Posts Tagged: water use
UC Davis and UC ANR receive $10 million for water research and education; Bay Area children will be invited to learn about water's importance to life
A new University of California Cooperative Extension program will teach Bay Area schoolchildren about water through hands-on activities. Funded by a $565,000 USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant, the education program is part of a larger research project led by UC Davis Professor Isaya Kisekka, in partnership with multiple institutions and ecologists, to sustain irrigated agriculture while improving groundwater quantity and quality in the Southwest under a changing climate.
Water Wizards, a UCCE-led youth project, will include opportunities for students of color to meet with diverse scientists and imagine career possibilities in science, technology, education and math (STEM).
“As a grandparent myself, I'm proud to support the University of California Cooperative Extension's Water Wizards program,” said Nate Miley, Alameda County Board of Supervisors vice president. “This exciting, hands-on learning experience teaches students the importance of water conservation while encouraging good stewardship of our environment.”
With Water Wizards, students will explore STEM solutions to water scarcity, water quality, and climate change. Students will also take a field trip to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Elkus Ranch Environmental Education Center in Half Moon Bay for hands-on learning.
“I am incredibly ‘pumped' for the Water Wizards program to inspire Bay Area BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color] youth to pursue STEM through connections with water, food and the environment as well as receive mentorship from UC Cooperative Extension scientists,” said Mallika Arudi Nocco, an assistant professor of Cooperative Extension in soil-plant-water relations at UC Davis.
“We want to create an opportunity for urban kids in the Bay Area to experience different surroundings and literally get their feet wet,” said Frank McPherson, director of UC Cooperative Extension in the Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and San Francisco. “We expect our hands-on, research-based, experiential learning approach to STEM will stimulate the interest of students who are Black, Indigenous and people of color.”
He envisions students from Hayward and Oakland dipping jars into a gurgling stream that flows through the rolling green hills and canyons of the 125-acre Elkus Ranch so educators can show them some of the organisms that live in the water as part of the natural ecosystem.
“We will collaborate with school districts, teachers and staff on an 11-week program designed to spark environmental learning, increase STEM knowledge and broaden students' understanding of water, sustainable agriculture and conservation,” said McPherson.
Initially UC Cooperative Extension will be reaching out to Bay Area students with a focus on 7th through 10th graders in Alameda County schools with high populations of Black, Latinx and other students of color.
“Hayward Unified is excited to partner with UC ANR on the Water Wizards Youth Program to provide students with hands-on learning experiences that encourage inquiry, a provide chance to visit a local Water Education Center, and build environmental literacy for students to take action on water issues in the community,” said Nancy Wright, an elementary science teacher with the Alameda County Office of Education.
The program is designed to provide experiential learning to BIPOC students and encourage them to build upon their own knowledge and skills, McPherson said. “We teach them that water is a valuable and limited resource so that they can make informed decisions,” he explained. “The program also includes a service-learning project that combines learning objectives with community service.”
To adapt Water Wizards for the Bay Area, McPherson said they are working with Marianne Bird, the UC 4-H youth development advisor who developed Water Wizards for Sacramento-area children.
Under Bird's supervision, Capitol Corridor Water Wizards engages about 400 youth each year, predominately at schools in lower-income neighborhoods, where at least 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The Water Wizard participants learn about water cycles, watersheds, salinity, water density and water issues and begin to understand how people, plants and animals depend on water.
McPherson said the NIFA grant will support delivery of the pilot water education program with Alameda County schools. He is currently working to secure funding from other sources to expand Water Wizards to more schools in the Bay Area.
UC Merced's largest research grant in its 16-year history aims to improve agricultural and environmental water resilience. The new $10 million collaborative focuses on water banking, trading and improvements in data-driven management practices to arrive at a climate-resilient future in water-scarce regions of the United States.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is funding the wide-ranging effort from multiple institutions across three states through its National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative on Sustainable Agricultural Systems. The coalition of researchers is led by UC Merced, joined by experts from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Utah State University, the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute at New Mexico State University, the Public Policy Institute of California, Environmental Defense Fund, and the U.S. Geological Survey's Southwestern Climate Hub.
