The Uncertain Future of Water
By John Azevedo, President
Published March 1, 2016
The Sonoma County Farm Bureau recently concluded our Great Sonoma Crab and Wine Fest. It was another huge success with a record crowd. Hats off to the entire staff of SCFB to their success and hard work to put such a large event on. As many of you know the local crab season has been a complete disaster for our local fishing industry. I have been asked many times if we were going to have our crab festival and if so where would the crab come from. Well I want to answer that question for everyone, “If I told you I would have to kill you”. So with that said let’s all hope in 2017 the crab comes from Sonoma County, but needless to say this year it did not.
As I write this article, it is 84 degrees outside and our pending El Nino weather pattern looks more and more likely to be just another bad forecast. Much like the uncertainty of being in the fishing industry, agriculture is no different. We were blessed with a great wet weather pattern for December and January, but now it is all too reminiscent of 2015. Hopefully the coming months will turn into the promised rain and return to our seasonal temperatures we were all promised, but in reality, we won’t know until I’m writing the June article.
That said, this recent warm up and drying off we have had reminds all of us that we are still operating in a statewide drought and we must do what we can locally to conserve. I have faith that all of us in agriculture will do our parts. I know we can manage with another dry spring, but it is a reminder that we must continue working to change state law and allow water rights holders to divert when we have the high flows we did in December and hold that water until it is needed in the summer.
We must also continue working to change how water is managed by our partners at the federal level. Water continues to be released at a high rate from Lakes Mendocino and Sonoma. We are hoping that they will refill in the spring, but, that of course, is an uncertainty. I recognize the importance of these lakes to managing downstream flood control but there must be a balance of managing the water for that purpose and for storing it for municipal and agricultural needs in the drier months ahead.
As we get ready to tackle another year of farming and regulation (I’m not sure which takes more time and energy anymore) there is definitely one thing we all have in common, we need more rain. 2016 will definitely be a year that shapes how we will all deal with water for long into the future. Much like our crab fishing friends, nature gives and nature takes and all we can do is make the most with the opportunities we are given. That is exactly why Farm Bureau is at the table working on these issues so that regulators and public agencies remember that whether it rains more this year or not, we have options on the table now to help us manage our water resources today and into the future.