How We Grow

2019 May/June How We Grow

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10 A L M O N D O R C H A R D 2 0 2 5 G O A L S WATER USE Pay Attention and Get Involved: Water Challenges Ahead It wasn't long ago that conversation around the implementation of state water regulations felt light-years away. And yet those regulations are here now, meaning it's more important than ever that growers tune in to this larger discussion that includes topics such as groundwater pumping, drinking water quality protection and more. One piece of legislation, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), has become increasingly well known in the grower community over the years. SGMA calls for phasing in groundwater pumping limits in aquifers that have been over-pumped in the past, causing declining water tables, dry wells and even land subsidence. Locally developed plans for reducing pumping are due to the state by Jan. 31, 2020 — a deadline that's less than nine months away. Meanwhile, a lesser known but important package of regulations is under consideration by the State Water Resources Control Board: proposed amendments to the Central Valley Water Quality Control Plans to add Salt and Nitrate Control Programs. These regulations aim to reduce impacts to groundwater quality caused by farming, wastewater treatment and other activities, while providing safe drinking water to all valley residents who need it. While both regulatory processes are complex and challenging to follow, it's in a grower's best interest to pay attention and get involved soon. "We're not talking about five years from now," said Gabriele Ludwig, Ph.D., director for Sustainability and Environmental Affairs at the Almond Board of California (ABC). "Decisions are being made as we speak." SGMA: In-orchard action paired with local engagement Besides conserving water today, experts advise growers plan for a future with less available water, especially in the San Joaquin Valley. One option growers have to avoid water cutbacks is recharging groundwater on-farm when surface supply is plentiful, a yearly occurrence that coincides with wet winter months, when orchards are dormant. While this plan isn't appropriate for all orchards, ABC research demonstrates that recharge can be performed effectively under the right conditions and with the right soil types. "It's worth figuring out how recharge can be included in your local groundwater plans, in addition to determining whether and how recharge can work in your orchard," said Jesse Roseman, senior specialist in Environmental and Regulatory Affairs at ABC. Growers should also assess the amount and reliability of their individual water supply, both for potential groundwater pumping limits and for more limited surface water supplies. A recent Public Policy Institute of California report 1 suggests future pumping allotments will be linked to how much land a grower owns. The report advises growers getting ready to plant new orchards or to replace existing orchards to consider whether to leave some acres out of permanent crops. This would potentially allow those acres' water allotment to be diverted to trees in "We recommend that growers talk with their local irrigation districts about participating in their recharge programs and that they participate in their GSA." – Jesse Roseman Gabriele Ludwig, Ph.D. Director, Sustainability and Environmental Affairs Almond Board of California

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