Important note: The following recommendation was approved by the Board of Supervisors on June 7, 2016. Funding for phase two of the project was approved on May 16, 2017 (read the report):

DISTRICT 3 (Supervisor Don Horsley) FYs 2015-17 Measure A Request: $20,000 total

San Mateo County Resource Conservation District Agricultural Water Needs Assessment: Phase One

This is a request to authorize an agreement with San Mateo County Resource Conservation District for the term July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017 in an amount of $20,000 for Phase One of an Agricultural Water Needs Assessment. For the reasons set forth below it is in the County’s best interests to waive the Request for Proposals process. The proposed agreement will be administered and managed by the County’s Office of Sustainability.

The issue of water reliability resonates across California after years of drought. In San Mateo County the area most visibly impacted is our coastside. This is an area that is reliant on local water, with no access to larger federal or state water distribution. In late 2014, I hosted an Agricultural Water Supply Reliability Workshop which highlighted the challenges for our agricultural community as scarcity of water became a reality. Farmers and ranchers reported empty reservoirs and ponds, failed wells, reduced herds of cattle, and fallowed fields.

As an outcome of this workshop my office convened a series of conversations focused on collaborative efforts that could move us toward more agricultural water reliability. 

Agricultural operators and land owners, agricultural support agencies, and water experts participated in these conversations. A wide range of potential solutions were discussed and might be pursued in the future. The group prioritized a collaborative effort that  would determine the current and future need for water. This type of research and analysis will serve as the backbone for projects, permits and benefits analysis and will allow a planned, systems-based approach to San Mateo County’s agricultural water reliability.

The Agricultural Water Needs Assessment will be co-led by UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District (RCD). Phase One will be initiated immediately. It will be led by the RCD through the work of a Conservation Assistant (CA) who will serve as a field assistant and GIS technician. The CA will collect data currently available from a variety of local and statewide resources, including spatial data on soils, crop types and known evapotranspiration (ET) rates. In addition the CA will produce a mapping product which includes soil type, crop type(s), estimated and measured Distribution Uniformities (how evenly an irrigation system applies water), and ET rates.

In addition, Phase One will include limited but essential data collection. The installation of evapotranspiration monitoring (ET) equipment is necessary for this analysis. This equipment indicates optimum water amounts that should be applied to crops in order for the water to be completely beneficial. This information is not currently available for key San Mateo County crops nor for crops under coastside growing conditions.

Current monitoring through stream gauging needs to be fully funded to continue into the next water year (WY): October 1- September 30 to ensure that this data continues to be available. Further work needs to be done to coordinate a long term funding strategy for existing stream gauges and to identify gaps for this key data source.

Phase Two will consist of the analysis of the data and recommendations. The plan calls for engaging a graduate student working in the UCCE program. This program is geared for UCCE faculty and graduate students to work collaboratively on a project. This work will be done under the supervision of Dr. Daniele Zaccaria and will be initiated during   the first quarter of 2017. 

The Agricultural Water Needs Assessment will be a collaborative effort. Many agencies are already involved in the work that will support the Assessment. UCCE and the RCD have been and will continue to provide support through allocation of staff time. Multiple agencies have been providing ongoing support for key data collection through funding stream gauging. These include United State Geological Survey, MidPeninsula Open Space District, the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside, Coastside County Water District and the RCD. In addition to this support, POST has stepped up with $10,000 of funding to specifically support the Needs Assessment. They will fund initial installation of the evapotranspiration monitoring equipment which will capture information from the 2016 growing season. They will also contribute to the data collection portion of Phase One. Measure A District Funds will be applied to both the data collection and stream gauging efforts.

I am requesting board approval for funding for Phase One of this project.  Specifically, I am requesting a total of $20,000 be provide to the RCD for the following specific purposes:

  •        $13,000 to partially fund a Conservation Assistant to do the work needed for Phase One of the Needs Assessment
  •        $7,000 that would provide approximately 25% of the funding needed for the Water Year 2017 (after the USGS contribution) for both the Pilarcitos Creek and San Gregorio Creek stream gauges and funding for current RCD staff to develop long term funding sources for stream gauges and to determine what additional gauges are needed, which would enable this work to go forward

The Office of Sustainability will work San Mateo County Resource Conservation District staff on including performance objectives for the County’s Measure A funds in the agreement.

Important note: This is a copy of the official report -- item 9 on the Board's agenda.