Westlands Water District – 2017: A Productive Year

Fresno, Calif., (January 5, 2018) – As the year draws to an end, we take this opportunity to reflect on the many contributions of Westlands’ growers and the unique challenges faced in a year of an abundant water supply. Our goal was to seek opportunities to reinforce needed improvements to the current operation of the Central Valley Project by countering inaccurate information by using facts.

In December 2016, Congress successfully passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. Throughout early 2017, opponents of the legislation, as they usually do, attempted to mislead the public about the e ects the WIIN Act would have on water supply and the environment. But Westlands and other groups successfully countered those falsehoods as the bill made its way through the legislative process and on to the President’s desk for signature. The enactment of the WIIN Act marked the rst time in years that the trend of punitive and restrictive water laws was reversed. But, there is more work to do.

In early spring, after the initial CVP water allocation announcement was
made over a month late, we used that opportunity to demonstrate the need for further reform of the water supply system. Information included the negative rami cations of a late water allocation, which limits farmers’ ability to make planting, labor, and other operational decisions. Our e orts reminded policymakers of the state’s commitment of “coequal goals” for water supply reliability and Delta protection. While the initial 65 percent allocation was thankfully increased a month later to 100 percent, it was too late in the planting season to allow farmers to utilize their first full allocation in eleven years. We are hopeful the Bureau of Reclamation’s 2018 announcement is timely.

As we moved into summer, we released The Implications of Agricultural Water for the Central Valley, detailing the significant contributions made by agriculture and defined the inextricable correlation between the success of agricultural production with the economic well-being of the entire Central Valley. This report by Dr. Michael Shires provided factual data and context that supported our claim that there is no viable industry available to replace economic activity from agriculture, another example of the need to evaluate and improve current processes when making water supply decisions.

We reinforced the role of agriculture as an integral part of the California’s growing food and tourism culture and developed educational materials that emphasized the major contribution of Westlands’ agricultural production to the state and the nation, and the necessity of a more reliable water supply.

Our social media audience has more than doubled since January, allowing us to reach an expanded audience as we educate the public on issues such as water supply, water availability, agricultural economics and food security. This year, Westlands Water District became the most “Followed” and “Liked” water agency in the State of California.

As 2017 comes to a close, we are excited to cap o the year with the successful launch of the Westlands Farmers Charitable Fund in partnership with the Central Valley Community Foundation. We look forward to the success of this collaborative e ort and anticipate the Fund will serve as an e ective clearinghouse to make measurable improvements to the quality of life for families, students, and organizations right here in our community.

While we have made progress in educating the public and policymakers about farming and water supply challenges, there is more work to be done. We will carry these e orts into 2018 as we remain committed to securing a reliable water supply for the Central Valley.

Johnny Amaral, Deputy General Manager of External A airs Westlands Water District

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