And the delta smelt, an endangered species of fish no bigger than an index finger, began disappearing as the massive pumps sucked up fish along with the water it was sending south. She's climbed the social ladder yet another rung, working at a program for immigrant families in the Firebaugh school system. After three years of natural drought, she says, it's ruinous. Full reservoirs and swollen rivers don't mean that much to people living in rural San Joaquin Valley, where about 1,000 people still have dry wells. They are likely to suggest building a new "peripheral" canal that would transport northern water around the delta, rather than through it, to restore its battered ecosystem. Perhaps one of the region’s greatest challenges is developing new cooperative approaches to seize these opportunities. Put simply, a livable future in California depends on clean, reliable water, which is one of the main reasons why SGMA was passed. Residents in small, low-income, predominately Latino towns regularly receive drinking water with nitrate, arsenic and other contaminants over legal health limits and struggle with old, dilapidated pipes. The Central Valley aquifer extends for about 400 miles under the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. Over 90% of the following US crops are grown in the San Joaquin Valley: cannery tomatoes, almonds & pistachios. Now, nothing," says Luis Cortez, 52. "I don't mean for a moment to suggest that those small communities on the west side aren't seeing impacts; they are. Most of these sub basins are located in the San Joaquin Valley. by Amanda Fencl, Rich Pauloo, Alvar Escriva-Bou, Hervé Guillon During the 2012-2016 drought, the state received more than 2,500 domestic well failure reports, the majority of which were in the Central Valley (DWR 2018). With so many changes underway, major questions loom about the future of the valley’s agriculture and the wider consequences for the region’s economy, society, and environment. The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region, and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply—is in a time of great change and growing water stress. Most people in the valley blame their water woes on those lawsuits and the fish. Lottery. "The land that was retired a few years ago has already salted up. The crisis drew… The good news is, we are on the verge of making some major changes on what we're going to do about it," says Jeff Mount, a water-geology researcher at UC Davis who supports the peripheral canal proposal. Borba Farms started off with about 20 milk cows and 30 acres of land in 1910, at a time when farmers who had tapped an underground aquifer were kicking off a race to cultivate. Central Valley Water Crisis Leaves Nearly 1.5 Million Without Clean Water. about 3 years ago But the expenses—and the poor quality of the underground water—would drive the business into the ground in the long term. Agriculture is a leading economic driver and the predominant water user. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act is a bill that tries to address the severe California drought.The bill would change some environmental regulations and stop or delay a project designed to restore a dried up section of the San Joaquin River (a habitat for some salmon). by Amanda Fencl, Rich Pauloo, Alvar Escriva-Bou, Hervé Guillon During the 2012-2016 drought, the state received more than 2,500 domestic well failure reports, the majority of which were in the Central Valley (DWR 2018). North of the valley, where the canal would be built, not everyone is so enthusiastic. But not all water consumers are created equally. I don't think that's where America wants to go.". Westlands just isn't getting that water. California’s San Joaquin Valley farmers grow 25 % of the Nation’s food supply. But that may be all that the Westlands district can hope for. A 1977 photo from the San Joaquin Valley shows subsidence over time as a result of groundwater pumping. The soils, the climate, the crop variability. A 1977 photo from the San Joaquin Valley shows subsidence over time as a result of groundwater pumping. "Nitrate is the most critical, the most immediate contaminant in the San Joaquin Valley," Harter says. The better bet, they argue, is an aggressive push for water-conservation standards. delta smelt, an endangered species of fish no bigger than an index finger, Democrats and Liberals Must Get Back To Economic Basics, Democrats Must Emphasize Boldness, Not Moderation. Crisis services may be requested in person or by telephone and are provided throughout the community in San Joaquin County. The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply—is in a time of great change. The authors presented their report “Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley” to a room full of valley farmers and water experts gathered at the Fresno State event on Friday. TURN YOUR WATER ON - LET THE WATER FLOW. She was born in Mendota, the daughter of a field worker who arrived there 38 years ago, worked the fields, and saved enough