Topic: Agricultural Conservation

Overview

Agricultural Conservation

As the single largest water-consuming industry, agriculture has become a focal point for efforts to promote water conservation. The drive for water use efficiency has become institutionalized in agriculture through numerous federal, state and local programs. Since the 1980s, some water districts serving agricultural areas have developed extensive water conservation programs to help their customers (From Aquapedia).

Aquafornia news Agri-Pulse Communications

State calls for outstanding water use reports

The California Water Resources Control Board said it still needs more than 40% of the required water usage reports that were due at the beginning of the month.

Aquafornia news High Times

Report: Unlicensed cannabis grows use more water than licensed grows in California

The University of California, Berkeley (UCB) recently published a scientific brief in February regarding illegal water use for cannabis plants. Entitled “Water Use: Cannabis in Context,” the brief was conducted by individuals at the Berkeley Cannabis Research Center, which is part of the College of Environmental Science Policy & Management. The Cannabis Research Center has been reviewing cannabis water use since 2017, and the most recent brief is split into four sections posed with a question. First, “How much water does cannabis use relative to stream flow?” explains that cannabis water use in regions along the Northern California coast and semi-inland areas (primarily Humboldt and Mendocino County) represents a “small fraction” of surface water supplies year-round, and especially during the months of July, August, and September.

Aquafornia news Ag Info

Almonds use less water than you think

Danielle Veenstra is an almond grower as well as the senior manager for reputation management and sustainability communications for the Almond Board of California. She comments on how the production of almonds uses much less water than you think.

Aquafornia news CleanTechnica

OpenET study helps water managers & farmers put NASA data to work

As the world looks for sustainable solutions, a system tapping into NASA satellite data for water management has passed a critical test. Called OpenET, the system uses an ensemble of six satellite-driven models that harness publicly available data from the Landsat program to calculate evapotranspiration (ET)—the movement of water vapor from soil and plant leaves into the atmosphere. OpenET does this on a field-level scale that is greatly improving the way farmers, ranchers, and water resource managers steward one of Earth’s most precious resources. Researchers have now conducted a large-scale analysis of how well OpenET is tracking evapotranspiration over crops and natural landscapes. The team compared OpenET data with measurements from 152 sites with ground-based instruments across the United States. In agricultural areas, OpenET calculated evapotranspiration with high accuracy, especially for annual crops such as wheat, corn, soy, and rice.

Aquafornia news Food and Environment Reporting Network

Want farmers to protect the environment?

Like a reveler who chases each of many tequila shots with a seltzer, U.S. farm policy consists of comically clashing impulses likely to result in a nasty hangover. The Department of Agriculture doles out substantial subsidies each year to entice farmers to maximize production of corn and soybeans. These commodities account for about 60 percent of U.S. farmland, are used to fatten animals on factory farms, and deliver many of the sugars and fats in our ultraprocessed diets. Unsavory side effects of their production include planet-warming emissions, soil erosion, and polluted waterways. Since 1985, the USDA has also offered farmers cash to adopt conservation practices meant to help counter those troublesome impacts. Growers can make extra money by adding soil-stabilizing crops such as rye and oats to their rotations or by establishing filter strips of grasses or legumes, which are designed to trap chemical runoff. 

Aquafornia news NASA Earth Observatory

Tracking the invisible movement of water

As the world looks for sustainable solutions, a system tapping into NASA satellite data for water management has passed a critical test. Called OpenET, the system uses an ensemble of six satellite-driven models that harness publicly available data from the Landsat program to calculate evapotranspiration (ET)—the movement of water vapor from soil and plant leaves into the atmosphere. OpenET does this on a field-level scale that is greatly improving the way farmers, ranchers, and water resource managers steward one of Earth’s most precious resources. Researchers recently conducted a large-scale analysis of how well OpenET is tracking evapotranspiration over crops and natural landscapes.

Aquafornia news CalMatters

Opinion: Critics of CA water conservation critics often ignore farms

A recent criticism of the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed regulations for urban water conservation was wildly misplaced. Urban water is valuable because it must be treated to the highest standards, delivered to millions of locations and available daily. The proposed conservation regulations will achieve greater water savings than the city of Los Angeles uses annually. Granted, California and other states have failed to apply contemporary standards to their antiquated water rights systems. But the need to tackle such reforms does not diminish the need for greater urban water efficiency. Indeed, belittling the value of urban water efficiency is often a deflection from those with no concept, no plan, no consensus and no intention of actually challenging agricultural water use reform.
-Written by Dr. Mark Gold, director of water scarcity solutions at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

California Water Agencies Hoped A Deluge Would Recharge Their Aquifers. But When It Came, Some Couldn’t Use It
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: January storms jump-started recharge projects in badly overdrafted San Joaquin Valley, but hurdles with state permits and infrastructure hindered some efforts

An intentionally flooded almond orchard in Tulare CountyIt was exactly the sort of deluge California groundwater agencies have been counting on to replenish their overworked aquifers.

