From Wildfires to Drought to Floods, Californians Seek Relief from Weather Whiplash – Farmers Can Help

Mike Wade
Executive Director, California Farm Water Coalition

Californians rightfully feel they are living at the epicenter of the globe’s changing weather patterns. Following a crushing 5-year drought, 2017 and 2019 brought torrential rain and flooding. And 2020 is already on record as the worst fire season in recorded California history.

The good news is that California farmers lead the nation in innovative, smart stewardship practices as well as new, science-backed solutions that will better protect our people and our environment.  Assisting in these efforts, farmers and other water users have spent over $800 million on scientific studies over the past decade, defining ways to adapt to our changing climate.

Expedite Voter-Approved Water Storage to Help Even Out Boom & Bust Water Cycles

Scientists believe that boomeranging between drought and flood is the new normal. It’s simply common sense to store more of the water from wet years for use in dry ones. When an estimated 18 trillion gallons of precipitation fell on California in February of 2019, a lot of that water washed out to sea because existing reservoirs couldn’t handle the volume. 

Several storage projects are ready to go and simply await funding. Voters overwhelmingly passed Prop 1 in 2014 to fund projects like these. We can’t let the regulatory process take longer than it takes to actually build the infrastructure.

Harness Innovation to Create Additional Storage Options That Also Protect the Ecosystem

Farmers have teamed with scientists, and conservationists to experiment with flooding fields in winter, building recharge ponds on their farms, and restoring and expanding floodplains. 

These efforts not only help capture rain and fast-melting snow; they assist in replenishing depleted groundwater aquifers and provide critical habitat for the base of the food chain, making our environment healthier overall. River Partners says of their Dos Rios Ranch project, “Our floodplain reforestation projects are biodiversity hotspots and climate-protection powerhouses.”

Reduce California’s Carbon Footprint, Making the State Healthier for All

 A state report found that farms and forests could absorb as much as 20% of Californian’s current level of carbon emissions and California farmers are an active part of making that happen. 

Things such as planting cover crops, low-till and no-till farming build soil health and, in doing so, capture atmospheric carbon and put it back into the earth. And, the number of farms using renewable energy has more than doubled since 2012, including wind, solar and more.

Protect and Enhance the Natural Habitat We Share with Wildlife

Much of California’s most important wildlife areas exist alongside some of the state’s most productive farmland and farmers are a key part preserving this valuable habitat. These refuges, and private lands with conservation easements, work together to keep the habitat and the environment healthy.

Farmers share California’s passion for our environment. 

In many cases, the land farmers are protecting has been home for generations, and they hope for generations to come. Their commitment to the land and investment in science has put them in the forefront of proactive steps to adapt to a changing climate. They stand ready to share that knowledge and help all Californians get to a better future.

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