By Steve Olson
Center for Irrigation Technology Director David Zoldoske has been tapped by California State University Chancellor Charles Reed to serve in a new position as top water policy advisor for the CSU system.
Zoldoske's appointment comes slightly more than a year after leading members of the CSU and the state's agricultural industry determined that the university system has a significant role to play in helping California address an ever worsening water situation. Increases in residential population, combined with successive dry rainfall years, have left the state with simply not enough water for urban, agricultural and environmental needs.
According to Reed, the CSU's Agricultural Advisory Committee encouraged the CSU to designate an individual who could provide independent and well-informed applied research and policy analysis on water-related issues for various agencies and stakeholder groups within California. Zoldoske was chosen from a pool of candidates representing CSU campuses across the state.
"Everyone knows we have a serious water problem, and it needs statewide attention" Zoldoske says in discussing his new role. "As a state, we have to determine what our water priorities are and what actions need to be taken."
According to Zoldoske, the key to addressing California's water issues is a proper understanding of the state's major thoroughfare for water use and distribution – the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta.
"The delta supplies water to 22 million people in our state, and it is facing environmental challenges, including multiple listings of endangered species," Zoldoske says. "It is imperative that we maintain the health of the delta so that it can still be used to meet our water needs."
Various entities have control and/or influence over delta water distribution, Zoldoske notes. They include federal and state agencies, cities and water districts, and courts. Last fall a federal court ordered new water release reductions to prevent further erosion of the delta ecosystem. That reduction will provide Central Valley irrigators with only 35% of normal 2008 allocations, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
"Another major issue is groundwater overdraft. Some officials estimate that agricultural and urban users are pumping 1.2 million acre-feet more per year than is being replenished to our underground aquifers in California.
"This is especially pronounced in the San Joaquin Valley. It's like we're extracting an amount the size of Pine Flat Lake from the ground every year, and not putting it back. And the remaining water is deeper and more expensive to pump," Zoldoske adds.
One of his key responsibilities will be advising university leaders, the agricultural industry, and other state leaders on water policy issues and initiatives developed through the CSU.
"We have to develop sustainable water-use practices in California. And these practices must be based on good science. Part of my job will be to inventory current research within the CSU system, to look for cooperators, to get people together," Zoldoske says. "We need to organize all players and seek solutions together as we face these multiple issues."
Leaders of water-related research and policy may contact Zoldoske at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Olson writes for the California Agricultural Technology Institute at Fresno State.