Topic: Agricultural Drainage


Agricultural Drainage

California’s rich agricultural productivity comes with a price. The dry climate that provides the almost year-round growing season also can require heavily irrigated soils.  But such irrigation can also degrade the local water quality.

Two of the state’s most productive farming areas in particular, the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and parts of the Imperial Valley in southern California, have poorly drained and naturally saline soils.

Aquafornia news Los Angeles Times

Wednesday Top of the Scroll: Why California can’t provide safe drinking water to all its residents

More than a decade after California became the first state in the nation to declare that access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water was a human right, about a million residents remain connected to failing water systems — many of which may increase their risk of cancer, liver and kidney problems, or other serious health issues. The number of failed water systems has jumped about 25% since 2021, an increase driven partly by the collection of more data. … The crisis has cast a harsh light on the state’s ability to provide clean and affordable drinking water to all its residents, particularly those in the Central Valley, where widespread contaminants afflict communities with substandard infrastructure and where the heavy use of agricultural fertilizers and fumigants, as well as the overpumping of aquifers, has worsened water quality.

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Aquafornia news The Good Men Project

Reviving a famously polluted California lake

Jesus Campanero Jr. was a teenager when he noticed there was something in the water. He once found a rash all over his body after a swim in nearby Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake in California. During summertime, an unbearable smell would waft through the air. Then, in 2017, came the headlines, after hundreds of fish washed up dead on the shore. “That’s when it really started to click in my head that there’s a real issue here,” says Campanero, now a tribal council member for the Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians of California, whose ancestors have called the lake home for thousands of years. The culprit? Harmful algal blooms (HABs). 

Aquafornia news Chico Enterprise-Record

Butte County awarded $11 million for water projects

The California Department of Water Resources awarded multimillion-dollar grants to two groundwater subbasins in Butte County. DWR announced that the Vina subbasin, which includes Chico and Durham, and the Wyandotte Creek subbasin, which covers the Oroville area, are among 32 subbasins that will receive a total of $187 million to “help support local sustainable groundwater management.” Vina and Wyandotte Creek each received $5.5 million. The county’s third subbasin, Butte, did not get a grant in the funding announced this week. Tod Kimmelshue, chair of the Butte County Board of Supervisors and a member of the Vina subbasin board, praised the state for supporting local efforts. 

Aquafornia news The Sun-Gazette Newspaper

Key crop prices emerge after spring flooding

While large tracts of farmland were underwater this spring, prices for Valley crops are on the rise as California soil and growers prove to be resilient once again. California’s tomato processors reported they have or will have contracts for 12.7 million tons of processing tomatoes for 2023, the highest number of contracted planted acres since 2016. This production estimate is 2.4% higher than the January intentions forecast of 12.4 million tons, and 21.4% above the final contracted production total in 2022. The May contracted acreage of 254,000 is 2.4% above the January intentions forecast of 248,000 acres and 24,000 acres more than last year’s final contracted acreage.

Aquafornia news Dairy Herd

What an El Niño event could mean for fall weather

So far, 2023 has been a wild year for weather. Flooding, drought and hail have all made their way into the headlines - not to mention the extreme high and low temperatures seen throughout the seasons. While weather patterns have been anything but predictable this year, Eric Snodgrass, Principal Atmospheric Scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, says America’s heartland may start to see wetter weather conditions just in time for fall. … Back in early June, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center issued an El Niño advisory, noting that El Niño conditions were present and would likely strengthen into the fall and winter months. … El Niño winters also bring better chances for warmer-than-average temperatures across the northern tier of the country.

Aquafornia news KVPR - Bakersfield

Some of the highest-quality cotton in the US is among the casualties of Tulare Lake

If you’ve got a cotton hoodie or pair of leggings you’d describe as “buttery soft,” chances are it’s made of pima cotton. And according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the largest pima producer in the country is Kings County. “Not too many places can grow it like we do,” said Roger Isom, president and CEO of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association. This year, however, most of the land that would have been planted with pima cotton was underwater, among the 170 square miles submerged when Tulare Lake refilled. Too much water this year, plus too little water before that, is having ripple effects throughout the industry and community. Isom says at least two cotton processors, known as gins, have had to close their doors in the Valley this year, leaving fewer than two dozen statewide.

Aquafornia news Forbes

This company is turning waste into clean hydrogen. And electricity. And water

Power system manufacturer FuelCell Energy and carmaker Toyota have deployed the world’s first “tri-gen” system that turns methane-rich waste gas into electricity, clean hydrogen and water that the auto giant will use at its Southern California port facility for the next 20 years. … The companies said Thursday the energy platform at Toyota’s main U.S. logistics facility at the Port of Long Beach, proposed in 2017 and built in stages, is fully complete and operating. It’s designed to convert a stream of biogas, sourced from agricultural waste and sludge, into 2.3 megawatts of electricity, 1,200 kilograms of hydrogen and 1,400 gallons of water per day, FuelCell Energy CEO Jason Few told Forbes. It cost about $35 million to build and only takes up as much space as three basketball courts.

