Water remains utmost in the minds of California farmers as we end three years of drought and prospects of an El Niño weather system providing a wet year fading.

Two recent political developments could affect farmers, though one may not have much impact on grape growers here.

The $7.2 billion Water Bond was approved by 66.77 percent of state voters in last week’s election.

The bill includes:

  • $2.7 billion for water storage projects, dams and reservoirs.
  • $1.495 billion for ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects.
  • $900 million for projects to clean up groundwater that serves as a source of drinking water.
  • $810 million for integrated regional water management plan projects.
  • $725 million for water recycling and advanced water treatment technology projects.
  • $520 million to improve water quality, for reducing and preventing drinking water contaminants, and for the State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund Small Community Grant Fund.
  • $395 million for statewide flood management projects and activities.

The first item, $2.7 billion for dams and reservoirs, represents the first such spending since the 1960s. Environmental considerations have not only stopped reservoirs, but caused some dams to be removed.

The California Association of Winegrape Growers supported the bill and is pushing for construction of these projects:

  • Sites Reservoir north of the Delta for off-stream storage that could add 1.8 million acre-feet of capacity, and deliver an annual water yield of 500,000 acre-feet (one acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons).
  • Shasta Reservoir. Raising the Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River by 18.5 feet would add 634,000 acre-feet of storage to its existing 4.5-million-acre-foot capacity.
  • San Luis Reservoir requires a retrofit to better protect it against seismic activity, and the dam could be raised by 20 feet to provide an additional storage capacity of 130,000 acre-feet.
  • Temperance Flat Reservoir. The proposed Temperance Flat reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River could hold 1.26 million acre-feet of water, and would increase water reliability during drought periods by 103,000 to 254,400 acre-feet.

Napa Valley growers, however, do not get water from these sources. They primarily serve the Central Valley.

Although there was initial concern of shortages, Napa growers found the timely spring rains coupled with little need for water for frost protection resulted in enough water this year.

In addition, many local growers and others have been monitoring their wells, and studies of water levels in many local wells (CountyofNapa.org/BOS/GRAC) shows that the aquifer in Napa Valley has stayed pretty stable, though some areas like Carneros, Coombsville and hillside vineyards might tell another story.

Officials said they are not sure of the impact of another dry year, however.

Meanwhile, the little-noted Sustainable Groundwater Management Act established the first significant groundwater management plan in California history. It and Texas are the only Western states that have had no regulation of valuable groundwater.

Though the act will apply statewide, much of its authority is invested with local governments. The legislation requires “groundwater sustainability agencies” to oversee all medium- and high-priority groundwater basins. In unmanaged areas, the counties generally would manage groundwater.

Under the act, groundwater managers can regulate and even suspend pumping from groundwater basins.

No one knows how aggressively groundwater agencies will exercise their authority.

California growers have had wide groundwater rights under common law, though they are being trimmed as in the case of those near rivers and streams.

It seems likely that mandatory meters on wells and other restrictions lie in the future, though our growers are trying to forestall such action by voluntary monitoring and restraint.

CANVAS Hospitality Training

The Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley and Sonoma is sponsoring a two-evening course in hospitality training with expert Holly Stiel on Nov. 17 and 18 from 5 to 8:30 p.m.

It is focused on wine tasting room personnel, but is applicable to all hospitality workers in addition to the wine industry.

Stiel has written six books on hospitality and service excellence. A light dinner, workbook and certificate of training will be provided.

Visit ConciergeAlliance.com to register.

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