Policy Reports

California Water Action Plan (WAP)

The California Roundtable on Water & Food Supply (CRWFS) completed an extensive review of the California Water Action Plan (WAP), Governor Brown’s five-year roadmap for the state’s journey toward long-term, sustainable water management. This executive mandate represents the first comprehensive and action-oriented agenda in California’s history. In 2016, utilizing their holistic framework, the Connectivity Approach, the CRWFS produced a white paper identifying major strengths and opportunities for implementing the WAP in a more integrated and adaptive manner for this Administration and beyond.

Applying the Connectivity Approach: Groundwater Management in California’s Kings Basin

The California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply (CRWFS), a project of Ag Innovations, published Applying the Connectivity Approach: Groundwater Management in California’s Kings Basin in 2015. The report examines the Kings Basin of California’s San Joaquin Valley to discover and clarify opportunities for improved connectivity in groundwater management planning and implementation in the state. The report’s findings are grounded in the principles of the “connectivity approach,” a framework developed by CRWFS for resource managers, land use planners, and policymakers to discover the linkages, strengths, successes, potentials, and disconnects related to their particular resource stewardship issues.

Crisis to Connectivity

In April of 2014, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply released their new report entitled,From Crisis to Connectivity: Renewed Thinking About Managing California’s Water & Food Supply. This latest report describes the concepts of connectivity and connected benefits as a means to provide a whole-systems approach to meet California’s water challenges. This report recognizes that connections among urban, agricultural, and ecological water users are often broken or dysfunctional, leading to negative impacts on all water users. To address this problem, the report assessed current needs and identified patterns of disconnects among the key players in California water management. The reports suggests a new innovative approach to water management, connectivity, and identifies three guiding principles to the connectivity approach: Connected Thinking, Institutional Linkages, and Public and Stakeholder Engagement. The report highlights five current cases where the connectivity approach and the guiding principles are being used to successfully bring about connective-benefit solutions. These cases are described in greater detail in the companion report: Applying the Connectivity Approach: Water and Food Supply projects that Connect, Link, and Engage.

Policy Considerations for Managing Agricultural Nitrogen

On May 30, 2013, the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment (CRAE) reached consensus on a set of policy guidelines for decision-makers as efforts move forward to address the long-term impacts to groundwater from agricultural nitrogen. The publication,Policy Considerations for Managing Agricultural Nitrogen to Reduce Groundwater Contamination in California, communicates both a set of key facts important to building policy regarding nitrate in the agricultural context, and a set of key considerations to support effective policy-making. This effort represents the best consensus among agricultural, environmental and other public interest organizations that have united around the need for collaboration to achieve an effective and coordinated policy framework. The document highlights, among other things, the need to provide additional technical support to farmers and ranchers to further accelerate adoption of beneficial management practices and the varying behavior of nitrogen in agricultural environments from place to place, which means policy and regulatory responses must not apply a one-size-fits-all solution.

Collaborative Management of Agricultural Landscapes

On March 21, 2013 AGree convened leaders of a sampling of best-in-class watershed projects from across the US for a day-long workshop in Washington, D.C. Farmers, ranchers, and conservation professionals who lead successful watershed collaborations, along with members of AGree’s Workgroup on Production and Environmental Outcomes, discussed the most significant factors driving/catalyzing the emergence of collaborative watershed and landscape management; the most important enabling conditions to the successful execution of such initiatives; and, the obstacles to achieving intended watershed objectives.

From Storage to Retention

On November 13, 2012, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply released a new report entitled From Storage to Retention: Expanding California’s Options for Meeting Its Water Needs. The report builds on earlier work focused on agricultural water stewardship, and argues for an expansion of approaches to storing water that increase supply reliability for specialty crop agricultural production and other beneficial uses while protecting ecosystem health. Management approaches must support a broad range of options, including ecologically sound large-scale reservoirs, a patchwork of on-farm ponds, expanded soil capacity to retain water, and improvements in groundwater recharge, among others. The report highlights both a conceptual shift in water management that it argues is a necessary underpinning of effective water storage, and recommends a set of priority actions that constitute high-leverage opportunities to improve California’s water storage capacity and management.

Agricultural Water Stewardship Recommendations

On June 22, 2011, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supplyreleased a set of proposed strategic actions to increase water security for California agriculture while maintaining or improving other beneficial uses. Roundtable members identified agricultural water stewardship as a key area of importance for sound long-term water management. In its report, Agricultural Water Stewardship: Recommendations to Optimize Outcomes for Specialty Crop Growers and the Public in California, Roundtable members present a unified set of principles for agricultural water stewardship. The report also identifies a set of targeted recommendations for state agencies, water suppliers, local water management groups, and the agricultural and research communities designed to facilitate long-term solutions.

Policy Brief Makes Case for Ag Water Stewardship

In July 2010, then CAWSI members CAFF, EcoFarm, OAEC WATERInstitute, Polaris Institute, and Wild Farm Alliance released a 4-page brief outlining the critical importance of incorporating a stewardship approach to water management on farms in California. While many farmers recognize the role that smart water management plays in ensuring the economic viability of farms as well as its conservation value, public programs that provide support for ag water stewardship lag. The paper Why Water Stewardship for Agriculture provides a brief overview of the approaches needed, particularly at this time of water scarcity in California and beyond.

Water Stewardship: Ensuring a Secure Future for California Agriculture

This publication, produced by then CAWSI members CAFF, California Institute for Rural Studies, EcoFarm, OAEC WATER Institute, Polaris Institute, and Wild Farm Alliance in 2008, outlines the case for agricultural water stewardship in the current political, environmental, and economic context. It proposes a set of principles to guide ongoing agricultural water stewardship efforts. Finally, this document offers a strategic framework for on-farm practices, policies, and the multi-stakeholder collaborations necessary to implement meaningful solutions.

California Water Stewards: Innovative On-Farm Water Management Practices

California Institute for Rural Studies conducted a series of case studies highlighting California farms successfully implementing a broad range of “water-wise” practices. In addition to reduced water use, benefits of these practices include improved soil health, increased carbon sequestration, enhanced wildlife habitat, improved water quality, and reduced costs associated with water, energy, and labor. The case study findings provide information for growers interested in implementing more sustainable water practices.

Why Water Stewardship for Agriculture?

This California Agriculture Water Stewardship Initiative policy brief written by Dave Runsten, Policy Director of Community Alliance with Family Farmers and CAWSI Editorial Board Member provides an overview of the benefits associated with various on-farm water stewardship practices such as building soil organic matter, irrigation scheduling and management, and keyline plow. The Policy Brief also presents water stewardship strategies at the irrigation district and regional levels.