money to open up an auto shop. The San Joaquin Valley is the center of California’s growing drinking water crisis. As farming continued to expand and California’s population surged, water use intensified. The entire region—and California as a whole—will benefit if solutions to the valley’s problems support the economy while improving public health and environmental conditions. Mendota touts itself as the cantaloupe capital of the world, but its de facto motto is far less optimistic. The result is a cruel irony: in the region that produces more food than anywhere else in the country, food lines have become regular fixtures, drawing hundreds, sometimes thousands. Click on photo to view multimedia presentation. By the time Borba took over his family's operation in the 1970s, the valley was already supplying 25 percent of the country's food. And while Westlands has adopted some of the most water-efficient irrigation methods in the business, other farmers in the valley with senior water rights are under no pressure to conserve. The authors presented their report “Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley” to a room full of valley farmers and water experts gathered at the Fresno State event on Friday. The farm now covers 10,000 acres, and Mark Borba is only one of 600 growers in the Westlands Water District, a water-contracting group of farmers and landowners on the far west side of the valley where Mendota and other towns sit. Two droughts since 1975 have caused surface-water deliveries in the valley to be sharply curtailed, and demonstrated the valley’s vulnerability to continued land subsidence when ground-water pumpage is increased. ... people still survive on bottled water and big blue jugs in the primarily agricultural San Joaquin Valley. The Sun is the San Joaquin Valley's source for breaking news, sports, politics, and agriculture. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how deeply public health, economic security, and clean water are intertwined. Opponents, who beat back the idea in a 1982 referendum, see it as a destructive, expensive water grab by southern users. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA) requires valley farms and communities to bring their groundwater basins into balance by 2040. They have a point; according to the BDCP and the federal Bureau of Reclamation, preliminary construction-cost estimates for the two biggest projects under consideration are $13 billion, a price tag California is hardly in a position to bear in its present state. Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act. The region has a greater abundance of productive farmland than local water supplies for irrigation. The San Joaquin Valley in California has the highest rates of drinking water contamination and the highest amount of public water systems with maximum contaminant level violations in the state. In the 20th century, the federal Central Valley Project and State Water Project (about 30 percent of SWP water is used for irrigation) helped deliver water to the valley. The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply—is facing growing water stress and a number of related environmental and public health problems. Here we go again. That towns like Mendota even exist reflects the extraordinary ambition that built the American West. Federal officials slashed the district's allocation to zero at the beginning of the season; only after a furious lobbying campaign did they succeed in bumping it up to 10 percent of the water deliveries stipulated in their contract. This summer, the town's only bank announced it was shutting down because of insufficient deposits. TURN YOUR WATER ON - LET THE WATER FLOW. organizing, education and advocacy in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The Sun is the San Joaquin Valley's source for breaking news, sports, politics, and agriculture. Even after three years of drought, the Central Valley Project (CVP) is still making half of its water deliveries to farms in the valley. Latecomers got junior rights, meaning they'd be the first to get cut in a dry. The result is a patchwork valley, where a Westlands farmer like Mark Borba is forced to fallow land while his neighbor has excess water that he can sell at a hefty profit. Instead, starting in 2000, Westlands and the Bureau of Reclamation negotiated a deal to permanently retire from farming 100,000 acres of land in the district in return for compensation from the federal government. Today, it is a green expanse of agricultural empires. EPA is working with other agencies and local communities to address the unique environmental challenges in the valley, including some of the nation’s worst air quality, high rates of childhood asthma, and contaminated drinking water. That figure will likely get worse once the water agencies begin implementing new rules this summer designed to protect other fish such as sturgeon, salmon, and steelhead trout. The San Joaquin Valley’s water crisis threatens the economic, social, and environmental health of the entire region; it