High-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a form of natural gas and oil extraction, is water-intensive and could exacerbate water stress. Gwen Arnold, professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, is examining efforts to locally restrict high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
“There's a lot of concern over water pollution and water use in communities,” said Doug Parker, UC ANR California Institute for Water Resources director. “We're looking at the characteristics of communities that have voted on measures to restrict the practice of fracking, both where the measures have failed and where they've passed.”
Parker expects that people on either side of the issue will be able to use the study's finding to better understand differing viewpoints. Decision-makers who may be contemplating policy action on fracking will also benefit from seeing the range of relevant policies passed by other jurisdictions and the conditions that appear to favor or discourage adoption of the policies.
Another research project is assessing the Integrated Regional Water Management approach to address the lack of safe and affordable water in disadvantaged communities throughout the state. In 2011, the California Department of Water Resources funded seven pilot projects to develop models for improving water supplies for these communities.
“We want to take a look at how well Integrated Regional Water Management worked, whether it is meeting the needs of providing safe, affordable drinking water,” Parker said.
Jonathan London, professor in the Department of Human Ecology and director of the Center for Regional Change at UC Davis, and Carolina Balazs, UC presidential postdoctoral research fellow at UC Davis, are evaluating the impact of those efforts in Inyo-Mono counties, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles County, Kings Basin, North Coast, Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley.
- Roya Bahreini, professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at UC Riverside, is looking at the relationship between water management and air quality in the Salton Sea region of southern California, where low water levels are leading to increased dust from the dry lakebed.
- Igor Lacan, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in San Mateo-San Francisco counties, is investigating the performance of trees used in streetside stormwater management facilities, which are increasingly common in cities across California as communities look for ways to increase groundwater infiltration.
- Bruce Linquist, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences UC Davis, is quantifying methylmercury loads from rice fields to determine whether they may be of concern.
- Clarissa Nobile, professor in the School of Natural Sciences at UC Merced is using a high-tech metagenomic approach to research a potential problem for groundwater wells across the state: biofouling, which has the potential to be a costly challenge.
Learn more about these and other California Institute for Water Resources research projects by visiting http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/CIWR_Making_a_difference.
The California Institute for Water Resources integrates California's research, extension, and education programs to develop research-based solutions to the state's water resource challenges. An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
“California will need about 150 percent of normal rainfall this winter to end the drought,” said Doug Parker, director of UC California Institute of Water Resources. “Although the rains have come, we can't afford to let our attention drift away from carefully managing our water supply.”
The UC California Institute of Water Resources, with support from the California Department of Water Resources, has recorded presentations by scientists in the UC system and other organizations on a variety of topics related to water management and drought. “Insights: Water and Drought Online Seminar Series” is accessible by computer or mobile device.
The online seminars enable UC Cooperative Extension and the other scientists to share their knowledge with a larger audience than those who can attend meetings in person, said Daniele Zaccaria, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in agricultural water management in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis.
“Farmers, landscape professionals, land managers, irrigation consultants, resource managers from water districts and others can view the half-hour video presentations on YouTube whenever it is convenient for them, obtaining science-based information that stems from applied research conducted by several scientists over the last 10 to 15 years,” said Zaccaria, who coordinates the speaker series.
Currently 39 videos addressing drought and water management in different settings are available, and more talks will be added in the coming months. The videos are also being used by Cooperative Extension in other states and have been viewed hundreds of times. “Groundwater and surface water interactions under water shortage,” by Thomas Harter, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, has been viewed nearly 1,400 times and “Climate change and paleoclimatology: 2013/2014 in perspective” by Lynn Ingram, professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley, has been more than 800 times.
The following titles have recently been added:
Water resources management in the Pajaro Valley, California
Brian Lockwood, senior hydrologist, Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency
Managing corn under California's drought conditions
Mark Lundy, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sutter, Yuba and Glenn counties
Droughts, climate change, and dams: Reconciling a future for California's native inland fishes
Peter Moyle, professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology at UC Davis
Managing landscapes on limited water
Loren Oki, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis
Drought - An insidious stress on wildlife
Greg Giusti, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, forests and wildland ecology in Mendocino County
Agricultural water management practices under limited water supply: Lessons from recent droughts
James E. Ayars, agricultural engineer, USDA-ARS
Soil moisture monitoring and utilization during a drought
Dan Munk, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, irrigation, soils and cotton in Fresno County
Land subsidence along the Delta-Mendota Canal and neighboring areas
Michelle Sneed, California Water Science Center, US Geological Survey
How to save water and beautify your landscape ... the sustainable way
Janet Hartin, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, environmental horticulture in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties
Efficient citrus irrigation
Blake Sanden, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, irrigation and soils in Kern County
Using agroecological practices to enhance the resilience of organic farms to drought
Miguel A. Altieri, professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley
The 2014 Experiment Station Section Excellence in Multistate Research Award presented by the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy on Nov. 2 recognizes the universities' exceptional collaboration on a multistate research project.
