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 ABC 10 -Sacramento

The benefits of no-till farming in Northern California

Local grower Fritz Durst is a sixth generation farmer out of Capay Valley. Over the last 30 years, Durst says he and his family have taken a no-till approach to farming. … Tilling the land rids it of weeds, pests, and prepares the soil for planting seeds. In the process, it also emits carbon dioxide, and causes soil to erode. Erosion of top soil happens much faster through tillage because the natural elements of rain and wind remove nutrients from the earth.

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Aquafornia news The Aggie

UC Davis researchers awarded $10 million to optimize groundwater, agricultural irrigation sustainability in long-term project

Amid the unpredictable impacts of climate change, UC Davis has been recently awarded $10 million in grant funding by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Researchers from a wide range of fields — from socioeconomics to agricultural groundwater and soil health — will collaborate to optimize groundwater and agricultural irrigation sustainability in the Southwest for farmers to improve crop yield and cost efficiency.

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Aquafornia news Arizona Republic

How transgenic crops could help agriculture’s water woes

John Cushman knows that succulents have tricks up their sleeves. He believes those tricks could shape the future of farming. Geneticists have long tried to understand the biochemical marvel of the succulent, and there is still much they don’t know. But these botanical curiosities have two important things in common. They’re really good at storing water. And they work at night. Now, Cushman and his team want to build off the lines of genetic code that give desert plants their superpowers.  He wants to make soybeans behave a little more like succulents.

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Aquafornia news San Francisco Chronicle

To fight off a California dust bowl, the state will pay farmers to reimagine idle land

Farmer Erik Herman said he couldn’t help but feel a tinge of remorse as he looked out over the dirt field where an orchard of 8,000 fig trees stood until earlier this month, when they were uprooted by bulldozers in the name of conservation. The orchard, seven miles outside Madera in the sprawling San Joaquin Valley, is another casualty of the water shortage that is forcing farmers in the nation’s top-producing agricultural region to abandon otherwise fertile ground en masse.

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Aquafornia news Science Daily

New research: Blasting the ‘zombie’ out of water-saving tech

A team of scientists, including experts from the University of Adelaide, suggest that reliance on modern irrigation technologies as a water-use efficiency strategy is a ‘zombie idea’ — one that persists no matter how much evidence is thrown against it. In a paper in Environmental Research Letters, the international research team reviewed more than 200 supporting research articles and found technology adoption as a water-saving method for improving irrigation efficiency is ineffective, and can actually worsen water scarcity.

Aquafornia news Manteca Bulletin

Newsom administration breaks off water talks

Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration has signaled its desire to go ahead with rigid fish flow increases despite the deepening drought and hydrology changes in precipitating patterns the state’s own experts are anticipating. The state last week abruptly broke off negotiations with agencies representing water users on the Stanislaus, Merced, and Tuolumne watersheds regarding its desire to implement new fish flows that will essentially reduce water available for urban and farm uses.

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Aquafornia news MJ Biz Daily

Cannabis growers eye drought-resistant strains to cope with water shortage

With water scarcity an increasing problem, some marijuana and hemp cultivators are seeking solutions beyond automation or growing methods, including using drought-resistant plant strains that require less water and can withstand higher temperatures. Ryan Power, CEO of California-based Atlas Seeds, said the California-based seed company is identifying what it deems “drought-tolerant” marijuana and hemp varieties.

Aquafornia news Valley Public Radio

These small Fresno County farmers are struggling to get water from their wells amid the drought

June Moua started growing cherries, tomatoes and grapes in east Fresno County 10 years ago. Now she grows a few different types of crops. But her most profitable are the water-intensive Asian greens like mustard greens and bok choy. … She says she learned how to farm from her father when she was younger. Since then, she’s learned even more through trial and error. She enjoys bringing these Southeast Asian crops to farmers markets in Los Angeles, but the drought has put her in a tough position.

Aquafornia news Imperial Valley Press Online

Satellites track water use to aid crop efficiency

As California weathers another drought, tools that can help farmers and ranchers maximize the water they do get are being sharpened. The newest effort to measure such water use was launched last week by a public-private coalition featuring three federal agencies – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Geological Survey – and a number of universities and private entities.

Aquafornia news WaterWorld

Free platform tracks agricultural water across West

A new online platform launched yesterday that uses satellites to estimate water consumed by crops and evapotranspiration across the West. Called OpenET, the platform makes water management data available in 17 western states. Data on the amount of water used in agriculture has been fragmented and often expensive, keeping it out of the hands of many farmers and decision-makers. OpenET hopes to allow users to easily view and download important water data. 

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Aquafornia news MarketWatch

Opinion: Drought is among the biggest dangers to the U.S. New water technology is making its way across the country

If you’re having a salad for lunch today, chances are it comes from the “Salad Bowl of the World,” the lush farmland that stretches for some 90 miles across California’s Salinas Valley. Lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, celery, cauliflower and more grow in abundance there, a source of pride and profits for farmers who work the land.  But none of it would be possible without water, and that’s the problem. 
-Written by Paul Brandus, a columnist for MarketWatch and the White House bureau chief for West Wing Reports.

Aquafornia news Bloomberg Law

Infrastructure bill seen as way to pay farmers to cut water use

Four states in the drought-wracked West considering whether to pay farmers to cut their water use see federal infrastructure legislation as a possible revenue source. The $550 billion bipartisan legislation approved in the Senate includes $25 million for the four states—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming…. Paying people to cut water use is an option under a 2019 drought contingency plan the four upper division states signed with three states in the Lower Colorado River Basin — Arizona, California and Nevada.

Aquafornia news Good Fruit Grower

Water, water nowhere, but apples get enough to drink

Nestled in the hills north of San Francisco lies a tiny microclimate where farmers grow apples with no irrigation at all. The multi-year drought that besets California? Not here. Sunburn? Not typically a problem. Those uber heat waves that baked the West Coast this summer? They skipped western Sonoma County.

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Aquafornia news NPR

Regulators are using satellites to monitor water use on farms

In a new push to stop further depletion of California’s shrinking aquifers, state regulators are turning to technology once used to count Soviet missile silos during the Cold War: satellites. Historically, California’s farmers could pump as much as they wanted from their wells. But as a consequence of that unrestricted use, the underground water table has sunk by hundreds of feet in some areas, and the state is now trying to stabilize those aquifers. Regulators need to calculate just how much water each farmer is using …

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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.


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.