(January 22, 2008) – Federal, state and San Joaquin Valley leaders in water-related issues have recently joined to focus years of sometimes disparate planning and strategizing into a single, regional water management plan for the San Joaquin Valley.

The new plan is called the San Joaquin Valley Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP). Directing the building effort is Kathy Wood, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation water issues specialist “on loan” to Fresno State for approximately two years. Wood normally supervises the work of the bureau’s Resources Division for South Central California. Prior to that, she worked with wildlife and water-related issues in the southwestern United States. Her most significant work involved coordinating a public-private partnership for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and five states in the high plains overlying the Ogallala Aquifer.

According to David Zoldoske, director of Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT), Wood was recruited because of her knowledge and experience in water issues. Her location at Fresno State will enable her to tap the resources of three key water agencies located on the university campus: CIT, the International Center for Water Technology (ICWT), and the California Water Institute (CWI).

Wood’s assignment is to help build a single water-management coalition representing eight San Joaquin Valley counties, from San Joaquin in the north extending to Kern in the south. Though representing many different local interest groups, the coalition would be able to speak with one voice to state and federal governments in order to reach goals of increased water-use efficiency and continuing economic development.

It’s a big job.

“You turn on your tap at home and get water. You go to the supermarket and you can buy veggies. We want to be able to sustain that,” Wood said in summarizing the San Joaquin Valley’s need to have a unified water plan.

The combination of increasing statewide population growth, multiple drought years, and an aging water storage and conveyance infrastructure has placed an unprecedented strain on California water supplies.

“The system is crashing” is not an overstatement, she said.

Many people recognize it and for years have been working to correct the problems. However, much of the San Joaquin Valley work has been segregated or self-serving, conducted by local entities, agencies, and groups seeking to protect their particular interests above others.

The goal of IRWMP is to equally promote and benefit all interests in the valley, and ultimately help the state resolve broader water issues.

The effort has required both legal and financial support supplied at the federal and state levels. Work first started in 2005 when San Joaquin Valley congressmen Dennis Cardoza, Jim Costa, George Radanovich and Devin Nunes initiated development of a San Joaquin Valley Water Management Plan. This was augmented later that year when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order creating the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. The state-funded effort focused on developing a prosperous economy, a quality environment, and improved social equity over the next 10 years.

As water is a key element in achieving the partnership goals, the federal and state efforts were combined to help ensure success.

Working groups representing different stakeholders already have been established and are meeting to discuss all water issues to be addressed under the valley master plan Wood said.

A number of general priorities have been established by the working groups. One is to strengthen the levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the San Joaquin Valley. Since the delta conveys a significant portion of irrigation water from northern California into the San Joaquin Valley, keeping that system intact is critical.

Other identified valley objectives are to augment surface and groundwater banking programs, develop and implement water quality and salinity management systems, expand environmental restoration and management strategies, expand agricultural and urban water-use efficiency programs, and improve water conveyance systems.

The overriding goal is to “make this effort an implementation solution, not just another plan for the shelf,” Wood said.

Stakeholders participating in plan development so far include irrigation district managers, water agency members, water resource engineers, government officials, agribusiness representatives, public works managers, representatives of industries and communities relying on water, and environmental groups.

Leaders have committed to have a formal IRWMP ready to provide the governor in December 2008. Work will continue with input from all working groups through that time.

“This is a big project,” Zoldoske said. “With all the projected water shortages ahead, it is imperative that we put together a comprehensive plan to address this issue.”

For information, contact Wood at kawood@csufresno.edu.

Related links:

http://sjvpartnership.org <http://sjvpartnership.org/>

http://www.californiawater.org <http://www.californiawater.org/>