California Cities and Farms Can Share Water to Manage Allocations
A recent report by Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) details how water partnerships between southern California cities and farmers in the San Joaquin Valley could stabilize conditions for farmers, help cities during droughts and align with Governor Newsom’s Water Resilience Portfolio. Water is so vital to the California’s prosperity, yet climate change and contestation over how sectors get to divvy up the water supply make it difficult.
The report outlines three models that count on partnerships to ensure water balance for different sectors are achieved: underground storage, long-term transfers of dry-year water, interstate and bi-national partnerships to increase flexibility on the Colorado River. In all cases, these models exist and can be built upon. The Agri-pulse news outlets observes that
The Central Valley cities of Bakersfield, Fresno and Tulare already have partnerships with local agricultural districts. Imperial County irrigation districts have been diversifying their water supply mix through large-scale transfers with urban districts like the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan regions. The report notes that urban communities in Southern California have been co-investing in underground storage in the San Joaquin Valley since the 1990s.
Underground storage in aquifers might be a particularly good option. Groundwater recharge in which cities and farmer-friendly water districts could store and exchange water depending on where the needs are greatest while the other party receives payment to offset steps like farm-field fallowing. Expanding on city-farmer partnerships might prove fruitful.
The overall situation of water in California — which is a microcosm of the US and beyond — requires a more diverse mix of water resources along with a more flexible water supply to meet demand. By scaling up and creating new partnership opportunities, these water demand needs can be met, but there are many political, legal, regulatory and financial changes that must happen under complex conditions