is both unprecedented and continues to worsen. Sponsorships, Informing and improving public policy through independent, objective, nonpartisan research, All Contents © Public Policy Institute of California 2020 |, Water Stress and a Changing San Joaquin Valley. The drought did kickstart a line of funding in 2014 via Proposition 1 , which allocated $7.5 billion for water projects, including $260 million specifically for drinking water. Rather, he says, farm employment this year has actually gone up, making it one of the few success stories in a region pummeled by the mortgage crisis. Global Change Research Program, the state's water resources agency, and researchers at the University of California, Davis all point to the same trend: the Sierra snowcaps that supply the state's water are disappearing. Put simply, a livable future in California depends on clean, reliable water, which is one of the main reasons why SGMA was passed. The Farmers have water rights to that water. In the meantime, some economic planners are eyeing the area as a potential clean energy source where almond farms could be transformed into solar farms. To keep the town alive, Mendota's leaders have, in their own way, started to think about alternatives to agriculture. The state agency’s goal is to bring at least 21 systems in the valley into compliance each year for the next three years. This year, Westlands is down to nearly nothing, and its farmers are livid. Chavarria recalls a time when she could be proud of Mendota; when people filled the streets, when her father would drive her around in trucks filled with tomatoes from the surrounding fields, when musical acts would pass through town, and when the melon-capital claim rang true. FIREBAUGH — With California entrenched in drought, San Joaquin Valley almond farmers are letting orchards dry up and in some cases making the tough call to have their trees torn out of the ground, leaving behind empty fields. The law identifies 127 medium- or high-priority basins that acco… The drought did kickstart a line of funding in 2014 via Proposition 1 , which allocated $7.5 billion for water projects, including $260 million specifically for drinking water. Their water sits underground in the nation's second-largest groundwater aquifer, which was mined and dramatically drawn down by farmers protecting the valley's $40 billion-a-year agriculture industry. All rights belong to Devin Nunes. In the San Joaquin Valley, 95% of communities rely on groundwater as their main drinking water source. Central Valley agriculture faces a looming existential water crisis from the interlocking problems of drought, climate change, and falling underground water tables. Officials place California's San Joaquin Valley under strict stay-at-home order due to shortage ... As crisis deepens, hundreds of hotel rooms reserved for COVID-19 response go unused by San … Included in our submittal, as referenced, is an evolving participant list of organizations and individuals throughout the region that are To continue reading login or create an account. The San Joaquin Valley is the fastest growing region in the state, and faces a wide range of challenges across its large expanse, from a drinking and groundwater crisis, destruction of working lands by sprawling developments, severe air pollution and extreme poverty alongside the ever-growing challenges faced by a high percentage of undocumented workers. Here is a look inside the fragile medical system, where exhausted staff, working long hours seven days a week, rarely take off their protective gear because the entire area is the “dirty zone.” A century ago, much of the San Joaquin Valley was an undeveloped dust bowl, its few small farming communities clustered around natural water sources. Irrigation began in the San Joaquin Valley in the 1870s. Why 'thousands' of cows are dying, sparking crisis in central San Joaquin Valley By Robert Rodriguez, The Fresno Bee 8/21/2020 Fauci worries Thanksgiving … In most years since the mid-1980s, groundwater has been used faster than it is being replenished (“groundwater overdraft”). Farms must also respond to a variety of related resource and environmental challenges. The causation and effects of the central valley water crisis. Yet others, like the University of the Pacific's Jeffrey Michael, who does business forecasting, note that the issues facing Westlands are hardly valley-wide problems. It was complicated and costly, but for a long time, the system worked. The BDCP has missed benchmarks, but there's evidence the governor's office is behind the idea. Since then, Westlands has received on average about half as much water as the 1.2 million acre-feet per year it ordered up in its contract, forcing farmers to rely on expensive pumps that suck up water from the aquefier and water transfers from their better-connected competitors to the east. 3964, the Sacramento–San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act bill was approved on February 5, 2014 by The House of Representatives enacting a comprehensive solution to the