Sep 10, 2015
PNP comment: Ranchers in Scott Valley (Siskiyou County) have known for generations that flooding their fields in early spring with the plenty-of-water from streams and the river does indeed replenish groundwater and moisture to soils. — Editor Liz Bowen
Flooding farms in the winter may help replenish groundwater
September 10, 2015
California’s aquifers are shrinking as more growers pump groundwater to keep crops alive. But that fertile farmland may also provide the means for replenishing groundwater to benefit everyone in the drought-stricken state.
UC Davis researchers are encouraged by early results from tests to see if deliberately flooding farmland in winter can replenish aquifers without harming crops or affecting drinking water.
“On-farm flooding looks very promising,” said Professor Helen Dahlke, a hydrology expert with the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. “We’re pleasantly surprised by how quickly water tables have responded to on-farm flooding without damage to crops.”
Dahlke and her team are working with alfalfa growers in Siskiyou County and will test flooding on almonds in the Central Valley this winter, looking at plant physiology, infiltration rates, potential water quality concerns, costs, and other issues. They are building on previous research in the Kings River Basin where up to 75 percent of diverted floodwater percolated down to aquifers.
“We flooded pistachios, alfalfa hay, and wine grapes,” said Don Cameron, manager of Terranova Ranch along the Kings River in Fresno County. “Our wine grapes were under water for five months, which raised a few eyebrows, but they did fine. Diverting floodwater to farms can recharge groundwater and reduce the risk of downstream flooding. It’s a good situation all around.”
Saving for a sunny day
California is in chronic groundwater overdraft: There’s more water being pumped from the ground than filtering back in. In wet years, gravity helps refill aquifers as land absorbs water from rain, rivers, and snowmelt. In dry years, several water districts help that along by diverting excess surface water during storms and flood releases into infiltration basins ─ confined areas of sandy soil.
But open land dedicated to infiltration is scarce. Can some of California’s millions of acres of farmland be called into service?
There’s a lot to consider. Not all soils are particularly permeable and not all crops can tolerate extra irrigation in the winter. Some soils are especially saline, and some crops need more nitrogen than others. Researchers wonder whether flooding fertilized farmland or saline soil will leach those chemicals into the groundwater. Or, could on-farm flooding actually improve groundwater quality by diluting salts and nitrates?
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Aug 31, 2015
PNP comment: Rumors claim they didn’t spend the 2014 Water Bond monies correctly, why should we believe they will now? — Editor Liz Bowen
Former Brown administration official considers asking voters for follow-up water bond
Measure comes less than a year after Californians approved $7.5 billion water bond
It hasn’t been a year since Californians approved a $7.5 billion water bond. But with drought still ravaging the state – and Democratic-heavy turnout expected in November 2016 – a former Brown administration official is mulling asking voters to approve a follow-up measure.
Gerald Meral, a former deputy secretary of the state’s Natural Resources Agency, sent draft language for “The Water Supply Reliability and Drought Protection Act of 2016” to water agency officials, environmentalists and others in recent days.
In an email to associates over the weekend, Meral said his organization, the San Francisco-based Natural Heritage Institute, is considering sponsoring a bond on the November 2016 ballot to “fund programs which were not funded or were underfunded” in the water bond last year.
The draft language leaves the amount of the measure blank, and Meral said Sunday that he doesn’t know how big it would be.
“Not too big,” he said. “We shouldn’t get carried away.”
The follow-up bond would include funding for water recycling, water conservation, groundwater desalination and watershed management, among other measures. It would also provide money for property owners to install drought-tolerant landscaping, with extra incentives for low-income homeowners.
“The public seems pretty receptive to doing something about water,” Meral said. “Whether they still will be next year, who knows? … We’re looking at it, anyway.”
The proposal does not include additional money for storage, a priority of many Republicans, except for grants to local agencies to repair reservoirs principally used for flood control.
Before retiring from the state in 2013, Meral served as the chief steward of Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial proposal to build two tunnels to divert water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the south.
The draft measure includes language prohibiting bond money from being used for Delta conveyance facilities.
David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders
Jul 20, 2015
PNP comment: This is great news ! — Editor Liz Bowen
News from Pacific Legal Foundation
July 20, 2015
It’s a block-buster ruling for water rights and property rights, and Pacific Legal Foundation played a pivotal “behind-the-scenes” role to help make it happen.
A decision just issued by the Superior Court in Sacramento grants a preliminary injunction to four water districts that were issued curtailment (cease diversion) letters by the State Water Resources Control Board in May and June of this year. The four districts — Westside Irrigation District, Central Delta Water Agency, South Delta Water Agency, and the Woods Irrigation Company — argued that the letters deprived them of the use of their water rights in violation of the due process clause because the letters were issued without a prior hearing.
PLF is not directly involved in the case, but there’s no doubt we played a strong and powerful role in achieving this positive outcome. The trial court relied heavily on the 2014 decision in PLF’s Duarte v. Corps of Engineers case, in which the federal district court ruled that John Duarte could go to court to challenge the Corps “cease and desist” letter that ordered him to stop farming. Just like John Duarte, the water districts here have a right under the Due Process Clause to a hearing before their rights are taken away.
This state court decision is great news for California water right holders and property owners generally. It extends the Duarte holding from the single cease and desist letter individually addressed to Duarte and specifically identifying Duarte’s property, to form letters that the Water Board sent to hundreds of senior water right owners across California.
The pain of California’s drought is bad enough without regulators, acting under emergency regulations adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board, trying to pull a fast one to outright seize water rights. Drought or no drought, bureaucrats will have to answer to the rule of law. No organization is more determined to protect water rights and our constitutional liberties than Pacific Legal Foundation.
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