The Almond Board of California and Sustainable Conservation have joined ranks to determine the groundwater recharge potential of California’s one million acres of almond orchards through grower field trials, research and geological studies.
“This partnership is happening at the right time, just as California enters a much-anticipated El Nio year, which could bring an exceptionally wet winter,” said Almond Board CEO Richard Waycott. “Groundwater recharge returns water to underground aquifers, collectively California’s largest water storage system, through managed seasonal floodwaters.
“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,” continued Waycott.
The Almond Board decided to partner with Sustainable Conservation for this initiative, because it is “highly regarded organization,” said Waycott, with a significant history of working with California farmers to reach solutions that make both environmental and economical sense.
“They have achieved significant results in this area and have previously partnered with farmers on field trials to accelerate groundwater recharge on agricultural lands in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Waycott.
Sustainable Conservation will gather information from almond growers who have already captured excess floodwater in previous years and used it for groundwater recharge. With this data, Sustainable Conservation will record the methods and timing that have not caused negative crop impacts.
ABC-funded research at the University of California, Davis will help the partners understand the orchard health impact of applying excess floodwater to almond trees by monitoring three plots in Merced, Stanislaus and Fresno counties. UC researchers will explore how floodwater can best be applied on almond orchards to recharge groundwater and ways to avoid negatively impacting orchard health or crop yields.
The partnership will also include a geological study from Land IQ, which is an agricultural technology firm. Land IQ will build on ongoing research from the California Water Foundation in order to determine where almond orchards and infrastructure requirements are that have the soil and geology suitable for groundwater recharge.
“Groundwater has always been a vital resource in California and plays a critical role in maintaining California’s economic and environmental sustainability during normal and dry years,” said Waycott. “Maximizing the capture of excess flood flows for recharge during wet years replenishes groundwater supplies for use during dry years, while also reducing downstream flood risk.
“Many almond growers are third and fourth generation family farmers who recognize the need to carefully manage resources for current and future generations,” added Waycott.
Waycott said that the Almond Board is currently working with Sustainable Conservation to recruit almond growers who might be interested in trying or who have already had experience with groundwater recharge. Interviews with participating almond growers will take place over the phone or in the field. This initiative will take place over the course of the next two years.
Almond growers who are interested in participating are encouraged to contact Joseph Choperena of Sustainable Conservation by calling (415) 977-0380 ext. 320 or emailing JChoperena@suscon.org.