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CFWC Blog

From Feast to Famine- California’s 2021 Water Supply

August 6, 2021 in CFWC Blog, Drought

Robustly Full to Empty Reservoirs

In two years, California’s State reservoirs have gone from beginning water 2020 “robustly” full, with historic releases of surplus potential supply and the memory of dangerous risks of flooding associated with the same storms that damaged Oroville Dam not far behind us, to devastating curtailments in August of 2021.

Largest surface water cut in California History

On August 3, the State Water Resources Control Board completely eliminated 2021’s surface water supplies for farms in much of the state.

The action affects about 5,700 water rights holders with roughly 12,500 water rights from north of Lake Shasta to Fresno, prohibiting them from diverting surface water for the purpose of farming.Map of California water cuts/curtailments. 2021 Drought

This map shows the historically unprecedented surface water cuts that are affecting California agriculture, and America’s tables this year.

Fewer crops have been planted due to the drought and these additional cuts by the Water Board could affect the upcoming harvest of crops still in the ground. It has been two short years since the state’s reservoirs were largely full, yet supplies today are extremely low.

While criticisms of California’s water rights are common during droughts among those looking to reshuffle the deck, they shouldn’t ignore our state and federal leaders’ failure to meaningfully prepare for this drought. Both history and science tell us that California’s weather patterns inevitably shift from wet to dry, and back again. Scientific experts insist it will become more frequent as a result of our changing climate. Investing in smart, adaptive water management, growing our water supplies, and finding collaborative, science-based approaches are prudent steps as we prepare for California’s future.

Substantial new state and federal investments in our water supply infrastructure are needed to prevent future water shortages.

Statement by the California Farm Water Coalition on Upcoming State Water Board Action That Will Cut Water Supplies to Thousands of Farms

August 2, 2021 in CFWC Blog, Drought, Releases

Statement by the California Farm Water Coalition on Upcoming State Water Board Action That Will Cut Water Supplies to Thousands of Farms

Released: August 2, 2021

“It is unbelievable that just two short years after our reservoirs were largely full, California is so water short that the State Water Resources Control Board is seriously considering completely eliminating water supplies for thousands of family farms throughout the Central Valley. Those families grow the safe, healthy food California families depend upon and these water supply cuts come right before the harvest season.
 
“Drought conditions are significant this year, however, we can’t ignore our state and federal leaders’ failure to meaningfully prepare for this drought. Science told us this pattern was inevitable, and those same experts insist it will become more frequent as a result of our changing climate. 
 
“During California’s six-year drought, from 1987 to 1992, farm water allocations never fell below 25 percent. When the next drought came along, from 2012-2016, water supplies were cut to zero for more than a million acres of farmland, starting in just the second year of a five-year drought.
 
“Our water system is so stressed that the State Water Resources Control Board’s upcoming action on August 3 could completely eliminate surface water supplies for farms in much of the state.
 
“Drought years like this reveal the weaknesses in our water supply system. California’s climate is now punctuated by wetter wet years and drier dry ones. We’ve known for years that we need to increase our ability to capture water during the wet years so it is available when dry years return, as well as increase recycling, fix our aging infrastructure and provide for habitat restoration.
 
“Immediate federal and State infrastructure investments are needed to stop California’s continued spiral into perennial water shortages and situations that force Californians to choose water winners and losers.”
 
Click here to view map as PDF.
 

Imagine A Day Without Infrastructure

July 14, 2021 in CFWC Blog

The area we know as modern-day California has gone through several significant renaissance periods throughout its history. From the expansion of the Spanish Missions northward in 1769 to the Gold Rush in the 1840s, California’s growth into the Golden State seemed inevitable.

The iconic Hollywood sign

The birth of the Hollywood film industry occurred in 1910 with the production of the film, “In Old California,” and around the same time the state’s aerospace industry took off when the world’s second international aviation meet was held in Los Angeles. A quarter of a million people attended to see the latest in aviation technology, just seven short years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Aviation got a second boost in the years leading up to World War II when countless aircraft emerged from Southern California factories to help fight the war.

Apple Computer store

The tech industry got its start in the 1950s and 1960s as a result of the intersection between the San Francisco Bay Area’s scientific research universities, generous amounts of venture capital, and considerable defense spending by the U.S. government.

And California agriculture grew and evolved from dryland farming following the Gold Rush to become the world’s leading food-producing region, delivering hundreds of commodities to the state’s burgeoning population and beyond.

The thread that links all of this progress is infrastructure.

Oxford defines infrastructure as: the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.

What does it mean to imagine a day without infrastructure? First, it’s not like having a bridge disappear from beneath Wile E. Coyote and seeing him plunge into the canyon in his Acme automobile.

‘The Iceman’ by Charles Paul Gruppé

Imagining a day without infrastructure is about pausing to reflect on all of the things that we depend on for a functioning society. We need roads to get to our jobs, to school, to take a vacation, enjoy a drive to the beach or mountains to experience more of what nature has to offer and also to have access to emergency services.