“There are a lot of challenges in balancing the needs of agriculture and ecosystems, and climate change and drought are only exacerbating difficult decisions about how to sustain water resources,” lead project director UC Merced Professor Joshua Viers said. “But our team of advisors, educators and scientists are eager to enable data-driven decision-making for securing a climate resilient future for our water-stressed regions.”
The partners in the USDA funded collaboration — Securing a Climate Resilient Water Future for Agriculture and Ecosystems through Innovations in Measurement, Management and Markets or SWIM — will focus on developing more robust, data-driven information systems for decision-makers such as land and water managers. SWIM is designed to provide objective measures of supply and demand, and incorporate drought forecasting and climate change trends.
The research and extension team, by working with local decision-makers, will improve the accuracy of measurement in water budgets, evaluate novel management strategies such as on-farm aquifer recharge, and evaluate water trading and markets to improve sustainable surface and groundwater use.
The SWIM project will work across disciplines and stakeholders, integrating research, extension and education in three testbeds with unique water policies and systems: Cache Valley, Utah; Mesilla Valley, New Mexico; and the San Joaquin Valley. All of them grow orchard crops and alfalfa, and all are in a drought. Like California, Utah is experiencing an unprecedented drought, where 99 percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought. And, like California, the physical and cultural geography of New Mexico is extremely diverse. Exploring all innovative avenues of water management is necessary for sustaining a future for agriculture and surrounding communities while balancing ecosystem needs across the west, Viers said.
SWIM's leadership plans such activities as workshops and field days to actively engage stakeholders, including the extension-grower networks of each state's university system, as well as land, water and ecosystem managers.
Researchers from UC Merced include Viers, professors John Abatzoglou, Tom Harmon, Teamrat Ghezzehei, Josué Medellín-Azuara and Colleen Naughton, UC ANR Extension Specialist Safeeq Khan, Chelsea Arnold, who oversees the CalTeach program through the School of Natural Sciences, and researchers Leigh Bernacchi, Max Eriksson and Nicholas Santos.
“The SWIM project aims at bringing the sustainability science from ‘silos' to impact by systematically engaging our stakeholders and clientele in the knowledge co-production and systems thinking,” said Khan, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in water and watershed sciences.
“The project will build on the existing work of UC ANR networks and academics in understanding the needs of growers, irrigation districts, and ecosystem managers and co-developing data and tools to help adopt and adapt climate-resilience strategies. Our emphasis is not only on producing science and decision-support tools, but also using the project as an opportunity for social learning, knowledge empowerment, science communication, and workforce development through extension and outreach.”
In addition to ongoing activity at UC ANR's Kearney Research and Extension Center, one of the testbeds in California will be the new UC Merced Experimental Smart Farm. Researchers will collect soil, water and crop data, track droughts, conduct water accounting and life-cycle assessments, and produce user-focused data and analysis there and in the other two regions.
“The western United States is experiencing declining surface water and groundwater, adding stress on all aspects of the social-hydrological system,” said co-investigator Sam Fernald, director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute at New Mexico State University. “The lessons learned in this project will offer a blueprint for addressing future water challenges, not just in the West, but other locations worldwide facing similar water shortage issues.”
The researchers want to answer many pressing questions, such as how much the changing characteristics of multi-year droughts alter people's willingness to engage in water trading and banking as part of climate resilience efforts; whether drought early warning systems propel water trading; how ecosystem services can be maintained while adapting agricultural water management to anticipated extremes; what are the key drivers and barriers adopting or participating in water markets; and how new data and technology can reduce costs and barriers.
They will also look at how climate change impacts can be mitigated through a rainy-day storage option called managed aquifer recharge or MAR, as well as water trading at multiple scales and land-use planning so that agriculture and the environment can be sustained.
One key component of creating a sustainable future is through educational programming, one of the core activities of the grant. The Climate Adaptation Science Academy will give affiliated graduate students the jump on their careers as leaders in science and engineering by providing training in climate adaptation science, communications and complex systems problem solving.
