Advocating for Water
California is experiencing an unprecedented drought. In the San Joaquin Valley, citrus growers have been impacted most by water cutbacks from the Federal Central Valley Project, which is responsible for delivering surface water to the East side of California’s Central Valley. In 2014, the Central Valley Project delivered zero percent of its contracted allocation for the first time in history. In 2015, growers again received zero allocation.
Historically, Central Valley citrus growers have relied on water from three sources – underground aquifers, rain, and snow pack delivered by the Central Valley Project. In recent years, rain and snow have been nonexistent, reservoirs are depleting, and groundwater supplies are strained.
The cost of water has skyrocketed, forcing some growers to bulldoze acreage or sell to investment companies. California Citrus Mutual estimates that approximately 20,000 acres of citrus have been removed as a result of the drought and poor water policy.
It is critical for the sustainability of the citrus industry that California invests in new water storage.
A Water Bond for Storage
Surface water projects are critical to the sustainability and resiliency of California’s water supply. In 2014, California voters overwhelming passed Proposition 1, which makes funding available to improve California’s aging water infrastructure. Chapter 8 of the Water Bond dedicates $2.7 billion to the construction of surface water projects.
The California Water Commission is responsible for determining which projects are eligible for funding. The Commission is expected to release the final rules for funding in December 2016 and begin selecting projects for funding in 2018.
Temperance Flat Dam and Sites Reservoir
CCM worked tirelessly to get a water bond passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Brown that included adequate funding for surface water storage. The general understanding throughout the negotiations was that surface storage funding would go toward the construction of Temperance Flat Dam north of Millerton Reservoir on the San Joaquin River and toward Sites Reservoir north of Shasta Dam.
Temperance Flat will have considerable benefits to citrus growers in the San Joaquin Valley who receive surface water from the Central Valley Project. Approximately 58% of U.S. fresh citrus grown by farmers in the Friant service area received zero surface water allocation from the Central Valley Project for the last two years. Temperance Flat will provide increased storage potential of up to 1.2 million acre-feet.
Sites Reservoir will indirectly benefit the Central Valley Project by potentially increasing supply to the State Water Project, thereby reducing draw out of the Friant-Kern Canal by Exchange Contractors.
In 2014, Governor Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, effectively regulating groundwater use for the first time in California history.