Imagining a day without infrastructure is thinking about the energy infrastructure we need to get by from day-to-day. Infrastructure delivers electricity or natural gas to heat and cool our homes, keep our food fresh and safe to eat, lighting our way in the dark, and facilitating the transition to clean, electric vehicles.

California Aqueduct near Los Banos, CA

Imagining a day without infrastructure is also about considering our need to store and deliver adequate and dependable water supplies. We need clean drinking water. We need supplies for household purposes from washing our clothes and dishes to bathing and watering our yards to sustain a safe and welcoming place for our families and friends. It’s the assurance that when we turn on a tap, water is going to come out. It takes a dedicated effort to build and maintain the infrastructure needed to get it there reliably and affordably.

Infrastructure delivers the water needed to grow, wash, and cook our food

It is also about considering the need to deliver the water that grows the healthy food we depend on to feed our families. When managed effectively, California’s water supply infrastructure keeps our farms productive so most people don’t have to think about where their food comes from. It opens the door for people to pursue other careers, such as those in the medical field, as teachers, engineers, artists, movie-makers, and countless other jobs because they’re not directly engaged in the process of growing their own food.

Today, we benefit from prior State, federal, and local leaders who invested in the roads, bridges, water systems, and power supply needed to make California thrive. Ongoing investments are needed to keep what we already have operating reliably and efficiently. And new infrastructure spending is necessary to provide a foundation for the next generation or two, and to keep California competitive in a global marketplace.

That’s why we need leaders to step up like their predecessors did and make the investments that we all count on. California built transportation, energy and water infrastructure that is envied around the world. Now it’s time to repair what we have and also build new, more efficient and green infrastructure. If our leaders have the vision to fund our future infrastructure, we won’t have to imagine a day without it.

Governor Newsom’s 15% Voluntary Water Use Reduction

July 9, 2021 in CFWC Blog

A mature orchard lies dead west of Firebaugh, California because water supplies had been cutoff due to the drought

Governor Newsom’s call for a 15 percent voluntary water use reduction is one more reminder of what scientists have been telling us – California’s drought is deepening and we need to do more to capture surplus supplies in response to the new normal of wetter wet years and drier dry years. With adequate planning and political will, we can prevent the shortages we’re seeing now, just a few short years after the State almost lost Oroville Dam during an exceptional flood.

It’s also a reminder that more and more of the state is facing the consequences of this year’s water supply shortages.

This tomato field and others in the vicinity of Mendota, California, were left unplanted due to a zero water allocation due to the drought

In February 2019, eighteen trillion gallons, or 55 million acre-feet, of rain and snow fell on California, a full one-third more than the water needed for all farm and domestic purposes for an entire year. Had we been able to capture and store more of that water, we could have mitigated the devastating consequences now facing us. And now that another drought has arrived in full force, we’re lamenting the fact that more wasn’t done to build the kind of smart storage projects we need to capture more water the next time flood stories inundate the news.

 

Since 1980, California farms have reduced water usage by double digits while at the same time increasing production by 38 percent. Still, many are receiving 0% of their normal water allocation this year, resulting in crops going unplanted and mature orchards being bulldozed.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What state and federal leaders must do now is fund smart water storage projects, repair aging infrastructure so we can reliably deliver water to farms, homes, and businesses, and fund conservation and watershed

One field survives and another is headed for the chipper when farm water supplies are insufficient to irrigate all of California’s productive farmland

programs that will help build resilience into the water supply system for California’s future generations.

California farmers are committed to supplying the safe, healthy, locally grown food supply we all count on. However, just as homeowners and businesses need water to function, so do farmers. Everything we do takes water, and our leaders need to step up and take the necessary actions to mitigate future shortages.

Farm Tours Give Bloggers a Look at How Our Food is Grown

July 1, 2021 in CFWC Blog

CFWC’s Annual Blogger Tours are an opportunity for us to give bloggers an in-depth look at how our food is grown in California for them to share with their followers. Food and lifestyle bloggers are a trusted source of information for hundreds of thousands of their followers. They help spread a positive message about California farmers, the food they grow, and the water needed to do it. Each tour highlights a different region of California’s agriculture. The focus of this year’s event was on winter farming in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys. To comply with social distancing, we took the tour virtual!

Our Guests

We were joined virtually by food and lifestyle bloggers from across the state. Liren Baker is a food blogger based out of San Francisco. She has always enjoyed food and transformed this affection into her blog Kitchen Confidante. The second is Chelsea Foy of Lovely Indeed based out of Modesto. Her blog has blossomed over the years into a full lifestyle theme, including motherhood, travel, shopping, and of course, food. We were also joined by Whitney Bond, a food blogger out of San Diego. Whitney shares approachable recipes made with fresh ingredients to brighten your week.

