The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley has been growing. Its efforts to make rational recommendations in the midst of water turmoil is beginning to pay off. This past Friday on June 23rd the Bureau of Reclamation announced an award of about $1 million to help the California Water Institute and Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley develop and integrate subregional water management efforts and local projects into a unified water plan for the San Joaquin Valley.
“Reclamation is committed to looking towards the future relative to sustainable resource management and we are excited to partner and support efforts spearheaded by CWI and the Water Blueprint,” said Adam Nickels, Reclamation’s chief of resources management and planning. “Under this effort, information will be gathered by a diverse cross-section of the American public and stakeholders and will be used by resource decision-makers and stakeholders.”
“Everybody is excited and encouraged to receive this funding from the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Austin Ewell, executive director of the Blueprint. “We’ll be able to utilize and capitalize on the expertise of stakeholders representing all sectors of the Valley.”
The water plan report will leverage information from counties, cities, and groundwater sustainability agencies. “I’m excited to work with all of the different agencies and evaluate their needs and find a connection between all of them,” said Laura Ramos, CWI research and education division interim director. “Being able to take a look at the entire area will give us a really good visual of what the San Joaquin Valley needs.”
The two-year project will look at existing and future conditions and consider various aspects of the plans, including water quality, supply, conveyance, reliability, conservation efforts, flood control and population growth.
“This is an excellent partnership and furthers our mission to provide common sense solutions for a prosperous Central Valley,” said Ramos and Ewell in a joint statement.
The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley is a coalition of the willing representing all facets of interests involved in making the San Joaquin Valley the unique, vital and valuable place it is. But reduced allocations and distribution of water is threatening its economic and social wellbeing.
A study by the Public Policy Institute of California found the San Joaquin Valley has on average an annual shortfall of 1.5-2.5 million acre feet of water. This lack of water could soon lead to $7.2 billion in farm revenue loss, statewide 85,000 jobs could end with a $2.1 billion reduction in employee compensation and economic activity.
The Blueprint is investigating policy changes that would allow excess flows during wet years to be used in the Valley and not just go out to sea. California hasn’t invested in any major water related infrastructure in 60 years. The state’s population is 40-million people sharing a water infrastructure completed when there were only 16-million people.
The Blueprint has adopted as its mission the task of, “Unifying the San Joaquin Valley’s voice to advance an accessible, reliable solution for a balanced water future for all.” Its vision statement is,
“The Water Blueprint serves as the united voice to champion water resource policies and projects to maximize accessible, affordable and reliable supplies for sustainable and productive farms and ranches, healthy communities and thriving ecosystems in the San Joaquin Valley.”
The California Water Institute is located on campus at Fresno State University. There are three divisions; Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT), Water Energy & Technology Center (WET Center) and its Research and Education division.
Since 1980 CIT helps develop technologies bringing the most innovative products and resource management tools to the world. CIT conducts testing, applied research and is built on a foundation of entrepreneurship.
The WET Center began in 2007 with the goal to help innovators to grow healthy businesses with ideas of commercially viable products and services relating to water and energy.
CWI’s Research and Education division addresses water related issues by engaging FSU’s staff, faculty, students and collaborators from its network of water experts.
CWI’s website states, “Water is the basis of life and human society. It flows across countless industries and impacts every household. In California, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, water management remains a significant challenge as the region must overcome challenges related to climate change, population growth and the increased demand on finite water resources. The California Water Institute focuses on all aspects of sustainable water resource management solutions through outreach, entrepreneurship, education, testing, and interdisciplinary research.
“Through hands-on learning and research opportunities fostered by the Institute, students are prepared to enter the workforce as well-trained graduates. At the same time, water stakeholders are an important resource to help CWI and Fresno State develop the next generation of professionals through our partnerships. CWI’s collaborative and comprehensive approach to water management solutions is a prime example of what we can accomplish when the University and the community work together to address and solve current and future water issues. Together, we can shape the future of sustainable water resource management and successfully overcome the challenges that lie ahead.
“CWI provides all stakeholders with convenient access to Fresno State’s extensive water research and development programs and services. The institute positions Fresno State as a leader in water research and sustainability by engaging the campus community and academic experts from all disciplines to address the most challenging water issues of our time.”
Water Users Applaud SCOTUS Decision in Arizona v. Navajo Nation; Family Farm Alliance and Western Water User Amicus Cited in Decision, June 23, 2023
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has ruled 5-4 against the Navajo Nation, supporting the U.S. argument that the treaty at issue does not require the federal government to take the affirmative steps that the Navajo Nation contends.
“The 1868 treaty reserved necessary water to accomplish the purpose of the Navajo Reservation,” Judge Brent Kavanaugh wrote for the majority. “But the treaty did not require the United States to take affirmative steps to secure water for the Tribe. We reverse the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”
The SCOTUS decision, which was released Thursday morning, can be downloaded HERE. The first three pages provide the bottom line. The Alliance was part of a Western water user amicus brief filed in support of the federal government in this case.
“Allocating water in the arid regions of the American West is often a zero-sum situation,” the Court found. “And the zero-sum reality of water in the West underscores that courts must stay in, proper constitutional lane and interpret the law (here, the treaty) according to its text and history, leaving to Congress and the President the responsibility to enact appropriations laws and to otherwise update federal law as they see fit in light of the competing contemporary needs for water.”
“. . .[T]he Navajos may be able to assert the interests they claim in water rights litigation, including by seeking to intervene in cases that affect their claimed interests, and courts will then assess the Navajos’ claims and motions as appropriate”, the Court found.
The Family Farm Alliance was pleased by the Court’s judgment, which eliminates another possible layer of uncertainty regarding Western water decision-making.
“From a practical standpoint, this decision should eliminate the possibility of a new method being established for tribes to pursue water outside of the established process of filing and pursuing claims in basin-wide adjudications, involving all affected water users and States,” said Alliance General Counsel Norm Semanko (IDAHO). “It also demonstrates the importance that amicus briefs can play in these kinds of cases.”
The above announcement by FFA concerned a long court case in which the Navajo Nation claimed the federal government was required by treaty to provide water for its reservation. This involved water from the Colorado River and was closely watched by many as had the Navajo Nation prevailed it would have thrown in jeopardy the established water rights system throughout the nation.
The Family Farm Alliance was formed about 30-years ago as advocates for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts and allied industries in 17 Western States. The Alliance organizes grass roots lobbying trips to Washington DC, conducts congressional outreach and communications and gathers for an annual conference where anyone working to preserve Western irrigated agriculture needs to attend. Thanks to FFA CEO Dan Keppen for additional information.
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