'You better take care of it'

The Burns' father-daughter team, Bianchi Flowers Farm, Pescadero Creek

 

By Sam Davidson

It’s common knowledge that most of Earth’s surface is covered with water. 71 percent of it, to be precise. In fact, all that water is what makes our planet the exceedingly rare biological gem that it is in the vast vault of our galaxy.

So it is one of life’s great ironies that, in many parts of the world, water is one of the rarest of commodities on land.

In California, steadily warming temperatures (every year for the past decade has been hotter, on average, than the preceding one) and a withering drought (now in its fifth consecutive year) have combined to make cold, clean water an even rarer phenomenon.

The drought notwithstanding, in much of California the rarity of water is seasonal. On the state’s central and northern coast, the winter season can bring enough rain to provide water for human and environmental needs—for the entire year, if we are creative in the timing of our diversion of water from streams and rivers.

The mission of Trout Unlimited’s California Water Project is to build partnerships with diverse interests and develop projects which take advantage of California’s seasonal water abundance. For the past decade the Project has brought together farmers, residential landowners, conservation groups and resource agencies to design and implement collaborative projects to enhance water security for people and leave more water in-stream for salmon and steelhead at times when they need it most.

Today, the Project launched the latest in its series of short films showcasing some of these partnership-projects, and its new online channel for housing them. You can read the press release here.

The new video, titled You Better Take Care of It: Helping Farmers Help Fish on Pescadero Creek, documents the partnership between TU and Bianchi Flowers Farm in the Pescadero Creek watershed in San Mateo County. Bianchi Flowers is owned and operated by B.J. Burns, a lifelong farmer who grew up next to the creek. In the film, Burns talks about experiences such as cutting class to fish for steelhead in his youth.

The new video channel provides a user-friendly interface and useful background content for the videos, which showcase four projects that improve flows in streams during the dry season, when salmon and steelhead need it most. The URL for this channel is https://vimeo.com/channels/californiastreamflow.

(L) Native steelhead, fresh from the ocean, Pescadero Creek

Mary Ann King is Stewardship Manager for the water project. She said, “Most people really like the idea of having native fish in their backyards, and are willing to work with us to help realize that goal. These films tell the story about how steelhead and salmon restoration and water supply solutions can go hand-in-hand.”

It is true that there is only so much surface freshwater in any given year, and that agriculture in California uses a large majority of water developed (diverted, dammed, pumped) for human use, and that water left in streams to help fish means at least some of that water will not be used for human consumption.

But it turns out that, even under adverse conditions such as drought and escalating temperatures, it is possible to craft projects that benefit both people and fish—with some innovative thinking, science-based strategies, and open-minded partners.

 

TU’s new film, You Better Take Care of It, was supported by the Campbell Foundation. Other partners in the Bianchi Flowers farm project include the California Coastal Conservancy, the Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration (CEMAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District.

 

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