“Expanding the reach of our program are transformational K-12 educational tools,” Viers said. “Educators and graduate students will develop curricular materials for AgSTEM education pathways reaching from rural, regional middle schools to the teachers serving underrepresented groups.”
The SWIM team plans to develop such tools as games that support computational thinking and decision-making, activities in which students learn about agriculture and careers in smart farming, and hands-on experiential learning.
As associate dean for research in the School of Engineering and the director of the campus's branch of the Center of Information Technology and Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS and the Banatao Institute), Viers discussed the role of UC Merced in providing tangible solutions to pressing societal problems:
“It has been clear for some time that water scarcity is our new reality, and we know we need to do things differently,” he said. “This research award is the largest that USDA makes to universities, and it is clear that they believe UC Merced and our affiliates are the right team with the right ideas to help secure a climate resilient water future.”
California water-rights holders who use water from streams can learn to measure and report the diversions themselves to comply with state regulations. UC Cooperative Extension will offer training via Zoom on Nov. 4, 2021.
Modoc County rancher Glenn Nader saved a significant amount of money by learning from the University of California Cooperative Extension how to correctly install and maintain a water volume measurement system on his ranch.
Nader, a retired UC Cooperative Extension advisor himself, and his wife have owned and operated a 2,880-acre ranch in Modoc County since 1999.
“We divert irrigation water out of the creeks on the ranch for irrigation of the cattle pastures and hay fields,” Nader said. “The State of California required that we hire a certified engineer to set up and maintain water measurement devices at three locations on the ranch. Because of our remote location, the cost of an engineer would have been over $4,000 for set up alone.”
“After the class, I was confident that we could meet the state standards and that I could implement a water measurement system on our ranch.”
After Senate Bill 88 became law in 2015, California water-rights holders who have diverted or intend to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year or who are authorized to divert that amount of water have been required to measure and report the water they divert from surface streams. For people who wish to take the water measurements themselves, state law allows UC Cooperative Extension training to receive certification.
A virtual training is scheduled for Nov. 4, 2021, beginning at 9 a.m. and concluding at 12:30 p.m. Registration is $25 and includes downloadable course materials. Register at http://ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=33616. If you encounter any difficulties with registering at the link provided, contact Sara Jaimes at email@example.com.
At the workshop, participants can expect to:
- clarify reporting requirements for ranches
- understand what meters are appropriate for different situations
- learn how to determine measurement equipment accuracy
- develop an understanding of measurement weirs
- learn how to calculate and report volume from flow data
“This is likely the last training being held in 2021,” said Larry Forero, instructor and UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor. “If you need this training, register soon.”
If you have any questions about this training, please contact Forero at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jaimes at email@example.com or by calling the UCCE office in Shasta County at (530) 224-4900. For additional information about AB-589, which called for this training, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/AB589.
Senate Bill 88 requires that all water right holders who have previously diverted or intend to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year (riparian and pre-1914 claims), or who are authorized to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year under a permit, license or registration, to measure and report the water they divert.
Detailed information on the regulatory requirements for measurement and reporting is available on the State Water Resources Control Board Reporting and Measurement Regulation webpage. The legislation as written requires for diversion (or storage) greater than or equal to 100-acre feet annually that installation and certification of measurement methods be approved by an engineer/contractor/professional.
The California Cattlemen's Association worked with Assemblyman Frank Bigelow to introduce a bill that would allow a self-certification option. Assembly Bill 589 became law on Jan. 1, 2018. This bill, until Jan. 1, 2023, allows any diverter, as defined, “who has completed this instructional course on measurement devices and methods administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension,” including passage of a proficiency test, to be considered a qualified individual when installing and maintaining devices or implementing methods of measurement. The bill required UC Cooperative Extension and the board to jointly develop the curriculum for the course and the proficiency test.
Study finds using less doesn't compromise quality
California grape growers in coastal areas can use less water during times of drought and cut irrigation levels without affecting crop yields or quality, according to a new study out of the University of California, Davis.
The findings, published today (Sept. 1) in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, show that vineyards can use 50% of the irrigation water normally used by grape crops without compromising flavor, color and sugar content.