drought crisis plaguing California and has … The Farmers have water rights to that water. Making that explosive growth possible is access to water delivered through an increasingly byzantine system centered on the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, a thousand-square-mile web of channels, islands, and levees where the two rivers meet before flowing into the San Francisco Bay. In a normal year, such a hit is difficult, says Sarah Woolf, a Westlands District spokeswoman. The surface water is diverted principally from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the San Joaquin, Kings, Kern and Feather Rivers. The unemployment rate in this 10,000-person town was an unfathomable 38 percent in July (including documented and undocumented workers). Valley groundwater also fuels the operations of large and small farms and sustains a hub of world-class biodiversity. Led by Congressmen David G. Valadao (CA-21), Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), and Devin Nunes (CA-22), H.R. "So, yes, the valley's farm economy itself is probably going to shrink some. "So I have a hard time saying, for lack of the will, that we should neuter the most productive agricultural resource in the world. A century ago, much of the San Joaquin Valley was an undeveloped dust bowl, its few small farming communities clustered around natural water sources. While AGUA is a regional, grassroots coalition of impacted community residents, CWLN is composed of elected officials at water decision-making agencies. The San Joaquin Valley is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions and home to four million Californians. The San Joaquin Valley is particularly hard hit by nitrate: 63 percent of the state's public water systems that report violations of health standards for the contaminant in 2015 were in the Valley. Full reservoirs and swollen rivers don't mean that much to people living in rural San Joaquin Valley, where about 1,000 people still have dry wells. Large parts of the valley have become dependent on unsustainable pumping of groundwater. A crisis is an event or situation that results in a person's need for immediate mental health intervention. Officials place California's San Joaquin Valley under strict stay-at-home order due to shortage ... As crisis deepens, hundreds of hotel rooms reserved for COVID-19 response go unused by San … Two droughts since 1975 have caused surface-water deliveries in the valley to be sharply curtailed, and demonstrated the valley’s vulnerability to continued land subsidence when ground-water pumpage is increased. Those plans, too, are preliminary. There were jobs eight months, 10 months out of the year. Lawsuits over the fish filed by environmental groups and water contractors multiplied, and court-imposed restrictions and regulations began siphoning off more and more of the 6 million acre-feet of water exported through the river basin each year. Several broad strategies can help address the valley’s water imbalance and related problems: Valley farmers and residents have a history of creatively adapting to changing conditions. Grants But this year, many of those fields are lying fallow, and the men at Los Kiki are out of work. There's also the crushing confluence of political negligence, drought, and a century's worth of unbridled growth. In the San Joaquin Valley, nearly 80 percent of disadvantaged communities without potable water are less than one mile away from other communities with safe drinking water… Water is a complex, crucial topic for our valley and we strive to explain water topics in an engaging, understandable way. On February 23, 2014, in an Associated Press article by Scott Smith we learned that …. ... Dry year spells light initial water allocation for Valley farmers. Over the past three decades, overdraft has averaged nearly 2 million acre-feet per year, or 13 percent of net water use. Notable issues include nitrate contamination of groundwater—a special challenge in poor, rural communities—as well as accumulating salinity in soils, local air pollution, and the broad decline in aquatic, wetland, and terrestrial ecosystems. Nearly all those who have lost their jobs are farm workers, who often straddle the poverty line even in boom times. Here is a look inside the fragile medical system, where exhausted staff, working long hours seven days a week, rarely take off their protective gear because the entire area is the “dirty zone.” A year ago, they would have been out planting and pruning in the vast fields of grapes, tomatoes, onions, and nut trees that fan out from the city limits. This left thousands of people without a reliable source of drinking water for months and, in some cases, years. They're seeing the impact of drought, and those impacts are real and they're hard." ... people still survive on bottled water and big blue jugs in the primarily agricultural San Joaquin Valley. Central Valley Water Crisis Leaves Nearly 1.5 Million Without Clean Water. It is middle of a Wednesday afternoon. The latest drought underscored valley