The start of 2023 brought a parade of torrential Pacific storms to bone dry California. Snow piled up across the Sierra Nevada at a near-record pace while runoff from the foothills gushed into the Central Valley, swelling rivers over their banks and filling seasonal creeks for the first time in half a decade.    

Suddenly, water managers and farmers toiling in one of the state’s most groundwater-depleted regions had an opportunity to capture stormwater and bank it underground. Enterprising agencies diverted water from rushing rivers and creeks into manmade recharge basins or intentionally flooded orchards and farmland. Others snagged temporary permits from the state to pull from streams they ordinarily couldn’t touch.

In the Heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies Try to Find Their Balance
WESTERN WATER SPECIAL REPORT: Agencies in Fresno, Tulare counties pursue different approaches to address overdraft and meet requirements of California’s groundwater law

Flooding permanent crops seasonally, such as this vineyard at Terranova Ranch in Fresno County, is one innovative strategy to recharge aquifers.Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Douglas E. Beeman

Water Resource Innovation, Hard-Earned Lessons and Colorado River Challenges — Western Water Year in Review
WESTERN WATER NOTEBOOK-Our 2019 articles spanned the gamut from groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency to collaboration and innovation

Smoke from the 2018 Camp Fire as viewed from Lake Oroville in Northern California. Innovative efforts to accelerate restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires. Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address persistent challenges facing the Colorado River. 

These were among the issues Western Water explored in 2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed them.

Western Water California Groundwater Map Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

As Deadline Looms for California’s Badly Overdrafted Groundwater Basins, Kern County Seeks a Balance to Keep Farms Thriving
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Sustainability plans required by the state’s groundwater law could cap Kern County pumping, alter what's grown and how land is used

Water sprinklers irrigate a field in the southern region of the San Joaquin Valley in Kern County.Groundwater helped make Kern County the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Groundwater Gary Pitzer

Could the Arizona Desert Offer California and the West a Guide to Solving Groundwater Problems?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: Environmental Defense Fund report highlights strategies from Phoenix and elsewhere for managing demands on groundwater

Skyline of Phoenix, ArizonaAs California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.

Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.

Aquapedia background

Water Use Efficiency

The message is oft-repeated that water must be conserved and used as wisely as possible.

The California Water Code calls water use efficiency “the efficient management of water resources for beneficial uses, preventing waste, or accomplishing additional benefits with the same amount of water.”

Western Water Magazine

Keeping It Down on the Farm: Agricultural Water Use Efficiency
March/April 2012

This printed issue of Western Water examines agricultural water use – its successes, the planned state regulation to quantify its efficiency and the potential for greater savings.

Video

Shaping of the West: 100 Years of Reclamation

30-minute DVD that traces the history of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and its role in the development of the West. Includes extensive historic footage of farming and the construction of dams and other water projects, and discusses historic and modern day issues.

Western Water Excerpt Gary PitzerRita Schmidt Sudman

Keeping It Down on the Farm: Agricultural Water Use Efficiency
March/April 2012

There are two constants regarding agricultural water use – growers will continue to come up with ever more efficient and innovative ways to use water and they will always be pressed to do more.

It’s safe to say the matter will not be settled anytime soon, given all the complexities that are a part of the water use picture today. While officials and stakeholders grapple to find a lasting solution to California’s water problems that balances environmental and economic needs, those who grow food and fiber for a living do so amid a host of challenges.

Maps & Posters

San Joaquin River Restoration Map
Published 2012

This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, features a map of the San Joaquin River. The map text focuses on the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, which aims to restore flows and populations of Chinook salmon to the river below Friant Dam to its confluence with the Merced River. The text discusses the history of the program, its goals and ongoing challenges with implementation. 

Aquapedia background

Agricultural Conservation

Agricultural Conservation

As the single largest water-consuming industry, agriculture has become a focal point for efforts to promote water conservation. In turn, discussions about agricultural water use often become polarized.

With this in mind, the drive for water use efficiency has become institutionalized in agriculture through numerous federal, state and local programs.