Apr 16, 2021 | Blog, Monthly Briefings

Weekly Wrap Up – 4/16/2021

“Historic Drought”


That’s not rain in the distance. It’s dust caused by low moisture that has been kicked up by strong winds.The hazy view is a recent picture taken by Family Farm Alliance executive director Dan Keppen from Sheepy Ridge above the drought-induced, dust-filled vista of Tule Lake and the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges.

The tour was organized by local farmers who brought members of the Western waterfowl conservation community to assess the drought conditions and discuss possible solutions t benefit local producers and waterfowl, in one of the most important areas of the Pacific Flyway. The tour also provided a grim, firsthand view of the consequences of moving hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water away from local farms and refuges due to single-species management for fish under the Endangered Species Act.

Yesterday, the Bureau of Reclamation’s allocation of 33,000 acre-feet to the Klamath Project received attention in local and national media, resurrecting memories for many of the catastrophic Klamath Project curtailment in 2001.

“We know that’s barely enough to charge some of the ditches,” said Ben DuVal, a Klamath Project farmer and President of the Klamath Water Users Association. “We know that’s less than we got in 2001. And that would be starting June 1st.”

For now, no Klamath Project water is serving local farmers and ranchers.

Siskiyou Daily News story quoted local leaders, including the Family Farm Alliance. Mr. DuVal observes that current regulations will “create another dust bowl, destroy our farming communities, and decimate our wildlife.”

Capital Press called the allocation “a gut-punch to Klamath Project irrigators.” The story cites Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Camille Touton who said, “We will continue to monitor the hydrology and look for opportunities for operational flexibility, provide assistance to Klamath Project water users and the tribes, and keep an open dialogue with our stakeholders, the states, and across the federal government to get through this water year together.”

Further south in the Golden State, farms are bearing the brunt of this year’s short water supply and have been forced to reduce the acreage of popular California crops, such as asparagus, melons, lettuce, rice, tomatoes, sweet corn, and others.

Water supply reductions mean fewer fresh fruits and vegetables for consumers, massive farm-related job losses, and billions in lost economic activity, impacts that go beyond rural and disadvantaged communities. View a map showing the extent of 2021 farm water supply cuts, prepared by the California Farm Water Coalition, here.

Infrastructure Push Continues

Advocacy for water infrastructure presses on as coalition members throughout the West reach out to Congress and the Biden Administration to include our priorities in a funding package. The Alliance and Western Growers were quoted in an Agri-Pulse story (login required) citing the urgency for water infrastructure improvements.

Specific recommendations to be included in the next infrastructure package include:

  • Water conservation.

  • Water augmentation, recycling, reuse, and desalination projects.

  • New water storage facilities, both surface and groundwater.

  • Watershed management, fish passage and recovery, and habitat restoration.

  • Federal financing mechanisms for water projects.

  • Loans for local districts operating and maintaining federally owned irrigation projects.

  • Water quality improvement for rural communities.

Keep us posted on your efforts as we work to address this critical issue.

Clean Water for Native Americans


The Alliance Board of Directors took action last week to support clean water initiatives for Western Native Americans. Our statement found here supports the work of the Colorado River Water and Tribes Initiative as they raise awareness to the lack of access to clean drinking water in Indian country.

“The Family Farm Alliance supports the provision of reliable, clean drinking water to meet the domestic needs of Native American communities,” President O’Toole said.

“The Family Farm Alliance urges Federal agencies and Tribal governments to coordinate and work collaboratively with appropriate State and local jurisdictions to establish expedited planning, design, development, and operation of infrastructure necessary to provide reliable, affordable, and clean drinking water for Native American communities in accordance with applicable law.”

We will continue to keep you informed on this and other developments impacting Western irrigated agriculture.
If you’re not a member, join us!