Future Water Management

Thursday, January 19, 2017

As of Jan. 10, all of northern California, everything north of Sacramento, is no longer in drought, according to the federal government. South of Sacramento, with the exception of a sliver of land along the coast north of Monterey Bay, remains in some level of drought conditions, though the most extreme of these – “Exceptional Drought” is now limited to the Ventura County area. The Colorado River watershed looks to have had 200-plus percent of its monthly rainfall, which should bode well for lakes Powell and Mead as both have suffered significantly over the past few years.

This is great news but I think we’re all trying to figure out how to save this water runoff for our dry summer months beyond catch basins, surface ponds, reservoirs, etc.

I recently read this article from NPR: As Rains Soak California, Farmers Test How To Store Water.  It discusses how growers are flooding their fields in an effort to replenish depleted water tables.

“We started in February and flooded grapes continuously, for the most part, until May,” Cameron says. Cameron was doing this because for years, he and his neighbors have been digging wells and pumping water out of the ground to irrigate their crops. That groundwater supply has been running low. “I became really concerned about it,” Cameron says.

So his idea was pretty simple: Flood his fields and let gravity do the rest. Water would seep into the ground all the way to the aquifer.

 Over four months, Cameron was able to flood his fields with a large amount of water — equivalent to water three feet deep across 1,000 acres. It all went into the ground, and it didn’t harm his grapes.

 Helen Dahlke, a groundwater hydrologist at the University of California, Davis, states that California now is getting less snow in the winter due to our warming climate and more rain. The trend is expected to intensify. But heavy rain isn’t as useful because it quickly outstrips the capacity of the state’s reservoirs and just runs into the ocean. “We really have to find new ways of storing and capturing rainfall in the winter, when it’s available,” She’s working with a half-dozen farmers who are ready to flood their fields this year. “We have test sites set up on almonds, pistachios and alfalfa, just to test how those crops tolerate water that we put on in the winter,” she says.

Peter Gleick, a water expert and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, says that after winter storms, there is enough water available to recharge those groundwater aquifers.

 The hard part, he says, will be getting the state’s farmers and irrigation managers to go along with the plan. Because it will require flooding hundreds of thousands — and possibly millions — of acres!

Flooding practices have another potential impact, little or no oxygen available to the soil creates an anaerobic environment and an environment more prone to disease. In the spring, as the soil begins to warm up, it would be prudent to apply compost teas and other amendments to begin building back microbial activity and the organic matter that goes along with that process. Andaman Ag offers MetaGrow Compost Teas and FertiBOOST,  a complex of humic acids, organic acids, surfactants, proprietary formulated minerals, vitamins, plant growth factors and enzymes. As mentioned last week, we have new product called Phyto-Catalyst, that helps soils recover oxygen necessary for normal plant metabolism, growth and development. These products are an excellent first step in setting the table for the new growing season with or without flooding.