Over irrigation in a drought
“As you know, California is on the verge of disaster.. we are facing catastrophic water supply shortages – in other words, we are experiencing a regulatory drought.” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, Valley Voice, Sept. 15, 2016.
Location: VISALIA, CA 93290
Industry: Leadership PACs; Republican leadership PAC
Treasurer: SOUZA, TONY
FEC Committee ID: C00398750
See details of Nunes' "leadership" PAC at https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00398750
Western Farm Press
Over-irrigation can cause walnut tree damage during drought
It may be difficult to think of over-irrigation as a likely culprit for damage to walnut trees during a drought. But that’s exactly what two University of California (UC) researchers believe occurred in some Tulare County walnut orchards.
Not only did they find foliar chlorosis they blame on over-irrigation in some walnut blocks in the county in late May and early June. They also came across foliar scorch in August believed caused by standing water that reflected extreme heat, much as heat reflected from a lake can give you a sunburned face despite you wearing a broad-brimmed hat.
The research was conducted by Elizabeth Fichtner, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Tulare County, and Bruce Lampinen, UCCE specialist with UC Davis.
Fichtner conducted field observations while visiting growers, snapped pictures of injured trees, and sent the photos to Lampinen. Her suspicions were validated by Lampinen who is conducting research on irrigation management.
Fichtner said the foliar chlorosis she saw was identical to symptomology in research blocks that are maintained wetter than baseline. In research plots, foliar chlorosis occurs within just days of an excessive irrigation event.
The yellowing associated with overwatering affects all leaves on a shoot down to the nuts, Fichtner said. Newly emerging leaves may initially appear yellow; however, they gradually turn to green three or four leaves back from the growing tip.
Over-irrigated walnut trees in research plots also have a tendency to drop one of two nut doubles, resulting in lower overall nut retention in the canopy.
When this situation occurs, Fichtner said, you can grasp a number of pairs of double nuts on the tree and one of each pair growing close together will often come loose with almost no force. These nuts will exhibit blackening while still on the tree and squirt water vigorously when cut.
Anaerobic conditions in the root zone may cause root rot which may lead to overall tree decline and mortality, Fichtner said, explaining that when the porous spaces in soil are filled with water then less air can get to tree roots.
She said over-irrigation of walnuts is common in young blocks where growers cultivate an annual crop in tree row middles to maintain an economic return on the land in advance of tree maturation and productivity. Walnuts generally start bearing at fourth leaf.
Fichtner has seen annual crops grown between rows of trees including corn and eggplant. The challenge is these annuals likely require more water than the trees.
Over-watering to keep the annual crop thriving can affect the future economic productivity of the orchard. Similarly, Fichtner said, replants are often subject to over-irrigation because irrigation events are designed to meet the needs of the more mature trees.
The root rot and tree decline resulting from over-watering is similar to the symptoms of root rot caused by Phytophthora. But Fichtner said isolation of these pathogens from the roots of overwatered trees is rare, suggesting that over-watering is the primary cause of decline.
Even if there is no annual crop in the orchard, she said irrigation events may be timed around factors other than tree physiology. For example, many growers in Tulare County were irrigating walnut orchards approximately a week in advance of the anticipated codling moth flight around May 30.
These irrigations were timed to allow for the orchard floor to dry to bring in a spray rig.
“In some orchards, irrigation events timed around pest management operations may be ill-timed with respect to tree water needs,” Fichtner said. “Additionally, some irrigation districts in Tulare County had a release of Class 1 surface water in mid-May 2016.
“The timing of surface water availability and anticipated codling moth flight activity might have contributed to the over-irrigation and subsequent chlorosis in several Tulare County walnut blocks. Finally, over irrigation symptoms can occur when there is a period of hot weather with high rates of irrigation followed by a cool cloudy period.”
Fichtner recommends using a pressure chamber, also termed a “pressure bomb,” to measure stem water potential, which allows direct measurement of tree water stress and assists with irrigation management.
