During the last few weeks my supervisor and I have been busy preparing for tomorrow’s regional board field tour.
The objectives of this “water” tour are to (1) raise awareness of water resource issues in the Pajaro Valley, (2) highlight water conservation as a strategy for protecting water supply and reducing nitrate leaching, and (3) emphasize industry led conservation efforts. We will go to various different sites in Watsonville, each of which somehow demonstrates one or more of these objectives. I’m looking forward to it, and I’ll blog some photos of the tour next week!
In the midst of all the meetings, research, writing, and emailing, I often go to meetings or workshops that employees of the RCD Santa Cruz County are invited to. Yesterday we got to spend almost all work day on an organic vineyard doing various tests for soil quality.
Organic Vineyard in Santa Cruz County
It was all hands on (hands in the dirt), extremely fun, and I learned a lot about different soil types. Next week I get to spend two days at a workshop that will teach different practices related to pest management on organic farms.
There’s no better way of learning anything than going out there and doing it yourself!
This past week I’ve been working on an information packet that will be distributed during an upcoming regional board field tour. Included in this packet is a fact sheet regarding the Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) Action Team.
Demand for groundwater in California is increasing but supplies are limited. Here on the coast, we have to deal with the decreased water supply issue along with the issue of saltwater intrusion. “Natural” aquifer recharge will likely decrease in the future, therefore, the Community Water Dialogue is figuring out where recharge occurs in order to protect these areas.
Simplified sketch of a groundwater recharge site
The Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) Action Team is one of four action teams that make up the Community Water Dialogue. The MAR team deals with private recharge and catchment projects to increase water supply. MAR projects capture surplus winter water and convey it into the aquifer through managed percolation ponds.
The Community Water Dialogue is currently involved in one MAR project located at Bokariza-Drobac Ranch. I had the opportunity to visit this site last week, which is virtually a large grass-covered hole with a drainage area of 125 acres. Sites such as this one are voluntarily offered by landowners for the cause, which is awesome. There have been a number of other locations that have recently been identified as potential MAR project sites. These sites are currently being tested for suitability.
MAR suitability map & Bokariza-Drobac Ranch recharge site
According to Dr. Andy Fisher, a groundwater expert from UC Santa Cruz who is actively involved in the Community Water Dialogue, “MAR will be increasingly important as a strategy for sustaining and improving groundwater resources.” Dr. Andy’s Recharge Initiative Program estimates that a widely distributed network of MAR projects could reduce the overdraft by as much as 20%.
There is a never a dull moment at the Resource Conservation District office. This past week our office has been bombarded with Japanese cakes, candies, photos, and videos. Sue, our director, just got back from a wedding in Japan and has been sharing Japanese goodies with all of us in the office. We even got to see videos of a sumo wrestling match she went to!
Despite all of the fun we have in the office, we also work, and we work hard. This past week I attended at least one meeting each day, all centered around the Community Water Dialogue. Driscoll’s is one of the main players in the dialogue. On Monday I got a tour of their fields in Watsonville and a rundown of how they go about growing their crops. They have various fields dedicated only for experimentation where they document their crop’s responses to different irrigation schedules, different amounts of nutrients, etc.
Already I’ve had the honor of meeting various growers around the Pajaro Valley. Most of these grow for Driscoll’s, but others grow independently or for other suppliers. Yesterday I met a blueberry, raspberry, and strawberry grower, who personally told me that reducing the amount of water he uses to irrigate his crops by using WIN has NOT affected his crops at all. He’s conserving water, his water bill went down, and he’s producing the same amount and quality of fruits.
Face to face interactions with growers, private industry folks, and government personnel is helping me grasp the uniqueness of the Community Water Dialogue on a deeper level. We all sit at these meetings voluntarily. Nobody is holding a gun to anybody’s head, forcing them to make an effort to conserve water. All of the people involved in this dialogue are because they understand the urgency of this issue. WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF WATER. When will everybody else in the Pajaro Valley join? When they’re affected personally? When the issue becomes catastrophic? I certainly hope not.
The first week of my internship at the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County is coming to an end. My focus this week has been to familiarize myself with the Community Water Dialogue (CWD) in order to put together a document describing the dialogue’s origin and what makes it so unique.
The CWD was created in July of 2010 by a group of landowners concerned with the Pajaro Valley’s water issues. The group now includes many stakeholders including additional landowners, growers, academics, nonprofits, residents, government representatives, and environmental leaders.
There are four working groups within the Community Water Dialogue:
- Managed Aquifer Recharge: Private recharge and catchment projects to increase water supply.
- Big Projects Committee: Deal with larger projects to increase water supply.
- Communications: Centralized information about the water issue and progress towards solutions, and ongoing community engagement.
- Land Management and Irrigation Best Practices: Teaching growers how they can minimize their water use, and implementing irrigation technologies to assist in doing so.
Michael Johnson of the Resource Conservation District demonstrates various tools for assisting growers with irrigation fertilization evaluations.
This summer I will be part of the Communications team. Some of my tasks include:
- Conducting case studies for CWD projects, similar to the case study that EcoFarm put together regarding the Wireless Irrigation Network
- Putting together communications pieces about the CWD’s origin and its ongoing progress
- Developing a website for the CWD
- Translating CWD communications into Spanish
The dialogue is still fairly new but has already accomplished a lot.
I’m excited to be a part of it and join the community’s efforts to conserve a non-substitutable and extremely important resource: water.
Tomorrow I officially start interning with the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, located in the city of Capitola. This organization is working together with the community and with Driscoll’s to address the issue of aquifer overdraft in the Pajaro Valley.
The watershed is approximately 1,300 square miles and covers portions of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Benito, and Monterey Counties.
On future blog posts I will refer to this team as it is formally known: the Community Water Dialogue. Tomorrow, the Community Water Dialogue will meet in order to outline priorities and goals for the team. I’m excited to meet everyone that I will be working with on this project and finally get started.
I look forward to updating everyone on the project’s progress throughout the summer!