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The San Diego County Water Authority has a long history of supporting a portfolio approach to address mounting environmental and water supply challenges in the Bay-Delta, the hub of the State Water Project. Photo: California DWR

Water Authority Invites Gov. Newsom to Tour Facilities, Praises Portfolio Approach to Water Security

The San Diego County Water Authority today praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for taking a proactive, far-sighted approach to water supply planning for California, and pledged to help the governor advance his portfolio strategy for water security in the face of a changing climate.

In a letter to Newsom, Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer thanked the governor for the “wisdom and leadership” shown last week with the issuance of Executive Order N-10-19 and invited the governor to tour San Diego County’s cutting-edge water facilities.

Newsom’s order directed his administration to “identify and assess a suite of complementary actions to ensure safe and resilient water supplies, flood protection and healthy waterways for the state’s communities, economy and environment.” Newsom then directed state agencies to scrap Brown Administration plans for a $18 billion two-tunnel system for moving water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta in favor of a one-tunnel system.

“We congratulate you on Executive Order N-10-19 and stand ready to support you and work with other stakeholders to ensure its success,” Madaffer wrote to Newsom. “If state and federal dollars are prioritized to support local, integrated planning solutions, we will realize the State’s 2009 promise to reduce demand on the Bay-Delta.”

Portfolio Planning For Water Security

The Water Authority has a long history of both portfolio planning for the region’s water security and supporting a portfolio approach to address mounting environmental and water supply challenges in the Bay-Delta, the hub of the State Water Project.

“Almost two decades ago, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors chose to take affirmative steps to change what had been an ‘end-of-the-pipeline’ mentality, when our agency relied greatly on water imported from the Bay-Delta,” Madaffer said. “In other words, we embraced then the intent of Executive Order N-10-19, and believe our experience is proof that it can be done.”

In 2013, the Water Authority joined several Southern and Northern California water districts, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other conservation groups in proposing a Portfolio Alternative for the Bay-Delta. That proposal included a single tunnel, increasing water storage south of the Bay-Delta, and significant investments in local and regional water supplies.

That approach didn’t gain enough support in the Brown administration, but it aligns closely with Gov. Newsom’s executive order.

Strategic partnerships

The portfolio approach also aligns with what history has shown to be a highly successful strategy in San Diego County, which relied almost entirely on water supplies controlled by external interests in 1991.

“After suffering the devastating impacts of drought and water shortages that year, our community got to work, determined to gain local control over the cost and reliability of our water,” Madaffer said. “Since then, the Water Authority and its member agencies have invested over $2 billion in local projects.”

Those investments include:

  • The nation’s largest agricultural water conservation and transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District
  • The first new dam in the county in more than 50 years at Olivenhain Reservoir
  • The nation’s largest seawater desalination plant, producing up to 56,000 acre-feet of water annually
  • The raising of San Vicente Dam, more than doubling its capacity
  • Water-use efficiency programs that have helped reduce per capita potable water use by more than 40 percent in San Diego County

“Every dollar of investment the Water Authority has made represents a commensurate reduction of take on the Bay-Delta,” said Madaffer’s letter.

He noted that the Water Authority and its member agencies are still at work, with more local projects on the drawing board, including a Pure Water potable reuse program being developed by the City of San Diego and the East County Advanced Water Purification Project.

“We are also continuing to plan for the future, with an upcoming study that will explore water, conveyance, storage, treatment and energy opportunities with strategic partners in Imperial Valley, Mexico and across the Southwest,” Madaffer said. “This initiative is the next generation of the Water Authority’s evolution, and the ‘poster child’ for your Portfolio Alternative.”

The Water Authority is looking at new integrated solutions such as a storage account in Lake Mead that would help raise water levels in the drought-stressed reservoir and avoid formal shortage conditions that could hamper water deliveries across the Southwest. The Water Authority also is supporting a Salton Sea action plan that will protect both the environment and public health; binational opportunities with Mexico; and clean energy generation.

The “San Diego Grown Photo Contest” on Instagram and Twitter highlights the significance of agriculture to the regional economy. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego Grown Photo Contest Highlights County’s Agricultural Bounty

The San Diego County Water Authority is hosting a social media photo contest during Water Awareness Month in May to celebrate how safe and reliable water supplies fuel the region’s local farms and food production.

The “San Diego Grown Photo Contest” on Instagram and Twitter highlights the significance of agriculture to the regional economy. As one of the nation’s top producers of avocados, ornamental trees and shrubs, flowers, succulents, lemons, and other agricultural products, San Diego County’s farms generate nearly $4.8 billion in total annual economic activity on some 250,000 acres.

The contest is part of the Water Authority’s ongoing Brought to You by Water outreach and education program, designed to convey the importance water supply reliability for sustaining the region’s 3.3 million people and its $231 billion economy. The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies work together to meet current and future water demands, while promoting water-use efficiency.