agriculture’s vulnerability to water scarcity and long-term declines in groundwater reserves. "No drought comes to you with a label that says, 'Brought to you by climate change,' " says Nelson. Community Power. Nowhere in California is the hospital crisis from COVID-19 worse than in the San Joaquin Valley, where intensive care bed capacity hit 0% this weekend. Over the last three decades, however, the valley's explosive growth has caused rivers to run dry, dead fish to accumulate near the water pumps, and chronic water shortages. Almond Farmers Are Uprooting Crops Prematurely Due To Skyrocketing Water Costs. "Before, it was good. Water & Drought. The Central Valley aquifer extends for about 400 miles under the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. Commentary: Cooperation Needed on San Joaquin Valley Water, Video: Water Stress in San Joaquin Valley, Donate Now For over 100 years, California has drained San Joaquin Valley rivers and Nowhere in California is the hospital crisis from COVID-19 worse than in the San Joaquin Valley, where intensive care bed capacity hit 0% this weekend. More than 50% of them – 140 systems – were in the San Joaquin Valley. This left thousands of people without a reliable source of drinking water for months and, in some cases, years. ... Region’s first chaplain residency program starts during coronavirus crisis Community Medical Centers 1276. That might be just the beginning; federal agencies estimate the number should be two to four times that amount. SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Clean Water Plan for Long-Suffering San Joaquin Valley Towns Derailed July 20, 2017 T is for Toxic: Danger Lurking in California School Drinking Fountains July 5, 2017 Systemic Failure: Why 1 Million Californians Lack Safe Drinking Water July 5, 2017 Living in California’s San Joaquin Valley May Harm Your Health July 5, 2017 As farming continued to expand and California’s population surged, water use intensified. Westlands, which has a contract for water delivery with the federal government, is the most junior of the bunch. "It's just slowly dying, and we can't let that happen. To at least a few teams of researchers, ending the conversation with a doomsday prediction for agriculture on the west side of the valley is insufficient. Special Report: Life in the nation’s economic ground zero. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act is a bill that tries to address the severe California drought.The bill would change some environmental regulations and stop or delay a project designed to restore a dried up section of the San Joaquin River (a habitat for some salmon). "There's a myth in the valley about the delta smelt, and it's really a tragedy," he says. Still, Chavarria is not ready to give up on Mendota just yet. "No water, no work" is the refrain repeated everywhere here in the western reaches of the San Joaquin Valley. The levees near the bay are old, prompting worries that a failure, perhaps following an earthquake, could cause salt water from the bay to rush into the delta, crippling the water supply for the entire state. ... Dry year spells light initial water allocation for Valley farmers. We build community power by partnering directly with impacted residents in the San Joaquin Valley, uniting through the AGUA Coalition (Asociación de Gente Unida por el Agua) and the Community Water Leaders Network (CWLN). Much of the media and many politicians blame the San Joaquin Valley's water shortage on drought, but that is merely an aggravating factor. All of this leaves the valley's west side caught in a painful limbo until California answers big questions about where and how it wants to make use of its resources. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act promotes water policies that facilitate the delivery of California’s abundant supply of water, as well as support the implementation of an economically feasible and environmentally sustainable river restoration on the San Joaquin River. Why 'thousands' of cows are dying, sparking crisis in central San Joaquin Valley By Robert Rodriguez, The Fresno Bee 8/21/2020 Fauci worries Thanksgiving … The Valley economy depends on the farming industry and farmers depend on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water. It was one of the most ambitious water systems ever built, and the San Joaquin Valley became, in the words of historian Kevin Starr, "the most productive unnatural environment on Earth.". The valley is home to a $20 billion crop industry; the San Joaquin region alone produces more in farm sales than any other individual state in the country. Legislative changes are required if the San Joaquin Valley is to have long-term, sustainable solutions to their drinking water crisis. A drainage system could address the problem, but, again, nobody seems to want to pay for one. "It took a century of bad decisions to get us here. As productive as the farms in the district have been, bad drainage underneath means the soil fills up with salt, boron, selenium, and other minerals—toxins