Thursday, March 5, 2015

UC-Davis' north state projects seek water solutions

By HELENE R. DILLARD
Dean, UC-Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

After another winter of below-average precipitation, California's water situation is severe and the short-term outlook is dire. But our situation is not hopeless. The drought's clear and present danger to California's agriculture and economy provides a unique opportunity to improve our state's long-term water management through cooperation, shared vision and science-based solutions.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are working with growers, industry and agencies throughout the state to find practical solutions. Here's a quick look at some of the latest developments.

Professor Helen Dahlke with the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and her team are making headway with groundwater banking, where excess surface water during storms and flood releases is directed to select fields to serve as infiltration basins to replenish aquifers. Dahlke's team has begun a two-month test in an alfalfa field near the Scott River in Siskiyou County, applying water in various amounts to analyze soil saturation, infiltration rates, and whether the winter irrigation adversely affects the alfalfa.

The team hopes to launch similar projects in Orland in Glenn County, where many growers rely solely on groundwater, and in the lower Tulare River area of Tulare County. Groundwater projects with the Almond Board of California are also in the works.

River water for Central Valley farmers was reduced by one-third last year, and 425,000 acres of the world's most fertile land lay fallow. Are there practical ways growers can stretch water without reducing crop production, quality and yield?

Yes, according to results of a water-saving project in the Pajaro Valley of Monterey County led by Professor Samuel Sandoval Solis, a Cooperative Extension specialist with Land, Air and Water Resources. Sandoval's team identified steps that conserved 5,100 acre-feet of water per year without sacrificing crop quality and yield.

Continue reading in the California Farm Bureau Federation's Ag Alert.

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