By Roberta Long
SLY PARK Since the theme of this years Agricultural Tour on Friday, June 4, was Got Water? it was only fitting that the guest speaker at lunch would be from the California Department of Water Resources. It was also fitting that the usual hot weather would be replaced by sprinkles and drizzles throughout the day.
Following a three-stop outdoor educational tour that required umbrellas, Baryohay Davidoff, Ph.D., chief of Ag Water Management & Financial Support, delivered a brief talk at Sly Park Retreat.
Davidoffs talk was cut short due to a bus breakdown that delayed tour members from reaching the lunch site for an hour. He had prepared a PowerPoint program, but since lunch was eaten at picnic tables he had to make do with a printed paper version. Nevertheless, since he had been on the trip from the beginning, he was game and imparted some interesting information from on high in the California water world, where he has spent the last 22 years.
The thrust of water management in the state is conservation and reducing per capita water use.
The tools demonstrated earlier in the day by Kirk Taylor, manager of the El Dorado Irrigation District Irrigation Management System, at Lava Cap Winery to measure moisture in the soil are tools with which Davidoff is familiar. At one time he had managed that program for the state.
There are 9 million acres in irrigated agriculture in California and 80,000 farms, for a total of a $120 billion agricultural economy.
The California Water Plan Update 2005 assumes that by 2040 California will have 54.8 million people, mostly in cities, based on California Department of Finance projections. The Climate Research Division predicts climate change resulting in higher ocean levels and more rain than snow in the high country, creating floods, drought and water shortages. Building more reservoirs is costly, leading to more expensive water, and has environmental consequences.
In 1995 state water use was 46 percent for environmental purposes, 43 percent for agriculture and 11 percent for urban uses. The forecast for 2020 is 46 percent environment, 39 percent agriculture and 15 percent urban.
Davidoff said that if we can improve agricultural water through efficient water management practices, we can save 900,000 acre-feet. Plus, if we can conserve urban water through recycling and other means, we can save another 1.5 million acre-feet of water.
Davidoff is in charge of financial support to encourage efficient use of agricultural water. He runs the grant and loan programs authorized by Proposition 13, a $1.97 billion bond passed in 2000, and Proposition 50, a $3.4 billion bond passed in 2005. One of the grants went to EID to convert an open canal to pipe.
The bond money also applies to urban uses and includes rebates on water efficient appliances and toilets for homes, schools and hospitals.
Other incentives for agricultural users are tiered water pricing and financial inducements for water transfers between farmers.
This year Davidoff will oversee $15 million in Proposition 50 Agricultural Water Use Efficiency grants.
At the end of the day, Davidoff said he enjoyed the tour even though it was a furlough day for him. A lot of people had interesting questions, and I learned more about water management in the forests. After my talk a teen-age girl who was there with her dad and mom came up to thank me and say she had learned a lot. I hope someday she thinks about going into this profession. She really made it all worthwhile for me.