What Will 2017 Mean for California Water Users?

What will 2017 mean for California water users and the farmers who need it to grow crops? california-water

Author: Todd Fitchette, Western Farm Press

Winter across California has been a tale of two seasons in the past couple years.

Last year this time we were coming off a wet December. Little did we know at the time, but the taps would largely be in the “off” position for a couple months before faucets reopened and liquid gold began falling from the skies.

Knock on wood, that hasn’t happened. At least not yet.

Let’s hope it doesn’t.

Forecasters are calling for an “atmospheric river” to pummel California this week and bring continued blessings to a state parched by several years of severe drought conditions.

All this rain and snow is a good thing for Mediterranean Climate zones that produce the volume of food as California does.

The recent December freeze that kept citrus growers up at night wasn’t the blockbuster of previous seasons. Instead, it helped growers leave fruit on the trees rather than rush to harvest them.

Now they’re rushing as I write this because heavy rain is expected later this week in the San Joaquin Valley. The rain will put a temporary halt to citrus harvest as I’m told the fruit cannot be picked when it’s wet as it damages the fruit.

Meanwhile, tree nut growers were shaking their trees as part of their winter sanitation protocols to remove “mummy” nuts, a necessary activity to rob pests like the Navel orangeworm from a place to hunker down and over-winter.

Navel orangeworms, later in the growing season, can wreak havoc and cause yield losses in almonds and pistachios.

On the flip side of the natural water blessings California is experiencing, the State Water Board is moving ahead with plans to take half the natural flows from several key rivers used to irrigate millions of acres of farmland and produce billions of dollars’ worth of crops.

The decision isn’t final and likely won’t be until later in the year. Though thousands of farmers and others reliant on waters from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers spoke in unified opposition to the state’s plans, the looks on the faces of water board members at public hearings suggested they were simply going through the motions to do what they want, regardless of how damaging it will be to the state’s economy and the people who live here.

This certainly won’t be the only challenge farmer’s face in 2017. Regardless of whether Mother Nature calls an end to the climatic drought, regulators and lawmakers appear to be laser-focused on continuing their regulatory drought in California.

Time will tell how effective the promises of the upcoming Trump administration will be to pull back on the onerous rules, regulations and laws keeping California farmers from adequate water supplies.

Meanwhile, bring on the rain.

Full article shared from Western Farm Press website.

Drought Brings New Attention to Recycled Water

1.5 million acre-feet of recycled water to be contributed to the overall water supply by 2020 Water-Recycling

Author: Kate Campbell, AgAlert

Agricultural demand for recycled water is increasing along with the ability to supply it. But water experts say competition for access to the resource is rising—and say they’re unsure what the growing demand may mean for prices.

State water officials plan a survey of recycled water use in coming months—the first since 2009, when they estimated use of recycled water at 700,000 acre-feet. Results from the new survey could come early next year.

The State Water Resources Control Board is calling for recycled water to contribute 1.5 million acre-feet to the overall water supply by 2020 and at least 2.5 million acre-feet by 2030. Observers say the 2020 goal may be difficult to achieve, but say they’re more optimistic about reaching the 2030 standard.

Given drought pressures on California water supplies, Jennifer West of WateReuse California said she expects the upcoming survey to show an increase in the amount of recycled water being used statewide since the previous survey. In 2009, researchers found agriculture used nearly 40 percent of California’s recycled water supply, with landscape irrigation and groundwater recharge the next-most-popular uses.

West said the drought has increased the number of competing uses for recycled water and that negative public sentiment about its quality and use has diminished.

“Since the last survey, a lot has happened and there have been a lot of positive changes for water recycling,” she said. “Funding is available now through Proposition 1 (the water bond passed by California voters in 2014). There’s new technology and interest. I’m expecting the next survey will show a significant bump in all uses of recycled water.”

Because of adherence to strict water quality regulations for using recycled water on food crops, this irrigation option has a long history of safety, she said.

Danny Merkley, director of water resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said Farm Bureau supports use of recycled water as a supplemental supply. He said institutions that furnish recycled water for irrigation should be responsible for assuring and maintaining proper quality for the intended crop uses.

“State and federal governments should do everything they can to increase supplies of freshwater, but recycled water can be an important part of our portfolio for addressing the California water crisis,” he said.

Merkley noted that CFBF favors overall expansion of the available water supply through increased storage—both aboveground and underground—plus recycling, desalination and improvements in water use efficiency.

In an agreement approved last week, the city of Turlock joined the city of Modesto in a 40-year agreement to sell recycled water to the Del Puerto Water District, which provides irrigation water to about 45,000 agricultural acres on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley between Vernalis and Santa Nella.