Most irrigation managers measure stem water potential prior to an irrigation and one to two days after an irrigation event. To reduce variability and achieve consistency in readings, measurements should be made on bagged interior branches in the lower canopy during the afternoon, Fichtner said.
To maximize shoot growth and allow for nut sizing, she said readings should be maintained from -4.0 to -6.0 bars (low-to-mild stress) from leaf-out until mid-June. To control vigor without adverse effect on kernel development or fruitfulness in the successive season, trees may be maintained at -6.0 to -8.0 bars (mild-to-moderate stress).
For a comprehensive understanding of the use of the pressure chamber for measuring SWP in walnut, download the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources article entitled “Using the Pressure Chamber for Irrigation Management in Walnut, Almond, and Prune” at http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8503.pdf.
The article was composed by UC farm advisors Allan Fulton, Joe Grant, Richard Buchner, and Joe Connell. It provides background on the use of the pressure chamber and interpretation of SWP data.
Congressman Nunes Hosts Water Forum in Tulare Catherine Doe
It was standing room only during Congressman Devin Nunes’ Water Forum August 31 at the International Agri-Center. More than 400 people sat at attention while Nunes outlined a grim future for agriculture if Central Valley legislators don’t act together to change federal laws affecting the California water conveyance system.
Nunes told the crowd on several occasions, “Hold your local representatives and legislators accountable. Saying they only support increased water storage is a cop out.”
Nunes explained that three main laws are preventing the Valley farmers from getting their allotted water from the Central Valley Project (CVP) and State Water Project (SWP). Those three laws are the Endangered Species Act, the San Joaquin River Settlement and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.
The CVP and the SWP make up California’s water infrastructure that conveys water from the Sacramento Bay Delta to the Central Valley and Los Angeles. Millerton Lake and the Friant Kern Canal are also part of the Central Valley Project .
Congressman Nunes is a staunch supporter of building Temperance Flat Dam, but added that without modifications to the San Joaquin River Settlement the dam won’t produce one drop of water for Valley farmers. The extra stored water will be used to revive the river and reintroduce a population of salmon that was abundant in the river before Friant Dam was built.
Exacerbating the farmers’ situation is the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) that was passed in 2014. The goal of SGMA is for farmers to only pump the amount of water that can be replaced. If the irrigation districts and cities of the eight sub-basins of the San Joaquin Valley do not have a plan by 2020 on how they are going to achieve sustainability, the state might take over all groundwater pumping. Even though the Department of Water Resources estimates that the Central Valley’s ground water is over drafted by 1.5 – 2 million acre-feet, the Valley is told it has to achieve sustainability by 2040.
The catch-22 is, if farmers do not get their allocated surface water from the CVP and SWP, they have to pump groundwater to keep their crops alive–which creates more overdraft. The reliability of surface water is key to ground water sustainability. Fortunately, SGMA recognizes the central role of surface water in each sub basin’s plan to achieve ground water sustainability. David Orth, of North Friant Alliance, implored the crowd to keep the conversation focused on that concept.
Nunes warned the audience, “As you know, California is on the verge of disaster. Our economy depends on the ability to move water from the state’s northern reaches to the south via the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. This infrastructure serves more than three million acres of farmland and over 25 million people. However, due to a lack of political leadership, the state is not making the investments needed to keep these projects fully operational.
Furthermore, extreme environmental regulations have severely restricted our water supply under the Endangered Species Act. Consequently, we are facing catastrophic water supply shortages – in other words, we are experiencing a regulatory drought.”
Nunes’ solution is to change the three federal laws aforementioned and to increase water storage in Shasta Dam, expand San Luis and Los Vaqueros Reservoirs and build Temperance and Sites Dams. He and Congressman David Valadao, who was part of the panel fielding questions after the forum, have introduced water bills in congress to fix California’s water problems, but their bills never get past house and senate negotiations.
Though both congressmen acknowledge the drought, Nunes says that California’s water infrastructure was built to withstand a five-year drought, and that what we are experiencing now is what he refers to as a “Drought by Design.”
