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 US Environmental Protection Agency

News release: EPA announces proposal to protect tribal reserved rights in water quality standards and best practices for tribal treaty and reserved rights

Today, during the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan announced a proposal to revise the federal water quality standards regulations to better protect Tribal rights under the Clean Water Act (CWA). With this action, EPA is working to ensure that state and federal water quality standards will protect tribal rights such as the right to fish or gather aquatic plants—that are reserved through treaties, statutes, executive orders, or other sources of federal law. 

Aquafornia news KCRW - Los Angeles

CA solar canals could help fix 2 climate problems at once

California’s newest infrastructure project will hit two proverbial climate birds with one stone. And Los Angeles city officials just decided last week to try one of its own. The plan is to cover some of California’s exposed water canals with solar panels. It will prevent evaporation amidst the state’s historic drought. It will also create renewable energy as the state attempts to meet lofty decarbonization goals. The idea gained traction in California after researchers at UC Merced studied the possibility on the state’s canals last year.  “If we put solar panels over all 4000 miles of California’s open canals, we estimated we could save 65 billion gallons of water annually,” says Brandi McKuin, who led the study. “That’s enough for the residential water needs of 2 million people – enough to irrigate 50,000 acres of farmland.”

Aquafornia news Popular Science

Guayule farms are taking off in water-stricken Arizona

When the government declared an official “shortage” on the river last year, an unprecedented step, it triggered major water cuts in the central Arizona county. And those cuts have caused some farmers in Pinal County to look for more water-efficient crops, including Will Thelander, a third generation farmer in Arizona, who is testing a crop called guayule.  Guayule, a desert-adapted shrub pronounced “wy-oo-lee,” could be used for several products, most notably as a natural rubber for tires. And it requires only about half the water of cotton, alfalfa, and corn—the more water-intensive crops Thelander typically grows. … Native to the Chihuahuan Desert, it requires less water than many other crops, for one. And after it’s established, it doesn’t require any insecticides or tilling, limiting use of the chemicals and supporting carbon storage.

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Aquafornia news Ag Alert

Efforts to protect groundwater are tested by drought

Balancing the state’s groundwater supplies for a sustainable future may not be easy due to severe drought and ongoing economic challenges facing farmers. “We’ve got the lowest prices and highest production costs and the least-reliable water supply that we’ve had since I’ve been farming,” said Bill Diedrich of Firebaugh, who farms row crops and permanent crops on the west side in Madera and Fresno counties…. Diedrich, who relies on groundwater for irrigating farmland in Madera County and surface water for ground in Fresno County, said farming at this time “is very difficult.” He said the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which tasks local agencies to balance groundwater supplies in affected basins by 2040 and 2042, means farmland must come out of production.

Aquafornia news The New York Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Draft report offers starkest view yet of U.S. climate threats

The effects of climate change are already “far-reaching and worsening” throughout all regions in the United States … The draft of the National Climate Assessment, the government’s premier contribution to climate knowledge, provides the most detailed look yet at the consequences of global warming for the United States… As greenhouse gas emissions rise and the planet heats up, the authors write, the United States could face major disruptions to farms and fisheries that drive up food prices, while millions of Americans could be displaced by disasters such as severe wildfires in California, sea-level rise in Florida or frequent flooding in Texas.

Aquafornia news Civil Eats

New Mexico farmers face a choice: pray for rain or get paid not to plant

As the summer of 2022 began, 90 percent of New Mexico was in a severe drought. The largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history raged in the northern part of the state. Snowpack melted weeks early, leaving reservoirs throughout the Southwest running low. In late May, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), the authority that manages water for agriculture in the Albuquerque Basin, announced that it would not be able to guarantee farmers any water past June. The outlook for farmers was dire. The conservation district had, over the previous two years, piloted programs to pay some farmers and landowners to stop farming and fallow their fields.

Aquafornia news The Modesto Bee

Court orders more study on Del Puerto Reservoir proposal

A court ruling on the proposed Del Puerto Reservoir is a minor setback, a leader on the project said. The ruling involved only the environmental effects of relocating Del Puerto Canyon Road from the reservoir site, said Anthea Hansen, general manager of the Del Puerto Water District. The plaintiffs also had cited concerns about wildlife, recreation and excessive pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta…. Del Puerto is partnering on the new reservoir with the four irrigation districts that make up the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Authority. They farm about 250,000 acres in a stretch from Crows Landing to Mendota.

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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 Douglas E. Beeman 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.