Water Stress in the San Joaquin Valley                                   
The San Joaquin Valley, California's largest agricultural region, and an important contributor to our nation's food supply, is in a time of great change and increasing water stress. On Tuesday, March 7, 2017, The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) was joined by the California Water Institute at Fresno State for an event to discuss key water issues facing the region. The event, held in Clovis, California, brought a panel of local leaders and experts to review findings from a recent PPIC report that highlights options to address challenges facing farms, communities, and ecosystems. 

One of the key messages of the report was that rains have not washed away the growing threat of water scarcity. Over time this scarcity could bring unsettling changes not only to the area's farmers but also to rural communities, the local economy, and the entire state. Resolving the matter will take creativity and cooperation. Although agriculture is a small piece of the economic puzzle, it is crucially important to the Valley. The region's farms and related manufacturing businesses account for 25 percent of local revenues and 16 percent of local jobs- and 89 percent of annual water net use (PPIC Report). 

The Valley is home to an abundance of productive farmland than local water supplies for irrigation. Since the 1980s, groundwater has been used faster than it could be replenished (groundwater overdraft). In the past three decades, overdraft has averaged nearly two million acre-feet per year, 13 percent of the net water use. The result is increased pumping costs, dry wells, land subsidence, damaged infrastructure, and declining reliability of this vital drought reserve. 

California's state groundwater law will bring significant changes to agriculture in coming years. The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires farms and communities to bring groundwater basins into balance by 2040. Besides water shortages, the Valley must respond to related concerns, including nitrate contamination of groundwater and broad declines in aquatic, wetland, and terrestrial ecosystems. 

Achieving this objective will protect long-term groundwater reserves and enable residents and economies to withstand future droughts. Some examples of approaches include:
  • ​Capture and store more runoff-​ increasing the groundwater recharge by spreading flood flows onto fields and recharge basins is key to restoring underground water basins.
  • Manage groundwater and water storage- ​storing water in aquifers frees up space to capture flood flows in reservoirs and increases total volume of water stored.
  • ​Multi-benefit strategies- ​opportunities exist to manage groundwater in ways to improve water supply and quality. For example, by modifying irrigation systems and crop choices to maximize recharge in the region areas. 
  • Bring basins to balance- Some partnerships exist for recharging groundwater, supplying farms with treated wastewater, and upgrading infrastructure to manage water efficiently. To protect recharge areas cooperation is valuable because lands with recharge potential are on a urban fringe. 

One of the greatest challenges is developing new strategies to grasp these opportunities in a region that has a mix of entities and organizations managing water and land. The entire San Joaquin Valley, and California as a whole, can benefit from these solutions to the Valley’s challenges to support the economy while improving health and environmental conditions. 

To view PPIC full report visit PPIC Report

    High Sierra Showerheads               
One Central Valley company is building its business around making water-efficient showerheads with California made parts. High Sierra Showerheads partners with California vendors, including a screw manufacturer in Merced, to make low-flow showerheads.
 In 1992, David Malcolm acquired his father’s business  developing sprinkler he
ads for golf courses and irrigation.  Since 2010, Malcolm has been manufacturing showerheads,  but in 2015 the company really took off. High Sierra  Showerheads landed a contract to supply showerheads to  correctional institutions in California. Also, the U.S. Air  Force Academy, Yale University, Purdue University, and  Fresno Housing Authority use High Sierra Showerheads.

 Malcom’s company has fixed two of the biggest complaints  with low-flow showerheads - low water pressure and the  tendency to clog. Most low-flow showerheads are designed  with a large diameter disc using lots of nozzles. However,  High Sierra Showerheads use a smaller nozzle with only  one large opening. The larger opening allows for more       water pressure with a low flow.

Due to their innovation, they caught the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2016, the EPA awarded High Sierra Showerheads the U.S. EPA WaterSense Excellence Award for retrofitting over 6,000 showerheads in California correctional facilities.

As a member of the WET Center, David Malcolm was able to see the talents and abilities High-Sierra-Shower-Headshe wanted to develop into a business and how those services fit into the bigger picture of water. Since coming to the WET, High Sierra Showerheads annual growth rate has been increasing 50 percent every year, also succeeding within a 5 year margin. 

Malcolm describes the company, as a "niche" business taking advantage of every opportunity that other company's overshadow. Within that niche, they create a product that solves problems. This is why High Sierra Showerheads has been a successful business. 

In The News

Farmers urge tech companies to find water solutions

Building an underground savings account to bolster water supply

How Big Data And Tech Will Improve Agriculture

Post-drought groundwater in California: Like the economy after a deep “recession,” recovery will be slow

New Initiative Advances Agriculture Technology Education

Fowler farming couple donate $1.5 million to Cal Poly’s J.G. Boswell ag tech center

Californians are using less water, but conservation falters in Valley

Cool Planet Raises $19.3m to Commercialize Engineered Biochar Produc

  Team Member Highlight
 Josh Dowell
Member Relations Coordinator 


Josh Dowell spent most of his childhood on a dairy farm and has always had a love for farming. Combined with his passion for entrepreneurship, the agriculture field is perfect. One thing people do not know is that Josh is descended from Portuguese immigrants and if he decides to run a dairy he will be the seventh generation of his family to do so. Besides working, he loves spending time with his 7-month-old bulldog Tucker or working on personal projects. He is attempting to launch a company by graduation!!

Since being hired in January, Josh has loved getting geared up to launch a brand-new member services experience. He expressed that, “My biggest challenge thus far was building a website from scratch. It was difficult to code out and I ran into a significant number of problems I did not expect to have.
However, it is being wrapped up and uploaded for use!”                                                            

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