UCANR Strategic Initiatives
University of California
UCANR Strategic Initiatives

Water Quality, Quantity and Security Research

Research Topics

The Water Strategic Initiative has targeted four key areas of inquiry for preferred research and extension projects. Download details on each:

Interactions between surface water and groundwater and between water quality and quantity also present opportunities for research. In addition, there are many broad issues that cut across these four key areas including climate change, water balances and re-use, urban and rural land use planning,
agricultural production systems, and wildlife ecosystems.

Current Research Projects

Improving irrigation and nitrogen management of coastal vegetable and berry crops
For many important crops grown in coastal California -- including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, high-density salad greens, peppers, blackberries, and raspberries -- better documentation of nitrogen uptake characteristics and irrigation water uptake is needed to guide management practices in the context of severe regulatory pressure to limit the movement of nitrate into ground and surface water. This project will develop detailed water and nutrient management guidelines for these crops. The data collected will be used to expand UC ANR's online decision support tool, CropManage.
For more information, contact Michael Cahn.

Groundwater Banking: An agricultural systems approach for water security in California
California needs new ways to bank groundwater. One largely unexplored approach is using land in agricultural production for recharging excess surface water where and when it is available. Alfalfa and irrigated pasture are promising for this type of recharge for several reasons, including their relative tolerance to flooding, low demand for agricultural chemicals that could threaten groundwater quality, substantial extent in California (more than 1.5 million acres), relatively low net establishment costs and crop return per acre, and prevalence of flood irrigation. This project will test the physical and agronomic feasibility of agricultural groundwater banking using alfalfa and irrigated pasture field sites, and will develop feasibility indices and decision support tools to guide this type of groundwater recharge.
For more information, contact Helen Dahlke.

Subsurface Drip Irrigation for alfalfa to improve water use efficiency and protect water quality
Alfalfa, a major forage crop for the dairy industry, uses more than 5 million acre-feet per year, making it the largest consumer of agricultural water in the state. Most alfalfa in California is surface irrigated. Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) promises improvements in crop yield per gallon exceeding 30% but currently is used on less than 1% of the alfalfa in the state. This three-year research effort will compare surface and SDI methods in large-scale field tests work to address limitations, such as rodent problems, to the adoption of SDI. The project includes a major grower outreach component.
For more information, contact Dan Putnam.

Management of Nitrogen Fertilizers and Irrigation Water
Recent studies have found widespread nitrate contamination in some of California’s groundwater systems. The Water Initiative is working with the California Institute for Water Resources and state agencies to create a curriculum and training that will assist certified crop consultants and growers who are managing nitrogen fertilizers and irrigation water. Professionals who take the training will be certified by the State of California to write Nitrogen Management Plans that will meet state regulatory approval.
For more information, contact Doug Parker.

Forest Management and Water Yields
In a multi-year, multi-disciplinary collaboration with the California Institute for Water Resources and several non-profit agencies, Water Initiative researchers are assessing issues related to climate change, vegetation manipulation and the forest water cycle in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Sierras harbor globally distinctive forest resources that deliver hydropower and water supply to many Californians.
For more information, contact Kevin O'Hara

Creek Carbon Project
The Water Initiative’s Creek Carbon project studies riparian restoration areas that provide carbon sequestration pools and nitrogen uptake in ecosystems to reverse deteriorating in-stream water quality. Soil and vegetation analyses of restored sites provide comprehensive documentation of the role of riparian revegetation on soil, vegetative carbon and nitrogen cycling.
For more information, contact David Lewis.

Soil Survey Decision Support Tools for Water Resource Sustainability and Agricultural Productivity
Our goal is to provide science-based information to agricultural and water resource managers by repackaging soil survey data into interactive, map-based decision support tools driven by internet and smartphone apps.
Download project details here.
For more information, contact Anthony O'Geen.

Effects of Application of Winery Wastewater on Soil, Grape Nutrition, and Juice and Wine Quality
The California wine industry presently faces the following key issues: limited water availability due to increasing demands from urban users and climate change, disposal of winery wastewater, and existing and anticipated legislation, such as AB2121, which regulates instream flows in California’s North Coast region. These issues underscore the need to utilize other water sources for irrigation in agricultural systems, such as treated wastewater from wine production. This study will follow effects of winery wastewater application from the soil through grapevine growth and grape production, ending with evaluations of wine chemistry and sensory analysis.
Download project details here.
For more information, contact Anita Oberholster.

Cross-Initiative Projects 

Interactive Effects of Environment and Management on Multiple Ecosystem Services: Decision Support for Site-Specific Rangeland Management
Effective rangeland management is limited by our inability to account for site-specific effects of management on the provisioning of multiple ecosystem services. This research will improve the effectiveness of management practices by learning from past projects—bringing together information from thousands of research and management trials to determine which management practices are successful under a given set of conditions.
Download project details here.
For more information, contact Valerie Eviner.

Sorghum as a low-input crop for bioenergy, food and feed in California
Sorghum can remain productive under comparatively low water and nutrient conditions, and produces valuable products such as bioenergy, food and livestock feed. Sorghum could therefore help reduce irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer use in California whilst maintaining productive agricultural out-put This project aims to facilitate the increased use of sorghum as a multi-purpose, low-input crop for the California.
Download project details here.
For more information, contact Jeffery Dahlberg.

New Winter Annual Oilseeds are Promising Alternative Crops For Food, Feed and Biofuel In California
New winter annual oilseed Brassica crops could provide valuable new options for California growers across a wide range of locations and differing farming systems. This project will conduct applied research and outreach to create new crop opportunities across the state and help meet the state’s climate change and greenhouse gas goals.
Download project details here.
For more information, contact Stephen Kaffka.

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