The district relies on water delivered through the federal Central Valley Project, which cut deliveries to zero in 2014 and 2015, and to 5 percent this year.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation signed the record of decision last week for what is being called the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program at the Del Puerto district office in Patterson, certifying the program’s federal environmental documents. Del Puerto will cover the estimated $100 million construction cost, including pipelines from the treatment plants to the federal Delta-Mendota Canal for delivery to contractors.

Interim water deliveries could begin as early as this summer, with as much as 30 percent of the district’s supply needs being met by 2018.

West estimated there are about 100 recycled-water projects on the drawing boards in California, all in various stages of development. Whether they will be online in time to meet the state’s strategic goals under its recycled-water policy is not known at this time, she said.

Water district managers are increasingly looking at water supply options, she said, and recycled water projects can provide cities both a new revenue source and new ways to manage the discharge of treated water.

Recycled water beneficial uses vary considerably around the state, the Department of Water Resources found in its 2009 survey, and West said she expects new survey results will reveal continued diversification in the uses of recycled water.

Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, said recycled water can come from a variety of sources, including treated urban wastewater and oilfield-produced water. No matter the source, he said, “it’s required to be high quality, treated water that meets every standard set by state water quality officials.”

On land north of Bakersfield, the Cawelo Water District and North Kern Water Storage District are currently working with the oil industry to use treated water on crops, Wade said.

The districts have been delivering water for more than 50 years to irrigate about 45,000 acres in Kern County, including irrigation water to about 34,000 acres of orchards, vineyards and field and row crops.

Oilfield-produced water is the byproduct of oil production, Wade said, and has been used in the growing region without any health or environmental issues.

Kate Campbell is an assistant editor of Ag Alert.

Full article shared from AgAlert, with credit to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

March Storms Prompt SWP to Boost Allocations

Season’s third upgrade since initial allocations set RDO-Water-California

Author: Tim Hearden, Capital Press

With runoff from the March storms filling Northern California reservoirs, the state Department of Water Resources has upped its anticipated deliveries to State Water Project customers to 60 percent of requested supplies.

In all, the 29 agencies that receive SWP water will get a little more than 2.5 million acre-feet of the nearly 4.2 million acre-feet they sought in 2016, marking the state project’s largest allocation since 65 percent of normal supplies were sent to districts in 2012.

The upgrade announced April 21 was the season’s third since the DWR set its initial allocation at 15 percent in January, later raising it to 30 percent and 45 percent. It’s also likely to be the last upgrade for the year, department spokesman Ted Thomas said in an email.

“Never know what nature will do,” he said, “but in the absence of significant rain and snow, (it’s) doubtful if the allocation will increase.”

The new allocation comes as the U.S. Drought Monitor issued new maps showing improved conditions in much of California, as part of the Central Sierra and San Joaquin Valley emerged from the Exceptional Drought category — the most severe category of drought.

Much of the Sacramento Valley improved from extreme to severe or even moderate drought. However, a large swath of the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast remain in exceptional drought, according to the monitor.

Even with the wet winter in many places, state and federal officials caution anew that the drought is far from over. Cindy Matthews, a National Weather Service senior hydrologist, said in an email the D3, or extreme drought, classification still means an area is still within the worst 3 percent to 5 percent of droughts on record.

State officials said that while key reservoirs are rising from winter storms, some remain below average for this time of year. The San Luis Reservoir, a key storage body south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for both the SWP and federal Central Valley Project, is only at half its 2 million acre-foot capacity and 55 percent of its historical average, largely because of Delta pumping restrictions to protect imperiled fish, the DWR explained.

With an expected transition to La Nina oceanic conditions by next fall, the 2017 water year is too uncertain to abandon preparations for another dry year, officials said.

“Conservation is the surest and easiest way to stretch supplies,” DWR director Mark Cowin said in a statement. “We all need to make the sparing, wise use of water a daily habit.”

Full article shared from Capital Press.

Now Available: New Episode of RDO Equipment Co. Podcast

Episode 11 of Agriculture Technology podcast features RDO Water’s Danilu Ramirez RDO_Equipment_Co_podcast

Author: RDO Water

Each week, the RDO Equipment Co. Agriculture Technology podcast explores the latest products, services, and technologies in the agriculture industry. Hosted by Nate Dorsey, RDO Equipment Co. product specialist supervisor and agronomist, every episode is highlighted by a guest in the agriculture industry.

Danilu Ramirez, Water Management Consultant for RDO Water, is featured in the latest episode of the Agriculture Technology podcast, where she discusses some of the laws and issues around managing water in California, as well as the consulting services she provides.

Find the podcast on iTunes, Souncloud, or any mobile podcasting app. Connect with RDO Equipment Co. on Twitter @rdoequipment and with host, Nate Dorsey, @RDONateDorsey.

 

Listen now to Episode 11 with Danilu Ramirez.