The Almond Board of California and Sustainable Conservation, a conservation nonprofit that unites people to steward California's resources in ways that make economic sense, today announced a new partnership focused on exploring the potential of California's one million acres of almond orchards for groundwater recharge. The partnership launches just as California is entering a much-anticipated El Niño year, which could bring an exceptionally wet winter. Groundwater recharge returns water to underground aquifers, collectively California's largest water storage system, through managed flooding with seasonal floodwaters.
The partnership between Sustainable Conservation and the Almond Board marks the first concerted effort to increase groundwater recharge on almond farmland. With a long track record of working hand in hand with California farmers to promote environmental solutions that work economically, Sustainable Conservation has been partnering with growers on field trials to accelerate groundwater recharge on agricultural lands in the San Joaquin Valley. For more than 20 years, the Almond Board has funded several research projects to understand water movement in the soil, and preserve and improve groundwater quality.
"Leveraging almond acreage for groundwater recharge has the potential to benefit the entire Central Valley," said Ashley Boren, Executive Director of Sustainable Conservation. "Once a farmer utilizes his or her land to return water to the aquifer, it serves the greater community, not just that farmer. Maximizing the capture of excess flood flows during wet years replenishes groundwater supplies for use during dry years, while also reducing downstream flood risk."
"Groundwater has always been a vital resource for all Californians, and has played a critical role in maintaining California's economic and environmental sustainability through the years," said Richard Waycott, President and CEO of the Almond Board. "The Almond Board will identify farmers who are already using or are interested in trying groundwater recharge to join the Sustainable Conservation program. This partnership is complemented by Almond Board-funded research with the University of California, Davis to understand the orchard health impact of applying excess water to almond trees."
While the ongoing drought continues to impact everyone across California, the California Almond industry has focused decades of investment in research and improved production practices to protect California's valuable natural resources. Through nearly 100 innovative Almond Board-funded research projects since 1994, almond growers have incorporated state-of-the-art, research-proven irrigation practices that reduced the amount of water needed to grow each pound of almonds by 33 percent.
"This partnership leverages the almond community's decades-long track record of researching and adopting efficiency practices, and Sustainable Conservation's 20-plus years of on-the-ground experience evaluating, piloting and scaling solutions to pressing environmental issues," said Boren. "Leading with sound science, our partnership will maximize the benefits of novel technologies and practices – like applying excess floodwater to almond orchards to recharge depleted groundwater aquifers – across a wide swath of the state to contribute to a sustainable supply of water for communities, farmers and the environment."
"Almond growers understand and share the concerns of many Californians about agriculture's impact on state and local water resources, especially during this prolonged drought. Almond growers are part of the fabric of their local communities, often living on the land that their families have farmed for generations. Their own families, communities and neighbors are equally impacted by groundwater concerns," said Waycott. "These efforts focus on leveraging a significant attribute of the California Almond industry – the land dedicated to growing almonds – to continue our efforts to do our part to realize a sustainable California water supply."
"Both the Almond Board and Sustainable Conservation believe that a healthy environment and farming sector can only be achieved through collaboration and uniting around common goals," said Boren. "California's record drought and its crippling effects felt in every corner of the state call for bold alliances in delivering a sustainable water future."
DETAILS ABOUT THE PARTNERSHIP'S RECHARGE EFFORTS:
- A team of Almond Board-funded UC Davis researchers will track soil moisture, water movement, and tree and root health in almond orchards and measure how they vary with local soil and weather conditions. Monitored in three planned trial plots in the Central Valley's Merced, Stanislaus and Fresno counties, this study will determine where groundwater recharge can take place without negatively impacting orchard health and crop yields. Findings will assist in identifying the orchard practices and conditions that are most suited for groundwater recharge, and which orchards can be part of a sustainable solution to periodic droughts and groundwater overdraft.
- Sustainable Conservation and a team of UC researchers and other specialists will model and determine how floodwater can be best applied on almond orchards to protect and improve groundwater quality.
- Land IQ, a cutting-edge agricultural technology firm, will build on ongoing research by the California Water Foundation to identify where almond orchards and associated infrastructure requirements overlay soils and geology suitable for groundwater recharge. Findings from this activity will be shared with UC Davis and Sustainable Conservation to complement their research.
- As the research progresses, Sustainable Conservation and UC Davis will present findings to the public, groundwater management agencies, industry experts and farmers to help drive the development of best practices to promote groundwater sustainability in almond orchards throughout California's Central Valley.
About Almond Board of California Almonds from California are a natural, wholesome and quality food. The Almond Board of California promotes almonds through its research-based approach to all aspects of marketing, farming and production on behalf of the more than 6,800 almond growers and processors in California, many of which are multi-generational family operations. Established in 1950 and based in Modesto, California, the Almond Board of California is a non-profit organization that administers a grower-enacted Federal Marketing Order under the supervision of the United States Department of Agriculture. For more information on the Almond Board of California or almonds, visit Almonds.com or AlmondSustainability.org. Be sure to check out California Almonds on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and the California Almonds blog.
About Sustainable Conservation Sustainable Conservation helps California thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing our land, air and water. Since 1993, it has brought together business, landowners and government to steward the resources that we all depend on in ways that make economic sense. Sustainable Conservation believes common ground is California's most important resource. Learn more at Suscon.org.