Nunes believes that the five-county region including Madera, Fresno, Kings, Kern, and Tulare need to have a united agenda to avoid further idling of farmland. “All local agricultural groups and water districts should require elected officials to pledge their support for these core policies:
Reform the ESA through federal legislation to return pumping of Sacramento Bay Delta water to historic pre-1992 levels. Reform the CVPIA through federal legislation to restore 1.4 Million acre -feet of water that is now going to the environment or flushed out to the ocean, and fix the San Joaquin River Settlement through federal legislation to restore additional confiscated water taken to revive the San Joaquin River.”
Nunes says that if these steps were taken it would allow farming on all productive land and bring water tables into balance, securing 2.5 million acre feet of water.
Because of the “Drought by Design” 100,000 acres have already been idled in the Westland Water District. Nunes says that an additional one million acres of farmland will be retired in the five-county region if the federal water laws are not changed. That translates into one third of the current farmland in the five-county region out of production.
“If you are not for reforming water laws you are for idling farm land,” declared Nunes.
After the presentation by Nunes, and a presentation by David Orth on SGMA, a panel of six water experts gave a short presentation and answered the crowds’ questions.
Nunes said that, “We only have 10% of the states’ population and if we don’t stand up for ourselves then no one else will. You have to get your message out.”
Cole Upton, the only farmer on the panel who represented farmers in the San Joaquin River Settlement in 2006 said, “We need other people to speak up. Everyone is tired of hearing from the same people.”
Another question aimed at the panel was, “What will be the first crops to go?”
Nunes said that depends on what the farmer is growing and the market. Upton said that the first crops to go will be the row crops and the water will be saved for the permanent trees. He warned that one arm of the government is trying to control the surface water and now they want to control the ground water.
“We need to control our own destiny as much as possible and not hand over control to the state. Upton said that we are in a war and we have been in a war for 25 years. Environmentalists are after us and “generations of families are moving out of the area.”
Water flows in Fresno, Visalia for recharge
First time in two years that Friant contractors have received San Joaquin River water
More will flow due to allocation from Bureau of Reclamation
Millerton Lake water put into canals to make room for melting snow
For the first time in more than two years, water is flowing inside the Friant-Kern and Madera canals for groundwater recharge and farm irrigation.
But the shimmering liquid that is being shunted from the canals into local ditches does not signal an end to the California drought.
“We’re a long way from the drought being over,” said Gary Serrato, general manager of Fresno Irrigation District. “The snowpack is not even at average. We’re at 75 to 80 percent of average snowpack.”
San Joaquin River water became available to eastside water contractors because the federal Bureau of Reclamation has been releasing water from Millerton Lake into the canals to make room for spring snowmelt.
The flows began mid-March – in bureau parlance, the delivery is composed of 100,000 acre-feet of Class 2 water and 85,000 acre-feet of unreleased restoration flows – and will end by mid-May.
But it’s not the end of San Joaquin River water in local waterways this season.
After two years of no water from the river, the Central Valley Project’s Friant Division contractors are being promised 40 percent of contract amounts, so water will continue to flow for at least a while.
Water managers hope for a boost to the allocation and are closely watching the San Joaquin Delta to see whether the exchange contractors on the lower San Joaquin River will get their Delta water. That would allow eastside farmers and others to get more river water than expected.
“Although the amount of water being stored behind the dam would support a much larger Class 1 allocation, the bureau has chosen to hold off on a larger allocation until it is clear that the exchange contractors can be fully supplied with Delta water,” said Thomas Esqueda, Fresno director of public utilities.
While that drama plays out, water contractors, including Fresno Irrigation District and the city of Fresno, have been putting the early flows to use.
Together, Fresno Irrigation District and the city are receiving 17,400 acre-feet of water, the district said. (That’s enough to fill 174 football fields to a depth of about one foot each.)
Some of the water is going to Fresno’s groundwater recharge basins and water treatment plant, and the rest to farmers for irrigation.
It’s the first time since February 2014 that more than a tiny amount of San Joaquin River water has been sent to Friant contractors, said Steve Ottemoeller, water resources manager for the Friant Water Authority.
“That’s a welcome change from the last two years,” he said.
In Visalia, 500 acre-feet of Friant-Kern water is being run in Packwood Creek, which has not had water for five years.
Tulare Irrigation District gave the water to Visalia for its groundwater-recharge efforts under a city-irrigation district exchange agreement. The run started Thursday and ends Wednesday.
“We get it that we have to recharge our groundwater,” Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen said.
Starting next year, water being discharged from the city’s wastewater treatment plant that is near drinking-water quality will be given to Tulare Irrigation District for crop irrigation and groundwater recharge, and in turn the district will give water from the Friant-Kern canal to Visalia to use for recharge.
To get the water into the ground, the city and Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District built four check structures on Packwood Creek, upgraded a fifth and expanded a recharge pond.
The project was paid for by a groundwater fee on water bills in Visalia and a grant Kaweah Delta obtained.
Meanwhile, Lower Tule River Irrigation District west of Porterville just finished a 30,000- to 40,000-acre-feet run of Friant-Kern water, general manager Dan Vink said.
“It is sweet” that some of the water came from the unreleased restoration flows, he said. “But we still need the 100 percent allocation.”
Rains Restore Flows to the San Joaquin River, Benefiting Fish, Communities and Farmers
Monty Schmitt - Alum
For two years, the San Joaquin River has received no water due to the drought. But this week, water releases resumed, reviving the parched river. This is good news for communities that live near the river and use it for fishing and recreation. It's also good for fish and wildlife, which depend on the river for their survival. And finally, it's good for farmers, who will reap the benefits downstream.
Thanks to rains this past year, the Bureau of Reclamation provided an initial allocation of2,380 acre-feet for the month of February to the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. While this initial amount (equal to less than 1% of the average of the total projected runoff for this spring) is a small fraction of what the river is entitled to in an average year, it will help revive the river and its fisheries while also providing water supply benefits to farmers downstream.
Restoring a Living River
The Restoration Program began with a small initial release of 80 cfs (cubic feet per second) that will continue over the next two weeks. These flows will advance efforts to restore a healthy San Joaquin River by reviving more than 20 miles of dry riverbed. The water will improve habitat conditions for fish and wildlife and support efforts to assist offspring from935 Chinook Salmon adults that were released upstream last fall to complete their migration downstream to the sea. The flows will not only provide new stretches of river for fish to use but also for boaters and fishermen looking to enjoy recreational opportunities in the lower river.
Water for the River and the Valley
This year, the San Joaquin Valley has received the most rain it has seen since the drought began four years ago. Last week, the California Department of Water Resources forecast estimated the average runoff from the upper river would produce about 1.11 million acre-feet, which is about 88% of normal. While this is good news, it still falls short of hopes and expectations that the current El NiÃ±o weather pattern would erase the effects of the drought.
The truth is that it will take more than time and rainfall to address drought impacts - it will take changing how we manage water in the region. Some negative consequences, like ground subsidence due to excessive local groundwater pumping, are permanent. However, there are steps we can take to improve water management. And restoring the river is one of them.
Virtually all of the water released this month will infiltrate into the riverbed and help recharge depleted groundwater aquifers in the area. This is just one of the ways the Restoration Program is benefiting agricultural water supplies in the region.
Water Supply Benefits of River Restoration Program
Since river restoration flow releases first began in 2009, more than 38% (286,000 acre-feet) of the water has been recaptured downstream for reuse by the Friant Water Districts. Another 40% of the water released to benefits to fish and wildlife (about 300,000 acre-feet) infiltrated into the riverbed, recharging groundwater aquifers for nearby farms and communities. In addition, the Restoration Program has further benefited agricultural water supplies by providing over 651,000 acre-feet of water in previously wet years at significantly reduced prices to encourage increased groundwater banking in the region.
To further promote storing water underground for use during future dry years, theRestoration Program is also helping to create groundwater recharge projects like the one currently under construction in Tulare County, which received $1.9 million dollars in funding. And the Restoration Program has three more similar projects already in development. These and other efforts are part of the Program's water management efforts to reduce or avoid water supply impacts to Friant farmers.
A Living River Provides Valuable Information
During these initial releases the Restoration Program will collect information to improve future designs for water supply and restoration projects, as well as projects to protect agricultural lands along the river. Historically, the lower 60 miles of the restoration area was a matrix of wetland and riparian forests with a naturally high groundwater table. When the river was dried up after the construction of Friant Dam in the 1940s, farmers were able to drain fields and plant valuable crops. In order to protect fields from potential impacts from rewetting the river, the Restoration Program has already spent more than $50 million dollars on projects and other improvements. Slowly increasing the amount of water that is released into the river will provide information to further advance projects to protect downstream farmers from floods and high groundwater.
The San Joaquin River Restoration Program is the result of a 2006 settlement agreement between the federal government, Friant Water Authority and NRDC, representing a coalition of fishing and environmental groups to restore California's second largest river. As the Program enters its ninth year, it is poised to achieve critical milestones towards restoring a living river. The 2015 updated program management plan provides a clear and achievable roadmap for the restoration of flows and salmon to the river while also making water supply and flood protection improvements to support the region's agricultural economy.
Family rejoices at ‘regular’ water flowing from the tap
EAST PORTERVILLE --The Ramirez family turned on a faucet Friday, and for the first time in three years in the midst of the California drought, experienced an everyday occurrence: hassle-free running water.
As state officials and supporters clapped and cheered, the Ramirezes filled pitchers with clear, cool water and smiled broadly.
“We know we’re going to have water from here on,” said Guillermina Ramirez, speaking in Spanish.
Theirs is the first home to be connected to a Porterville city water main that runs under the street they live on, under a state program bringing drought relief to beleaguered residents of East Porterville whose wells went dry in the drought.
The state Department of Water Resources is paying for the hookup program to as many as 1,800 homes.
Homeowner Leonicio Ramriez is a farm laborer. He said three fruit trees died at his home for lack of water in the drought.
Three years ago, the well went dry and water stopped flowing at the Ramirez home. At least once a week for two years, he would haul water in jugs to the home.
“It was very stressful,” he said. “To shower, I would heat water on the stove and take it to the bathtub and pour it on me.”
A year ago, the family got a front yard water tank, which has become something of a symbol of the drought. It is hooked up to the home plumbing.
The tank brought a measure of normalcy, but it was imperative to use water sparingly, as the tank was partially filled once a week, said Tania Ramirez, 20, a student at Fresno State.
“Today, we’re finally going to take comfortable showers and do things normally like everyone else,” Tania said.
Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, was among several city and state officials and nonprofit agency representatives who came to the Ramirez home to see the water tap turned on for the first time and to shovel dirt onto the water line laid Thursday.
Many homes in East Porterville and the central San Joaquin Valley have been without reliable water for too long, Mathis said.
“I haven’t seen stuff this bad since I was in Iraq,” he said. Mathis is a former Army National Guard sergeant who was injured in Iraq in 2008 when a roadside bomb exploded as his unit went by.
Multiple meetings with state officials produced the effort to hook up city water to East Porterville, he said.
Under the program, property owners must agree to be annexed into the city someday. The state will pay the hookups costs, estimated at about $5,000 per home, according to the nonprofit group Self-Help Enterprises, which is involved in the contracts to get the hookups installed.
For decades, an existing water main went from the city to parts of East Porterville, serving several homes there. But new hookups required Porterville City Council approval – suspended in the drought – and fees and costs borne had to be paid by the property owners in an area that has many pockets of poverty.
The state program will hook up 70 homes right away as the East Porterville Water Supply Project proceeds in phases. About 500 homes will be hooked up in the first phase, and up to 1,300 additional homes will be connected during a second phase next year, according to the state.
“It’s phenomenally great for East Porterville,” said Eric Lamoureux, acting deputy director of the state Office of Emergency Services. “It’s been a long time coming. Today is just the beginning.”
Once the hookups are done, the state will stop water deliveries to affected homes. That project is costing $650,000 a month.