“Safe and reliable water supplies help more than 5,500 farms to thrive in our region – not to mention countless backyard gardens, community gardens and farmers markets,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “This photo contest offers everyone a chance to showcase their favorite locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers and nursery plants, and to win some great prizes donated by sponsors who share our commitment to our region’s most precious natural resource.”

Agriculture: brought to you by water

The Water Authority is coordinating with the nonprofit local chapter of the Farm Bureau, which is supported solely by more than 2,000 dues-paying members. Established in 1914, it serves the needs of the San Diego agriculture community through a variety of advocacy and education initiatives.

“Farming is a foundational piece of our regional economy and quality of life – but it doesn’t happen without a reliable water supply,” said Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “Our farmers are constantly innovating to use water more efficiently through adopting new technology and more-efficient crops.”

Reliable water supply helps drive regional economy

Entering the photo contest is easy: Take a photo of your favorite locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers or nursery plants and post the photo to Instagram or Twitter using #B2UbyH2O between May 1-31. Participants must be at least 18 years old to enter.

Qualifying submissions are eligible for prizes generously donated by local businesses and organizations including Specialty Produce, the San Diego County Farm Bureau, and Jimbo’s …Naturally! Winners will be drawn randomly each week from posts that meet contest rules here, and they will be announced on social media.

Over the past year, the Water Authority has highlighted an array of the region’s core industries – including tourism, manufacturing and brewing – that would not exist without substantial investments in water supply reliability by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Yuima is among the smallest water districts in the San Diego County metropolitan area, covering 13,460 acres. Its 10 largest water users are all agricultural customers, consuming approximately 70 percent of total district water deliveries annually. Photo: Yuima Municipal Water District Pauma Valley

Cooperation Preserves Pauma Valley Groundwater

Instead of waiting for Yuima Valley’s precious groundwater supplies to dry up, the Yuima Municipal Water District and local farmers are working cooperatively to create a sustainable long-term strategy for maintaining the region’s economy and quality of life by proactively managing the valley’s aquifer.

To the east in Borrego Springs, the chronically water-short community offers a warning about over-tapping groundwater. Borrego Springs expects to face a 75 percent reduction in water supplies by 2040. The current plan is to let 3,800 acres of agriculture go fallow because farms use 80 percent of the community’s groundwater.

Yuima farmers also have relied on groundwater supplies for decades. Crops such as citrus and avocado flourish in the valley, nestled between Palomar Mountain and Valley Center.

But Yuima farmers want a different kind of future than they see unfolding in other groundwater-dependent areas of arid West.

Working with growers to sustain agriculture

The Yuima Municipal Water District worked with farmers to find realistic, reliable, cost-effective strategies for his customers to keep their farms flourishing without 100 percent reliance on groundwater. Photo: Yuima Municipal Water District

The Yuima Municipal Water District worked with farmers to find realistic, reliable, cost-effective strategies for customers to keep their farms flourishing without 100 percent reliance on groundwater. Photo: Yuima Municipal Water District

Richard Williamson, general manager of the Yuima water district, is working with growers to sustain production and avoid groundwater depletion. When groundwater is pumped faster than it’s recharged, negative effects include reduced water quality, reduced surface water supplies, and land subsidence (or sinking).

“What we’ve tried to do is work on a program encouraging farmers to join our system,” Williamson said. “Many have been pumping wells on their property, and they know it will be curtailed in the future due to new laws protecting groundwater. They need to look to imported water to make up the difference.”

Yuima is among the smallest water districts in the region, covering 13,460 acres. Its 10 largest water users are all agricultural customers, consuming approximately 70 percent of total district water deliveries annually.

Facing increasing state regulations and increasingly hot summers, Williamson worked with farmers to find realistic, reliable, cost-effective strategies for his customers to keep their farms flourishing without 100 percent reliance on groundwater. Adopting a rate structure giving farmers lower pricing in exchange for flexible reliability is the key. The strategy allows the district to slow water deliveries to agricultural customers when imported water supplies are in high demand, similar to power companies offering reduced rates for interruptible service.

“There was a fair amount of discussion and education,” said Williamson. “Farming interests knew they had to come up with an alternative source of water to replace what they might not have in the future. They know it doesn’t serve anyone to draw the system down to nothing. They can look across this valley. All you see is green, citrus and horticulture being raised.”

Yuima agricultural water users try new program

Pauma Valley’s largest agricultural water user and a large avocado farm were the first to sign on. “It was a win-win situation,” said Williamson, “They still pump groundwater, but not as much as they used to. It will help everyone under the new groundwater regulations. Knowing it’s always available, they can set their watering patterns to meet the best efficiency from their water dollars as they possibly can.”

Now Yuima MWD is working to offer imported water supplies through the new program to additional farms by increasing system capacity.

“We currently have projects under way that will double our amount of imported water coming into the district,” said Williamson. “That will be done by 2020, so at that point it will coincide with these new regulations in place. We want to be ready with other agriculture interests. They are under the gun and need alternative sources of water.”

