Bill Diedrich, a farmer in California’s Central Valley, inspects his almond trees. Photo source: Wall Street Journal
Hearing Will Examine Pressures on Western Water Supply
Click here for the Family Farm Alliance written testimony
February 26, 2019
(Washington, D.C.) – A farmer from California’s Central Valley will represent the Family Farm Alliance before the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, which will hold a hearing today titled The State of Water Supply Reliability in the 21st Century. Bill Diedrich, a member of the Family Farm Alliance, will illustrate the problems Western farmers and ranchers face in terms of water supply reliability.
“I am a fourth-generation California farmer and I cherish the role sustainable irrigated agriculture plays in producing a safe and affordable food supply,” said Mr. Diedrich. “We have dirt in our veins”.
Witnesses at the hearing will speak to the nation’s water supply challenges in the coming years.
Mr. Diedrich’s home state of California is still recovering from the 2012-2016 drought, the worst drought in its recorded history. Record dry conditions, coupled with water supply reductions related to regulatory actions and aging water storage and conveyance infrastructure, resulted in water supply reductions or constraints for most sectors in California. During the height of the recent drought, for two years in a row, many agricultural water users received no allocations at all from the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), one of the largest irrigation water projects in the world.
The recent and current water crisis in California provides a real-world sense of the types of challenges Western irrigators face in times of reduced water supply reliability. These include competition for scarce water supplies, insufficient water infrastructure, growing populations, endangered species, and increased climate variability. These challenges continue, despite recent and continued precipitation. As of last week, nearly every reservoir in California is at or over its historical average for this time of year. Still, CVP farmers south of the Delta were given an initial allocation of only 35 percent of their contract amounts. What this means is that California has plentiful snow, plentiful rain, and nearly full reservoirs, yet San Joaquin Valley irrigators are likely to receive less than half of their contracted water supplies when the final allocations are made. These initial allocation numbers are critical to making crop planting decisions.
Mr. Diedrich’s written testimony outlines what producers like him and others across the West are doing to address these challenges. And, it provides policy recommendations that the Family Farm Alliance believes lay the foundation for effectively addressing water supply reliability in the Western U.S. In order to secure future water supply reliability we must depend on collaborative, science – based water management decisions, increase our investments in water infrastructure, and diversify our water portfolio – including water recycling, conservation, reservoir optimization and weather forecasting technologies.
“The most helpful thing that Congress can do for states suffering from an unreliable water supply is to urge creativity, innovation and flexibility on the part of federal water management and regulatory agencies,” said Mr. Diedrich. “What works for one region doesn’t work for all.”
Mr. Diedrich farms in the Fresno and Madera County region of California’s San Joaquin Valley. His family farming and farm management operation covers approximately 1,850 acres, and includes a mix of processing tomatoes, almonds, walnuts, prunes, pistachios, grapes and pomegranates.
The Family Farm Alliance is a grassroots organization of family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in 16 Western states. The organization is focused on one mission: To ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers.
Contact: Dan Keppen, Executive Director (541)-892-6244 / [email protected]