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Can the Valley Balance People, Water, Ag, and Environment?



Photo of the Friant-Kern Canal in the San Joaquin Valley
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The San Joaquin Valley can overcome big challenges facing agriculture, the environment, and rural public health if major stakeholders embrace creative solutions to relieve stress on its water system.
However, forging agreement on these solutions won’t be easy as they will involve significant changes in land use and water management.
And recharging the Valley’s overdrafted groundwater basins likely will require the retirement of at least 500,000 acres from farm production.
These are some of the conclusions of “Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley,” a report issued Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.
To better understand the challenges and the potential solutions for the Valley, we recommend that you watch the PPIC video with this story.

Report Identifies Three Key Challenges

Here are the three biggest challenges identified in the report:
— Balancing water supplies and demands. To close the groundwater deficit, groundwater sustainability agencies in the valley’s overdrafted basins will have to augment supplies, reduce demands, or use some combination of these two approaches.
— Addressing groundwater quality challenges. Poor groundwater quality impairs drinking water supplies in disadvantaged rural communities, reduces long-term agricultural prosperity, and degrades ecosystems. Providing safe drinking water is an urgent priority. The necessary coordination will be challenging because the various programs addressing Valley water quality issues are carried out by numerous local and regional entities, whose lines of responsibility and geographic boundaries do not neatly align.
— Fostering beneficial water and land use transitions. Effectively addressing water scarcity and the resulting land use changes in the Valley offers opportunities to put lands coming out of production to good use—and gain “more pop per drop” from limited water resources.