Williamson said so far, Yuima hasn’t faced water supply interruptions. “Because Pauma Valley is such a close-knit community, we will call our biggest users and warn them, ‘Things are a little tight, can you water at night or cut back watering time a little bit to get through this crunch?’ Everyone has been extremely cooperative with this idea.”

Williamson says the goal for his district is to remove the supply interruption provisions completely when capacity upgrades are completed in 2020.

“This valley is all about two things: agriculture, and Indian gaming. The tribes have indicated they don’t want to see agriculture hurt here. They feel it creates a really nice environment,” Williamson said. “This district takes a lot of pride being part of that environment. We want to be a positive influence, rather than wearing a black hat.”

 

 

 

San Diego County is home to more than 5,500 local farms and a $4.8 billion agriculture industry fueled by safe and reliable water supplies from the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. Photo: Water Authority

Farm-to-Table Event Highlights San Diego County Products

On April 25, the San Diego County Farm Bureau is bringing a one-of-a-kind tasting and education event to the famous Carlsbad Flower Fields. Up to 300 people from around the county will experience a remarkable variety of recipes and beverages, all prepared from locally sourced ingredients by some of the best chefs in the region.

San Diego leads nation in avocados, vine-ripe tomatoes

Many people don’t realize that a lot of the produce they buy at grocery stores or enjoy in local restaurants is grown right here in San Diego County. In fact, the county is home to more than 5,500 local farms and a $4.8 billion regional agriculture industry fueled by safe and reliable water supplies from the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

Thursday’s event, called “Graze at the Fields,” is an opportunity for the community to connect with farmers. In addition to enjoying hand-crafted samples and beverages, guests will have a chance to talk with local growers and purveyors to learn about all that goes into producing the finest and freshest local farm products.

The Water Authority is sponsoring the event as part of its Brought to You by Water outreach and education program, which was created to raise awareness about the importance of safe and reliable water supplies for San Diego County’s key industries and quality of life. During April, May and June, the Water Authority is partnering with the region’s agriculture industry to highlight the local bounty that is “Brought to You by Water.”

For more information about Graze at the Fields, go to sdfarmbureau.org/graze-at-the-fields.

Share photos of your favorite San Diego County produce

Following the event, the Water Authority also will kick off a social media photo contest that will run through the month of May, to coincide with Water Awareness Month.

Between May 1-31, participants who submit a photo of their favorite locally grown vegetables, fruits, nursery plants or flowers and use the #B2UbyH2O will be entered to win prizes generously donated by local businesses and organizations, including the San Diego County Farm Bureau, Specialty Produce, and Jimbo’s…Naturally!

More information about the Brought to You by Water program and the social media contest is at b2ubyh2o.org.

Major Rollback of Water Rules Endorsed by California Farmers

The Trump administration proposed withdrawing federal protections for countless waterways and wetlands across the country Tuesday, making good on President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to weaken landmark Obama-era water rules long opposed by some developers, farmers and oil, gas, and mining executives.

Down Year Predicted For California Olives After Weather Confuses Crops

Olive harvest season is getting started in California and farmers are concerned this could be one of the worst in recent memory. California leads the nation in olive oil production, but now there may be a shortage. It’s a significant setback for a growing industry just two years removed from its largest crop.

Farmers Thought They Had 20 Years To Use Groundwater As They Wished. Maybe Not Anymore

California farmers are laboring under a daunting edict: They must stop over-pumping groundwater from beneath their ranches. The saving grace is that state law gives them more than 20 years to do it. Now, however, a landmark court ruling could force many farmers to curb their groundwater consumption much sooner than that, landing like a bombshell in the contentious world of California water. For the first time, a California court has said state and county governments have a duty to regulate groundwater usage when it’s clear that the pumping drains water from adjacent rivers.

California Water Regulators Help Target Black Market Marijuana Farmers

After Riverside County deputies raided an unlicensed cannabis farm in the small, unincorporated community of Aguanga, they found nearly 3,000 plants growing scattered between the brush. The tip that led Sgt. Tyson Voss and his team to that illicit farm last month came from a source you might not expect: the Cannabis Enforcement Unit of the California State Water Resources Control Board. The state water agency created a pilot cannabis team four years ago to investigate marijuana growers in Northern California who divert or pollute waterways in their effort to profit via cannabis.

OPINION: Why A Water Board Plan Should Worry The Whole State

It’s not just the northern San Joaquin Valley that should be concerned about the state water board’s plan to redirect water away from farms and cities in a misguided bid to save fish. No matter where you live in California—and no matter your source of water—you should be worried. For now, the focus rests on regions along the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. From there, it moves to the Sacramento Valley and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and from there, who knows where?

Monitoring Agricultural Water Use Remains Challenging Despite New Oversight Rules

A new program in California aimed at tracking agricultural water consumption is off to a bumpy start, highlighting the challenges of monitoring an industry that has historically enjoyed limited oversight. Agriculture is the biggest consumer of water in the West, with many states using more than 70 percent of developed freshwater supplies for agriculture. So you would think state governments watch water consumption on farms carefully to look for conservation opportunities. In fact, some do not.