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Aquafornia news Ag Net West

‘Most stressful and most challenging’ watermelon season

Watermelon season has been a tough one this year after a late start due to the weather. VP of Crops and Soils at Van Groningen & Sons Incorporated, Bryan Van Groningen said their planting was delayed about three weeks back in Spring. Plantings usually go in around the middle of March, but this year the earliest plantings did not start until the first week of April. “At one time we had almost one million transplants sitting in greenhouses in the last couple weeks of March that were ready to be planted and we had no place to plant them because the fields were too wet,” Van Groningen.

Aquafornia news Scientific Reports

New study: Microplastics influence on herbicides removal and biosurfactants production by a Bacillus sp. strain active against Fusarium culmorum

Chemical pesticides are produced synthetically and applied as a main method for pest removal, especially in agriculture. In 2020, pesticide consumption was 2.66 million metric tons, with the United States being the largest pesticide-consuming country worldwide with 407.8 thousand metric tons of pesticides used, and Brazil coming in second with 377.2 thousand tons consumed. From 1990 to 2010, the global consumption of pesticides increased by more than 50%. According to Soloneski et al., more than 99.9% of pesticides applied to crops worldwide become toxic residues in the environment, never reaching their specific targets. These compounds are usually toxic and persist in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Aquafornia news FishBio

Blog: Chemical cuisine – Chinook exposure to pesticides varies with preferred prey

The Central Valley of California only contains 1% of U.S. farmland, but generates 8% of the country’s agricultural output and produces a quarter of the nation’s food. Much of this astounding production comes from the 8,500 square kilometers of farmland in the Sacramento River watershed, which covers the northern portion of the Central Valley. This extensive farmland means that the watershed is exposed to a significant amount of compounds commonly used in farming, including pesticides. As water flows over the land to streams and rivers, it carries these contaminants along with it, ultimately dumping them in waterways and floodplains, where they often make their way into the food web. Consequently, juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) feeding and rearing within the watershed can be exposed to these harmful compounds.

Aquafornia news SF Gate

Why you should keep your car windows rolled up in parts of California

California health officials are warning of a potential increased risk of valley fever, a respiratory disease caused by fungus that grows in soil across many parts of the state. This winter’s heavy rains may have caused an increase in the growth of the Coccidioides fungus, which causes valley fever, the California Department of Public Health announced in a press release. Valley fever occurs when dust containing the fungus is inhaled, leading to respiratory symptoms that can turn severe or even fatal.  Periods of heavy rain can cause the Coccidioides fungus to become more active, according to research conducted by the University of California, Berkeley and CDPH. That means valley fever cases could spike in the coming months, as spores that grew during this year’s record rainfall dry out and become airborne in dust.

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Aquafornia news Investigate Midwest

Three widely used pesticides driving hundreds of endangered species toward extinction, according to EPA

Today, the bumblebee is among more than 200 endangered species whose existence is threatened by the nation’s most widely used insecticides (one classification of pesticides), according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The endangered species range from Attwater’s greater prairie chicken to the Alabama cave shrimp, from the American burying beetle to the slackwater darter. And the star cactus and four-petal pawpaw are among the 160-plus at-risk plants. The three neonicotinoids — thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid — are applied as seed coatings on some 150 million acres of crops each year, including corn, soybeans and other major crops. Neonicotinoids are a group of neurotoxic insecticides similar to nicotine and used widely on farms and in urban landscapes. 

Aquafornia news KQED - San Francisco

Bay Area red tide crisis ends, watchdog group declares algae bloom over

The red tide that gave East Bay waters a light brown sheen earlier this month is likely over, declared the environmental watchdog group San Francisco Baykeeper Monday. “I would say this bloom is done for now,” said the group’s staff scientist Ian Wren on a boat under the eastern half of the Bay Bridge, where the water was olive green instead of a murky tea color brought on by the bloom. … Even though the red tide has dissipated, Eileen White, executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, is hesitant “to declare victory.” … Last year the red tide — literally billions of tiny algae called Heterosigma akashiwo — killed an immeasurable amount of fish. This year, the algae killed fewer than 100, according to a state-run citizen science project. Sitings of important Bay Area species, including sturgeons, bat rays and crabs, were among the dead.

Could Virtual Networks Solve Drinking Water Woes for California’s Isolated, Disadvantaged Communities?
WESTERN WATER SPOTLIGHT: UCLA pilot project uses high-tech gear in LA to remotely run clean-water systems for small communities in Central California's Salinas Valley

UCLA’s remote water treatment systems are providing safe tap water to three disadvantaged communities in the Salinas Valley. A pilot program in the Salinas Valley run remotely out of Los Angeles is offering a test case for how California could provide clean drinking water for isolated rural communities plagued by contaminated groundwater that lack the financial means or expertise to connect to a larger water system.

Western Water Layperson's Guide to Water Rights Law Gary Pitzer

Amid ‘Green Rush’ of Legal Cannabis, California Strives to Control Adverse Effects on Water
WESTERN WATER IN-DEPTH: State crafts water right and new rules unique to marijuana farms, but will growers accustomed to the shadows comply?

A marijuana plant from a growing operationFor decades, cannabis has been grown in California – hidden away in forested groves or surreptitiously harvested under the glare of high-intensity indoor lamps in suburban tract homes.

In the past 20 years, however, cannabis — known more widely as marijuana – has been moving from being a criminal activity to gaining legitimacy as one of the hundreds of cash crops in the state’s $46 billion-dollar agriculture industry, first legalized for medicinal purposes and this year for recreational use.

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Salton Sea

As part of the historic Colorado River Delta, the Salton Sea regularly filled and dried for thousands of years due to its elevation of 237 feet below sea level.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley

Salt. In a small amount, it’s a gift from nature. But any doctor will tell you, if you take in too much salt, you’ll start to have health problems. The same negative effect is happening to land in the Central Valley. The problem scientists call “salinity” poses a growing threat to our food supply, our drinking water quality and our way of life. The problem of salt buildup and potential – but costly – solutions are highlighted in this 2008 public television documentary narrated by comedian Paul Rodriguez.


Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley (20-minute DVD)

A 20-minute version of the 2008 public television documentary Salt of the Earth: Salinity in California’s Central Valley. This DVD is ideal for showing at community forums and speaking engagements to help the public understand the complex issues surrounding the problem of salt build up in the Central Valley potential – but costly – solutions. Narrated by comedian Paul Rodriquez.

Western Water Magazine

Salt of the Earth: Can the Central Valley Solve its Salinity Problem?
July/August 2007

This Western Water looks at proposed new measures to deal with the century-old problem of salinity with a special focus on San Joaquin Valley farms and cities.

Western Water Magazine

Unlocking the Mysteries of Selenium
March/April 2006

This issue of Western Water examines that process. Much of the information is drawn from discussions that occurred at the November 2005 Selenium Summit sponsored by the Foundation and the California Department of Water Resources. At that summit, a variety of experts presented findings and the latest activities from areas where selenium is of primary interest.

Aquafornia news

Aquafornia news about Agricultural Drainage

There are some important things happening in the news right now. Check it out on Aquafornia!


Layperson’s Guide to Agricultural Drainage
Updated 2001

With irrigation projects that import water, farmers have transformed millions of acres of land into highly productive fields and orchards. But the dry climate that provides an almost year-round farming season can hasten salt build up in soils. The build-up of salts in poorly drained soils can decrease crop productivity, and there are links between drainage water from irrigated fields and harmful impacts on fish and wildlife.


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.


Water on the Edge (60-minute DVD)

Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system, there have been some critical events that had a profound impact on California’s water history. These turning points not only forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.

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. 

Maps & Posters

Carson River Basin Map
Published 2006

A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and its link to the Truckee River. The map includes Lahontan Dam and Reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin. Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin Area Office.

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Imperial Valley

Southern California’s Imperial Valley is home to California’s earliest agricultural drainage success story, one that converted a desert landscape to an agricultural one, but at the same time created far reaching consequences.

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Evaporation Ponds

Evaporation ponds contain agricultural drainage water and are used when agricultural growers do not have access to rivers for drainage disposal.

Drainage water is the only source of water in many of these ponds, resulting in extremely high concentrations of salts. Concentrations of other trace elements such as selenium are also elevated in evaporation basins, with a wide degree of variability among basins.

Such ponds resemble wetland areas that birds use for nesting and feeding grounds and may pose risks to waterfowl and shorebirds.

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Agricultural Drainage Environmental Impacts

Agriculture drainage issues date back to the earliest farming. In ancient times, farmers let fields stay fallow hoping rain would flush out salt.

Today, salt and other contaminants continue to cause agricultural drainage problems, particularly in California. Whether a field is adequately drained, or saturated with water, the water still has to be removed.

The disposal of this often-contaminated water continues to be a challenge in California, with the environmental effects of selenium and other drainage-related elements changing the course of drainage planning.

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Agricultural Drainage and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

Few regions are as important to California water as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers converge to discharge into San Francisco Bay.

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Agricultural Drainage

California’s rich agricultural productivity comes with a price. The dry climate that provides the almost year-round growing season also can require heavily irrigated soils. But such irrigation can degrade the local water quality.

Two of the state’s most productive farming areas in particular, the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and parts of the Imperial Valley in Southern California, have poorly drained and naturally saline soils.