It sheds new light on how vineyards can mitigate drought effects at a time when California is experiencing a severe water shortage and facing more extreme weather brought on by climate change, according to lead author Kaan Kurtural, professor of viticulture and enology and an extension specialist at UC Davis.
“It is a significant finding,” Kurtural said. “We don't necessarily have to increase the amount of water supplied to grape vines.”
Growers will also be able to use this information to plan for the next growing season. “Everybody's worried about what's going to happen next year,” he said.
Kurtural and others from his lab studied irrigation and cabernet sauvignon grape quality at a research vineyard in Napa Valley over two growing seasons, a rainy one in 2019 and a hyper-arid one in 2020.
They focused on crop evapotranspiration, which was the amount of water lost to the atmosphere from the vineyard system based on canopy size. The weekly tests used irrigation to replace 25%, 50% and 100% of what had been lost by the crop to evapotranspiration.
Researchers found that replacing 50% of the water was the most beneficial in maintaining the grape's flavor profile and yield. The level of symbiotic arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which help grapevines overcome stresses such as water deficits, was also not compromised. And the water used to dilute nitrogen application was also reduced, making the process more environmentally friendly.
The water footprint for growing grapes also decreased. For both the 25% and 50% replacement levels, water use efficiency increased between 18.6% and 29.2% in the 2019 growing season and by 29.2% and 42.9% in the following dry year.
While focused on cabernet sauvignon, most red grapes will respond similarly, he said.
“In the end, drought is not coming for wine,” Kurtural said. “There doesn't need to be a tremendous amount of water for grapes. If you over irrigate in times like these, you're just going to ruin quality for little gain.”
Members of Kurtural's lab — Nazareth Torres, Runze Yu, Johann Martinez-Lüscher and Evmorefia Kostaki — are also credited as authors.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources provided partial funding.
For more information, contact:
- Kaan Kurtural, Viticulture and Enology, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Amy Quinton, UC Davis News and Media Relations, email@example.com
- Emily C. Dooley, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, firstname.lastname@example.org
Drinking water safety, especially for children, has become an issue of heightened concern since the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in 2014.
The National Drinking Water Alliance map has recently been updated to add over 235 new points linking to news reports of tap water contamination, with nearly half of the incidents emerging since 2019.
“We created the map to help community members, advocates and decision-makers visualize the tap water contamination landscape, particularly for incidents of lead that exceed state action levels,” said Christina Hecht, UC Nutrition Policy Institute senior policy advisor and National Drinking Water Alliance coordinator.
Residents can zoom in on their state to check for contamination incidents that were reported in the news. Red pins indicate lead contamination in schools and parks. Clicking on a pin on the map produces a pop-up box containing the name of the town, date and link to the news story.
“Although most tap water is safe for drinking, the number of dots on the map show that there are times and places where tap water is not safe,” Hecht said. “The only way to know if tap water has elevated lead is by testing through an accredited lab.”
The interactive map was created by the Nutrition Policy Institute and Informatics and Geographic Information System at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. The map only includes tap water contamination with lead and contaminants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For example, reports of perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, contaminating drinking water are not included because PFAS are not regulated by the EPA.
Although a few states now maintain some type of online database of results from school or childcare tests for lead in tap water, to date, there is no national database of lead exceedances in school or childcare drinking water.
The National Drinking Water Alliance map includes information on state policies and programs to test for lead in school drinking water. Almost one-third of U.S. states have enacted legislation providing policy to test for lead in drinking water in schools and, in some cases, in child-care centers. California tests for lead in drinking water at all public K-12 schools and posts the results online. Policies for mandatory testing have recently passed in Oregon and Vermont. New legislation has been proposed in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Connecticut. Voluntary programs are now present in every state, funded by nationwide federal grants supporting testing in child-care facilities and schools.
More information on each state's actions can be found on the interactive map at www.drinkingwateralliance.org/new-map, which was updated by Nutrition Policy Institute intern Laurel Denyer, a recent UC Davis graduate.
For more information about drinking water safety, and to propose additions to the map, please contact the NDWA at DWAalliance@ucanr.edu.