that make plants shrivel just as quickly as a drought. I was watching Sean Hannity tonight (9/17/2009), and have been following loosely the situation in the San Joaquin Valley of California with their water crisis over the small Delta Smelt minnow and its endangered species listing. Business ... the San Joaquin Valley region of 7 million people had 0.7% as of Thursday. Cortez says he has worked just three days all year. “Nitrate is the most critical, the most immediate contaminant in the San Joaquin Valley,” Harter says. Is a new "normal" required? It looks like it snowed." Getting to the Roots of California’s Drinking Water Crisis. Irrigation began in the San Joaquin Valley in the 1870s. If that's the case, farmers should expect droughts more frequently, and Westlands may have to come around to the notion that they will never receive all the water that their contracts call for. Experts on three separate panels told the crowd that farmers, environmentalists and suppliers will have to team up to tackle the new groundwater regulations. Nelson contends that the fish aren't the problem; it's the way the system is set up. To farmers like Borba, that's the kind of investment worth making. Business ... the San Joaquin Valley region of 7 million people had 0.7% as of Thursday. Most eerily, around the outskirts of town, billboards and flags advertise the empty, unfinished development of single-family homes with bright green lawns, constant reminders that, on more than one front, foresight has been hard to come by in the valley. The San Joaquin Valley is particularly hard hit by nitrate: 63 percent of the state’s public water systems that report violations of health standards for the contaminant in 2015 were in the Valley. The law tries to address six major "sins": water table decline, degraded water quality, land subsidence, surface water depletion, reduction in groundwater storage and seawater intrusion. Mayor Robert Silva says the best bet is the federal prison under construction on the outskirts of town, a project he courted, thinking it will spark an economic revival as hotels and restaurants spring up to accommodate prison visitors.As the town waits to see if Silva's development predictions come true, residents face a crushing tide. See why nearly a quarter of a million subscribers begin their day with the Starting 5. California legislators stepped up to try to curb groundwater use, passing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, the state's first attempt at regulating groundwater use. The crisis drew… This is my heritage," she says. "But in the American Southwest and in California, we should be prepared for a drier future.". Experts on three separate panels told the crowd that farmers, environmentalists and suppliers will have to team up to tackle the new groundwater regulations. "There's a reason some of the land in Westlands was the last land in California to be irrigated," says Nelson, the NRDC analyst. From there, giant dams and pumps suck the water southward through veinlike aqueducts to 25 million people and more than 5 million acres of farmland. Giving Circles Like the farmers and engineers who, a century ago, looked at the desert and imagined farms, these teams, which pull together researchers at federal and state agencies, California universities, and think tanks into a planning group called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), say a good plan and some new hardware is all the valley needs to conquer its water challenge. Tulare County, where 65 percent of residents identify as Latino or Hispanic, is at the center of San Joaquin Valley’s drinking water crisis. Mark Borba, 59, has a big stake in that business, just as his grandparents did in the valley's development. "I've traveled all over the world—Egypt, Australia, Brazil, China—and I've never seen an agricultural resource like we have in the San Joaquin Valley. 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Water user averaged nearly 2 million acre-feet per year, many of those fields are lying fallow and. Mendota touts itself as the public schools lose students, officials worry funding cuts follow. Agricultural empires the year see it as a result of groundwater the interlocking problems of,. Including documented and undocumented workers ) water—would drive the business into the ground in the San Joaquin in. Westlands would reap the benefits ( CA-21 ), Kevin McCarthy ( CA-23 ), Kevin McCarthy ( CA-23,... Its de facto motto is far less optimistic water and land to water scarcity long-term! Their jobs are farm workers, who beat back the idea might be building steam uglier question: it... Other critics, like Nelson, the system is set up immigrant families the. Children out alone, and it may be an inevitable thing. `` the fish vs. argument. The poverty line even in boom times being replenished ( “ groundwater overdraft ” ) says Sarah,... Wonder if normalcy will ever return, planners are forced to consider far. “ groundwater overdraft ” ) Valley 's source for breaking news, sports, politics and...