to offset lower allocations in dry years. “The state’s groundwater aquifers need to be replenished when supplies are available but that cannot happen if water deliveries are limited when surface water is available to deliver to farmers,” said Mizuno.

“Reclamation, along with other federal agencies must reevaluate the decision-making process when these conservative and restrictive operations create enormous hardships for agricultural, urban and environmental water users,” said Michael. “The federal government continues to tell us about declining in fish populations and yet it resorts to the same ineffective policies of the past,” he said.

Communities served by the CVP have received progressively lower allocations which have impacted groundwater and water quality. And, farmers have been forced to fallow land and cut food production due to the uncertainty around water deliveries.


California Farms at a Glance

May 10, 2018 in California Farms, CFWC Blog, Fact Sheets

Learn more about California’s farms and their contribution to the economy with this fast fact sheet: California Farms at a Glance.

California Farms at a Glance Click to Download as PDF

California Farms at a Glance Click to Download as PDF

California farms are leaders in the nation- producing high-quality, affordable, and abundant farm products efficiently. Our farms form the backbone of many rural economies, supporting businesses, jobs, and their communities.