Agricultural water service contractors south of the Delta were allocated 5% of their contract supply by the Bureau of Reclamation. Central Valley lawmakers think the state needs to do better.
“It’s not enough. It’s just not enough,” says state Senator Anna Caballero, D-Salinas. “We know we need more.”
“It’s not enough. It’s just not enough.”–Senator Anna Caballero, D-Salinas
The Westlands Water District responded to the Bureau of Reclamation’s announcement last week.
“A 5% allocation, although better than zero, will result in a human and economic disaster for families on the westside of the Valley and could result in major strains for the nation’s food supply,” said General Manager Tom Birmingham in a statement.
West side farmer Joe Del Bosque all growers he knows are worried. “There may not be enough water to provide crop needs. A short water supply has another dire effect- cost of water escalates, but prices of crops don’t,” said Del Bosque.
GV Wire℠ met with Caballero and Assembly member Dr. Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, during a Friday event with Governor Gavin Newson in Fresno last week.
“Water is the essential lifeblood of our communities,” said Arambula.
“It’s going to take more, as my good friend, Dr. Joaquin Arambula said. It’s going to take working with the administration to make it happen,” said Caballero.
Perpetual Boom and Bust
“Water is the essential lifeblood of our communities.”–Assembly member Dr. Joaquin Arambula
Caballero says the allocation is based on rainfall and it’s just been really difficult to tell how much more rain is expected in the coming months.
The California Department of Water Resources reports that as of Feb. 21, statewide average snow water content in the Sierra Nevada was 54% of the Apr. 1 average. Current Northern Sierra precipitation is 52% of the seasonal average to date.
Caballero says she’s tired of the ongoing water fights that seem to be a perpetual part of the boom and bust of the water cycle.
“It’s time that we come up with a resolution that gets us beyond this bust and burn cycle,” said Caballero. “I think we need to go back to the table. We need to figure this out, and we need to stabilize our water delivery system so that we can make calculations that are good for agriculture.”
According to DWR, storage in the largest northern California reservoirs is also well below average, reflecting cumulative impacts from a dry 2020. Virtually all of California remains in a precipitation deficit, with much of the state having received about half or less of average precipitation to date.
Struggle for Survival
“It’s extremely disappointing to get the news that you’re only going to see a 5% allocation.”–Ryan Jacobsen, Chief Executive Officer at the Fresno County Farm Bureau
“We struggle when we aren’t allocated the water we need as a community to survive,” said Arambula. “I will continue to be an advocate to make sure we’re bringing that needed resource home so that our economy can thrive and our communities can survive.”
Arambula’s district encompasses several large farming communities in Fresno County including Firebaugh, Mendota, Kerman, and Coalinga.
“I look forward to working in a bipartisan manner to make sure we’re elevating the concerns to the governor’s office,” said Arambula.
On last week’s ‘California Ag Today’ podcast, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen reacted to the 5% water allocation figure.
“Very simplistically, food grows where water flows,” said Jacobsen. “It’s extremely disappointing to get the news that you’re only going to see a 5% allocation.” He adds that can change depending on how much rainfall and snowfall the state receives during the spring.
Jacobsen says the storm that came through a few weeks ago was good, but it wasn’t necessarily a ‘season maker’ so farmers are already having to make tough decisions.
“Here in California, particularly in the Valley, we’re dependent on five to seven good storms to make or break a season and we have not seen that whatsoever,” said Jacobsen. He believes that Fresno County will drop from the number one ag producer this year due to a lack of water from the state, and mother nature.
Water Sustainability and Infrastructure
Caballero wants to look at water infrastructure to move water more efficiently around the Valley. She also believes in a more sustainable approach that’s already been implemented in Southern California.
“Investing in new water recycling projects so that we can reuse the water that we have and use it either in agriculture or water delivery systems,” said Caballero.
On a smaller scale, many California cities use treated wastewater for landscaping. One flashy example is the water features of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, whose lakes, fountains, and waterfalls are filled with treated wastewater.