Patrick Brown, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, Jan Hopmans, professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, Larry Schwankl, UC Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus, and Ken Shackel, professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, are the UC researchers participating in the project “Microirrigation for Sustainable Water Use.”
"The Multistate Research Program is one of the best kept secrets of the land-grant university system, and this award recognizes outstanding interdependent efforts of researchers and extension specialists that have come together to tackle a priority issue that no one institution can address on their own,” said H. Michael Harrington, executive director of the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors. “This microirrigation project was selected out of more than 300 multistate projects because, since 1972, the group has made major advances in sustainable agriculture and water conservation.”
Using more precise irrigation management, California growers have increased water use efficiency on processing tomatoes by 54 percent and on almonds by 33 percent since 1990.
Conventional irrigation systems that apply high volumes of water over wide areas can lose a lot of water through runoff, wind, or evaporation. As a result, conventional irrigation systems often over water or under water plants. Instead, microirrigation, or drip, systems use special timers, sensors, and a network of narrow tubes to deliver the right amount of water at the right time.
In the last five years, the group's research has led to new microirrigation equipment and tools that are easier to install, more durable, and more precise. These advances, along with engagement with farmers, have encouraged adoption of microirrigation systems, which has led to significant economic and environmental impacts.
“As director of USDA-NIFA, my goal is to ensure the science we invest in leads to solutions to today's most pressing challenges,” said Sonny Ramaswamy. “One of those challenges is finding ways to feed the growing population while minimally impacting the environment. A safe, reliable supply of water is inextricably linked to food security. The five-fold increase in irrigated acres that took place during the 20th century cannot be repeated in the 21st century — there isn't the space. Instead, we must increase efficiency of the irrigated farmland we have, and that is what this project is doing.”
In addition to UC, other participating land-grant institutions include Auburn University, University of Arizona, Colorado State University, University of Florida, University of Hawaii, University of Idaho, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Mississippi State University, University of Nebraska, New Mexico State University, Cornell University, Oregon State University, University of Puerto Rico, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, University of the Virgin Islands, Washington State University, and University of Wyoming. The universities collaborated with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Agricultural Research Service.
The award was presented by ESCOP chair Bob Shulstad and Ramaswamy at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
The project's name will be added to a plaque at the USDA Waterfront Centre in Washington, D.C., and the group will receive $15,000 to support their ongoing work. The group's continued efforts are more critical than ever as the U.S. continues to experience extreme droughts that threaten water supplies and crops that depend on irrigation.
These efforts are supported, in part, through USDA-NIFA by the Multistate Research Fund, established in 1998 by the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act (an amendment to the Hatch Act of 1888) to encourage and enhance multistate, multidisciplinary agricultural research on critical issues. Additional funds were provided by contracts and grants to participating scientists. For more information about the microirrigation project, visit http://www.cropinfo.net/MI.
- Author: Debbie Thompson
New UC research shows recycled water is suitable for Napa vineyards, but adds chloride to Salinas Valley soil.
"This drought is unprecedented — we've never had such a lack of rainfall since we started keeping track," says Doug Parker, who directs UC ANR's California Institute for Water Resources and also leads UC ANR's Strategic Initiative on Water Quality, Quantity and Security. "Farmers are looking for ways they can stretch their water budget."
One way is irrigating vineyards with recycled wastewater from municipal waste treatment plants. California recycles only 7 percent of the 9 million acre-feet of urban wastewater produced per year, and the state wants to nearly quadruple that by 2030. Besides providing a source of irrigation water during drought, recycling water is cost-effective and reduces wastewater discharge to rivers.
To see if recycled water is suitable for use in Napa vineyards, UC Cooperative Extension researchers evaluated the quality of water treated by the Napa Sanitation District (NSD) as well as its impact on soil. They found that the quality of the recycled water was similar to that of other local sources of irrigation water. Additionally, in a vineyard that was irrigated with recycled water for 8 years, the soil did not accumulate salts or toxic ions, such as boron.
"Our work suggests that treated wastewater from the NSD is suitable for irrigation of vineyards over the long term," the researchers say.
One caveat is that the recycled water was relatively high in nitrogen. The higher soil nitrogen levels will be fine for many vineyards but, when needed, growers can easily reduce nitrogen by planting cover crops such as cereals and other grasses during the winter.
