The pandemic-induced recession has come at a critical time for water planning in the state. The governor’s administration in January pitched ambitious proposals to help fund the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and cushion its impacts on farmers and local communities. In the May Revision of the budget proposal, however, all but one funding allocation from an earlier proposition have been withdrawn.
A new study by University of California researchers anticipates drastic economic losses in the face of future restrictions on water available for San Joaquin Valley agriculture.
The study by economists David Sunding and David Roland-Holst at UC Berkeley examined the economic impact of two types of restrictions to water supplies for ag: on groundwater pumping as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and future reductions in surface water due to regulatory processes by the state and federal government.
Up to one million acres of farmland could be fallowed over the next 20 to 30 years — about one-fifth of all acres currently under cultivation in the San Joaquin Valley. Associated farm revenue loss would be about $7.2 billion a year.
Last month, many regions passed a major milestone in implementation of state legislation that has the potential to transform the way crops are farmed in the state.
At the end of January, big regions of the San Joaquin Valley had to turn in their plans for how residents and growers would comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
On par with mission architecture or cattle ranching is another consequential relic of Spanish colonialism in California: the idea that water pumped from underground belongs to whoever owns the land above.
In the Central Valley, a major danger of unregulated pumping has been a drooping of the surface at a rate of one foot a year. Here, in the Salinas Valley, so much freshwater has been extracted that, in some aquifers, the natural flow from continent to ocean has reversed – seawater is pushing through gravel and sand into groundwater sources, threatening to spoil a critical household and agricultural supply.
Innovative efforts to accelerate restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires. Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address persistent challenges facing the Colorado River.
The state of California is gearing up to regulate its groundwater. By some estimates, water cutbacks could result in half a million acres of farmland taken out of production.
On the Changala family farm in Tulare County, the past and future are separated by a dirt road and a barbed-wire fence.
On the south side sits a wheat field. On the north, a solar farm, built three years ago, sending electricity to thousands of Southern Californians. Alan Changala sees little difference between the two.
It was 2015 and, as far as John Konda knew, farming still had a viable future in the San Joaquin Valley. So he expanded.
The Tulare County grower planted 75 acres of pistachios, adding to a farm he’s owned since 2003. Two years later, in order to augment his water supply, he drilled two new groundwater wells.
When California adopted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, it became the last Western state to regulate its groundwater. If local groundwater agencies fail to submit plans to the state by 2020, the law says state water agencies could take over management of groundwater, a resource that’s critically important to Valley agriculture. Moderator Kathleen Schock got an update on how the work is progressing locally from Gary Serrato, executive director of the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, Christina Beckstead, executive director of Madera County Farm Bureau, and David Orth with New Current Water and Land.