Topic: Agricultural Conservation


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 San Francisco Chronicle

Commentary: Do California wine grapes use more water than almonds and other crops?

Making wine requires water. But how much? Water is a precious resource in drought-prone California, and its use in agriculture is rightfully a contentious topic. … While a wine glut is compelling some grape growers to remove their vineyards, some readers are suggesting that this might be a good thing from a water use perspective. So I wanted to understand: Just how big of a water suck are California grapevines, really? The TLDR here is that California wine grapes don’t gulp nearly as much water as crops like almonds, pistachios and alfalfa. But the real story here is much more complex … 

Aquafornia news KDRV - Medford

Water shortages impact Klamath basin economy, new study says

An Oregon State University study is showing the economic impact that water shortages have had on farms and ranches in the upper Klamath basin. The study was partially funded by Klamath County.  It found that crops and livestock grown and raise din the area are worth about $368 million annually. It also generates more than $176 million in income for more than 3,000 employees.  The study found that about $12 million in labor income and 210 jobs have been lost with the decline in livestock production because of water restrictions. It also found that more than $12 million in labor income and 120 jobs are presently at risk because of the maximum amount of water the Bureau of Reclamation allows farmers to use. 

Aquafornia news Desert Sun

Opinion: We’re here, and we want our Salton Sea protected

The Salton Sea is more than a district priority, and it is disheartening to learn that many state officials view it as a problem for only our local officials to solve. Over the next few weeks Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Assembly and the Senate will make crucial decisions about our state budget and a potential Climate Resilience Bond. It is vital for them to understand that protecting the Sea is a statewide priority. The Salton Sea is surrounded by several unique and rapidly growing communities across Riverside and Imperial counties, ranging in size from 231 residents in Bombay Beach to approximately 44,000 residents in El Centro. All these communities face significant health risks and environmental justice concerns related to the Salton Sea and a number of other issues in the region.
-Written by Dora Cecilia Armenta, who has lived with her family of four in Salton City for 29 years. She is an active community partner with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability; and Mariela Loera, the Eastern Coachella Valley Regional Policy Manager with the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. 

Aquafornia news Courthouse News Service

Thursday Top of the Scroll: Drying Salton Sea has caused dangerous pollution, health problems for nearby communities, study finds

Back in 2003, farmers in California’s Imperial Valley agreed to send some of their Colorado River water to cities on the coast. The deal was touted as a win for thirsty Californians and a boon for efforts to conserve water. But the deal also caused dangerous pollution for those living near the Salton Sea, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics on Wednesday. For the study, researchers looked at 20 years of daily air pollution data collected from around the inland and heavily saline Salton Sea between 1998 to 2018. As the water-transfer program reduced agricultural runoff that replenishes the sea, once-underwater lakebed was exposed to wind, leading to increased dust and air pollutants that can cause heart and respiratory issues, they found.

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Aquafornia news SJV Water

Cover crops could enhance groundwater recharge – a lot – but agencies aren’t embracing the concept

Cover crops could be an important tool in groundwater management but are being unintentionally disincentivized by groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs,) according to a new study. GSAs haven’t done enough analysis or incentivization of cover crops, according to authors of the study. In fact, the study suggests some GSAs are putting a negative spin on the use of cover crops by accounting for their water usage but excluding their water benefits. … [The study] was a collaborative effort between many organizations and agencies including the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources and nonprofit Sustainable Conservation. 

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Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Monday Top of the Scroll: California wants to harness more than half its land to combat climate change by 2045. Here’s how

California has unveiled an ambitious plan to help combat the worsening climate crisis with one of its invaluable assets: its land. Over the next 20 years, the state will work to transform more than half of its 100 million acres into multi-benefit landscapes that can absorb more carbon than they release, officials announced Monday. … The plan also calls for 11.9 million acres of forestland to be managed for biodiversity protection, carbon storage and water supply protection by 2045, and 2.7 million acres of shrublands and chaparral to be managed for carbon storage, resilience and habitat connectivity, among other efforts.

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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.


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.