Also in this issue:
Recycled water increases chloride in Salinas Valley soil
Most growers in the northern Salinas Valley have irrigated their crops with recycled wastewater since 1998, raising concerns about salt accumulation in the soil. New research shows that since the year 2000, only a small amount of sodium has accumulated in the 12-inch deep rooting zone. In half of the fields studied, chloride has accumulated to levels that could affect yields of strawberry plants and leafy greens such as spinach. This chloride buildup may be due to the recent lack of winter rainfall, which normally washes salts out of the root zone, and could be mitigated by improving drainage and avoiding soil amendments that contain chloride.
Reducing runoff from alfalfa fields
Accounting for nearly 20 percent of total agricultural water use statewide, alfalfa is California's thirstiest crop — large amounts of irrigation water can be wasted as runoff. New UC research shows that alfalfa growers can reduce this runoff to a comparative trickle by using a mathematical model that predicts the advance of irrigation water across a field in combination with wireless sensors that track the water's advance. This new approach also frees growers from checking the irrigation status of fields in person, saving time and labor.
Predicting which plants will invade California
Most ornamental plants are happy to stay in gardens, but some jump the fence, invading wildlands and crowding out native plants. California has a wealth of native plants, about 3,400 species, but is also plagued by more than 1,500 species of invasive plants, many of which were introduced by the horticultural trade. New UC research identifies 186 ornamentals that have invaded Mediterranean areas in other parts of the world, and so are at high risk of becoming invasive here too. This work could help focus further risk assessments of imported ornamentals, as well as help land managers identify which species to watch for in wildlands.
The entire July-September 2014 issue can be downloaded at http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.edu.
California Agriculture is the University of California's peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources. For a free subscription, go to http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.edu or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A significant number of regions in California won't have groundwater available in another generation or two if we continue business as usual.” -- UC scientists Thomas Harter and Helen Dahlke
In the special edition of California Agriculture released today (July 16), UC Cooperative Extension specialist and UC Davis professor Thomas Harter and UC Davis professor Helen Dahlke call attention to the stress being placed on California's aquifers as well as the catastrophic consequences of not having this hidden resource available in future droughts.
In the University of California's premiere journal for agricultural research, the groundwater experts make the following key recommendations:
- Groundwater is most effectively managed at the local or regional basin level, with support from the state.
- Local groundwater management entities must be given better tools, such as clear mandates to assess, measure, monitor and allocate their groundwater and control its extraction.
- The definition of groundwater sustainability can be set at the state level and translated into specific actionable thresholds that must be enforced locally, with a credible threat of state enforcement should the local efforts be unsuccessful.
- Much better data collection, analysis, reporting and data integration are needed to provide transparency, to support local management efforts and to properly inform the public. This requires much stronger planning and support within the DWR and SWB.
“Fundamentally, even more needs to be done," Harter and Dahlke write. "Local land-use decisions on urban and agricultural development, which have critical impacts on groundwater resources, must be consistent with groundwater management objectives. This will require significant communication between land-use and groundwater managers. Effective integration with water quality management and surface water management efforts, which are governed separately, is also required. And none of these efforts can occur without sustained funding through a mix of local and state sources.”
In their outlook article, Harter and Dahlke also explore one of the most promising ideas to protect our aquifers: groundwater banking.
The idea is that during storms or flood control releases, excess surface water could be directed from streams via existing water conveyance systems onto dormant or fallow agricultural fields, which would then serve as infiltration basins. Solutions need to be developed to add significant recharge to California's aquifers, often during relatively short periods when excess surface water is available.
A 3-year project, funded by UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, aims to look at the feasibility of such groundwater recharge activities by setting up pilot groundwater recharge field experiments, which would provide valuable data to address concerns about the costs and risks to crops, the influence these projects may have on groundwater levels and flows, and the possibility of recharging contaminated water or degrading groundwater quality by leaching contaminants such as nitrate from the vadose zone. Data collected could serve as a foundation for developing economic incentives at the local, state or federal level to acknowledge the landowner's service to the local community and California's water supply reliability.
To read their entire article, "Out of sight but not out of mind: California refocuses on groundwater,” and the special "Water efficiency" edition of California Agriculture, visit http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.edu and http://ucanr.edu/repositoryfiles/cav6803p54-136027.pdf.
UC Cooperative Extension Groundwater Program http://groundwater.ucdavis.edu
Helen Dahlke's groundwater banking project http://dahlke.ucdavis.edu/research/groundwater-banking
California Water Action Plan: Improving Groundwater Management (links to state policy and emerging legislation) http://groundwater.ca.gov
California Department of Water Resources report to the Governor's Drought Task Force http://www.water.ca.gov/waterconditions/docs/Drought_Response-Groundwater_Basins_April30_Final_BC.pdf
California Water Plan Update 2013 http://www.waterplan.water.ca.gov/cwpu2013
Association of California Water Agencies Recommendations for Achieving Groundwater Sustainability http://www.acwa.com/sites/default/files/post/groundwater/2014/04/final_acwa-groundwater-sustainability-recommendations.pdf