Taking It Virtual

Our team traveled to the region to film videos and interviews of romaine, broccoli, artichoke, and brussels sprout harvest. After diving into this footage, the bloggers had the chance to ask the farmers questions on a Q&A Zoom call. Despite the distance, we all had a great time and are excited to see the blog posts and recipes the bloggers create!

Meet the Farmers

Ocean Mist artichoke harvest in the Coachella Valley

Adrian Zendejas
Ocean Mist in Coachella, California
Artichokes & Brussels Sprouts
Artichoke Video: https://vimeo.com/554079683
Brussels Sprouts: https://vimeo.com/554079283

Brent Peterson
LaBrucherie Produce in El Centro, California
Romaine Harvest
Video: https://vimeo.com/554078395

Fresh-picked romaine, El Centro

Thomas Cox
Lawrence Cox Ranches in Brawley, California
Broccoli Harvest
Video: https://vimeo.com/554077900

Ellen Way
California Women for Agriculture in Coachella, California
Video: https://vimeo.com/554078945

Sharing Their Experience

This tour gave our bloggers a great introduction to how food is grown and deeper topics like water efficiency, labor, and the challenge of unexpected weather. It started a great conversation about the pride of California’s farmers in growing fresh and safe food that feeds Californians, Americans, and even people across the globe.

Broccoli harvest, Brawley

For the bloggers, this new knowledge will now accompany the incredible dishes they make for their blog using fresh California-grown foods. We are so glad they joined us for the adventure and can’t wait to see where the California Farm Water Coalition Blogger Tour is headed next!

Check out the delicious recipes and experiences the bloggers shared:

LIREN BAKER | @KITCHCONFIDANTE

We’re headed into the most abundant time of the year, when the produce is plentiful. But have you ever stopped to think about where our food comes from in the middle of winter? We often take for granted that we are able to find salad greens in December or broccoli in January – chances are, those veggies are grown in a very unique region in California. Thanks to the Coachella and Imperial Valleys, we have delicious produce, even through the winter! I was able to join my friends at @farmwater for another tour of the farms in my beloved California. We chatted about the abundant variety of produce they grow, their challenges, and the technology that allows them to help them feed us all while conserving the land and its resources.

https://kitchenconfidante.com/broccoli-slaw-with-ramen

CHELSEA FOY | @LOVELYINDEED

As a farmer’s daughter, I have seen first hand how hard farmers work to grow the best crops, use resources responsibly, and get their crops to our tables. California’s agriculture literally feeds the nation, and we’re so lucky here to have access to the fresh foods that farmers grow for us. Next time you’re grocery shopping, take a look and see what farm grew your produce! I’m grateful and proud of the farmers who grow our food, and so thankful for the abundance available to us. P.S. Have you ever seen artichokes being harvested?! It’s fascinating.

https://lovelyindeed.com/easy-artichoke-bruschetta/

WHITNEY BOND | @WHITNEYBOND

Grilled Brussels Sprouts are the surprise summer side dish that will knock your socks off! Thanks to California’s many microclimates, Brussels sprouts are grown year-round, which means you can grill them up all summer long! Serve them as a side dish, as an appetizer with Harissa Tahini Dipping Sauce, on top of a salad, or try all three! You really can’t go wrong!

https://whitneybond.com/grilled-brussels-sprouts/

Updated Map – 2021 Farm Water Supplies Cut Again

June 21, 2021 in CFWC Blog, Drought, Fact Sheets

Updated June, 2021:

California farms are bearing the brunt of this year’s short water supply and have been forced to reduce the acreage of popular California crops, such as asparagus, melons, lettuce, rice, tomatoes, sweet corn, and others.

Water supply reductions mean fewer fresh fruits and vegetables for consumers, massive farm-related job losses, and billions in lost economic activity, impacts that go beyond rural and disadvantaged communities. View the map here.

About 2 million acres of California’s irrigated farmland, or one out of every four acres, has already had its water supply cut by 95 percent or more. More than half of that is getting 0 percent. Another million acres has lost 80 percent of its water supply this year with much of the remaining farmland experiencing cuts of 25 percent or more.

Conditions are similar to those that occurred in 2015. According to a 2015 drought report issued by UC Davis, ERA Economics, and the UC Agricultural issues Center, water supply cuts led to the fallowing of 540,000 acres of farmland, 21,000 lost jobs, and an economic loss of $2.7 billion.

Critical reservoirs, including Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, Millerton, and San Luis combined have reached record lows. They are essential to supplying rural communities with drinking water, irrigating farms, supplying water to wildlife refuges, and recharging aquifers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys where a majority of California-grown food products originate.

It is a distressing time for farmers, farm workers, and businesses that depend on agriculture all across California and illustrates the need to invest in infrastructure that will increase our ability to capture more water during wet years when it is abundant to save for dry years like this. It also puts a strain on consumers who want local, California-grown fresh food choices for their families.

Learn more: