Over half of the state’s agriculture comes from the Central Valley, but valley farmers aren’t getting the water or resources they need to operate. A recently released PPIC report illustrated the problem by saying, “Worsening droughts, increasing regulations to protect endangered native fishes and growing demand for Delta imports in Southern California have compounded surface scarcity”.
In 2017, California responded to this water stress by creating the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). These agencies operate throughout the valley to meet groundwater sustainability goals by 2040. If fully implemented, SGMA will be devastating to Central Valley jobs, the economy and poor, rural communities.
Professor David Sunding from UC Berkeley found that meeting the goals of these SGMA agencies would cause diminishing land and crops, lost jobs and a huge hit to the valley economy. According to his report, an estimated million acres of irrigated farmland will have to be permanently fallowed, letting it sit without crop growth. That’s a fifth of the land currently in use. Retiring this much land would lead to a $7.2 billion loss per year as well as a loss of 42,000 agriculture jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs. Consumers and grocery stores will see changes as farmers will have to choose which crops are more important to plant on the minimal land they have left to use.
The Central Valley cannot afford SGMA. California has recognized the problem, but is not looking in the right direction for solutions. California needs to assess infrastructure needs, modernize operations, ease regulations and invest in local water supplies. There have been several proposals devoted to these issues, but many of them were cast aside or ignored.
California passed Proposition 1 in 2014 to provide more surface storage like sites and temperance for water. The state did not release that money for water storage until five years later. Those five years we were waiting were during drought years, when California needed water infrastructure and solutions the most.
I am coauthoring a proposal that would provide a $400 million grant to the Friant Water Authority to restore the Friant-Kern Canal. The Friant-Kern Canal is critical for delivering water for groundwater recharge; current limitations of the canal are reducing the supply of groundwater to farmers.
The San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint is a response to SGMA and the problems occurring throughout the valley. The Blueprint is a coalition of valley stakeholders who have come together to prevent a water based economic meltdown and to preserve valley communities. We need to empower the Water Blueprint in their fight for valley residents and farmers. I will be working with the San Joaquin Water Blueprint to come up with more solutions to support our valley economy, jobs and farmers.