Food Grows Where Water Flows

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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.




DWR announces 30% allocation for 2018

April 24, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Water Allocations

Contractors of the State Water Project learned today that their water allocation has been raised to 30% due to late precipitation and snow in March, up from 15% in December. The State Water Project, operated by the Department of Water Resources, provides water for more than 27 million Californians and approximately 750,000 acres of California farmland.

The Department of Water Resources noted that despite above-normal precipitation in March and April, California’s major reservoirs, which are already well above their historical average water levels were unable to capture the increased runoff caused by warming weather.

Coming on the heels of widely-publicized research suggesting climate change may result in increasingly volatile water supplies, DWR’s announcement today underscores the urgent need to expand water storage wherever possible to capture and hold runoff from snow melt.

Invasive Species in the Delta: +1?

April 18, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Environment, Invasive Species

Invasive Species in California’s Delta: Nutria

Another invasive species is threatening to invade California’s Delta. Joining a long list of non-native & invasive species damaging ecosystems, degrading infrastructure, and hurting wildlife, Nutria have been found near the ailing Delta.

Past invasive non-native species that have found their way into the Delta, like water hyacinth, Chinese mitten crabs, and American Bullfrogs remain persistent challenges, bringing a host of problems for native species, particularly those already threatened or endangered.

Not content to just compete for food and habitat, many invasive species also introduce parasites and disease, or actively prey on native species like Chinook salmon and the Delta Smelt.

Nutria, are a non-native species once intentionally brought into California (for fur) like large-mouth bass (recreational fishing), and American Bullfrogs (as food) for the purposes of economic development. Today, they are widely known to threaten native species by damaging habitat, degrading infrastructure, and introducing disease.

California’s Delta faces numerous invasive challenges that alter habitats, deplete the food web, and impair water quality, including emerging algal blooms, as well as long term issues from numerous non-native plants.


There is hope for the Delta, bolstered by emerging science and an understanding that more than just increased water flows are needed for healthy ecosystems. Identifying the problems that plague California’s native landscapes is the first step in determining a sensible course of action to correct them.

A Bold New Approach to Ecosystem Management

March 26, 2018 in CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Fisheries

A Bold New Approach to Ecosystem Management

For decades, California’s water policy has been based on a false choice – choose healthy ecosystems with abundant fish and wildlife or choose water for people, farms and other purposes. And for decades the policies based on this choice have utterly failed all water users. Fish continue to decline; wildlife refuges suffer and cities and farms struggle to meet their needs.

Not willing to accept a system that forces Californians to pick winners and losers, scientists, farmers, conservationists, fishing interests and others have been working together to find creative solutions that work for all. A host of projects throughout the state have been launched with some impressive results all leading to the same conclusion: we must move away from thinking that says the only measure of a healthy ecosystem is the amount of water in our rivers and embrace a holistic approach that considers an array of factors.

Now, in an exciting new report, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) details recommendations from prominent water scientists embracing this new approach to policy focused on comprehensive solutions.

These scientists discuss specific benefits of looking at the health of the eco-system as a whole rather than focusing on individual components. And most importantly, the paper recommends that current science guide future policy rather than blind adherence to past practices. In a separate article, Jay Lund, professor of watershed sciences at UC Davis says the current water-only focus represents, “a sort of a scientific laziness.”

And this is not just scientific theory. Across the state, diverse interests are working together to create and implement solutions to water problems that have produced concrete results demonstrating the validity of the holistic approach. A few examples include:

  • In Redding, farmers, environmental groups and government agencies are creating safe habitat to protect salmon from predators. It helps the salmon survive and frees up water for other uses. A healthy ecosystem makes the whole river better for everybody.
  • In the San Joaquin Valley, Del Puerto Water District is building a first-of-its-kind recycling project that addresses agricultural and wildlife refuge water supply shortages utilizing recycled water. Use of the recycled water helps reduce urban discharge into the San Joaquin River, groundwater pumping and reliance on the Delta while freeing up other water for the refuges.
  • The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) working with other water interests along the Tuolumne River has put into practice the kind of plan the PPIC report discusses. It uses a comprehensive approach that manages fish habitat, predators, and water flow in order to support the fish population while maintaining water supply reliability for all of its other users – farm, city, recreation and environment.
  • Farmers in the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority are helping fund one of the most exciting projects so far. Known as the Nigiri Project, it connects the fish food in flooded Sacramento Valley rice fields to the river where fish can access it and thrive.

These are just a few examples of projects underway that show what can be accomplished when water users side-step our broken water management system and collaborate on innovative, science-based solutions. We applaud the PPIC report and urge the state water bureaucracy to either lead us towards the comprehensive approach described or let progressive conservationists, farmers, scientists, cooperative agencies and fishing interests take the lead and find solutions that work for all California water users.

Salmon numbers down but there’s hope in the floodplain

March 2, 2018 in A Vibrant Future, California Water, CFWC Blog, Endangered Species, Environment

Salmon numbers down but there’s hope in the floodplain

There have been valid concerns for years about the declining fish populations in California. While the immediate forecasts for the year aren’t much improved, there is reason for hope. Projects now underway are showing great promise in helping to turn around declining salmon numbers. The Nigiri Project is a collaborative effort between farmers and researchers to help restore salmon populations by reintroducing them during winter, to floodplains that are farmed with rice during summer. Salmon given time to grow in floodplains are bigger and healthier in a shorter period of time than fish left to their own in the Sacramento River. The project, operated by CalTrout, is being funded by a public-private partnership including Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley farmers, the California Department of Water Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife, UC Davis, and others. More cooperative efforts are also underway to improve salmon fisheries in California’s rivers, such as rebuilding spawning habitats, and reducing predation.

New regulations for salmon fishermen may be coming because stocks are now considered by regulators to be overfished. Sadly, this is more evidence that past efforts to repair salmon populations have failed all of us – fishermen, the farmers who have faced water supply cuts, and the taxpayers who, in large part, foot the bill for the work of state and federal fishery agencies.

At the same time, farmers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta received a meager five percent water allocation in 2016. In 2014 and 2015 it was zero. But even with those water restrictions salmon populations are down 97 percent from their most recent peak of 12.9 million pounds in 2013. It cannot be more clearly stated that water is not the solution to restoring salmon numbers.

Efforts like the Nigiri Project that help improve salmon habitat and health while they’re young and make them stronger to survive their migration to the ocean may be the answer to the salmon dilemma. They’re showing progress where other efforts have failed.