Posts Tagged: drought
Pottinger asked Ted Grantham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley, whether the state's fish are adapted to periodic droughts.
Drought is one stressor, he said, but there are additional factors imperiling fish.
"California's native fish have been in steady decline for at least 50 years — in part due to dams, habitat degradation, and the introduction of non-native species," Grantham said. "Native fishes have developed several strategies to cope, but key to their long-term survival is their ability to recover from drought during wet years."
Grantham said there are at least three strategies that would help better manage the state's native fish.
- Better define the amount of water needed to sustain healthy fish populations.
- Create an accurate accounting system for tracking water availability and use.
- Recognize that not all streams are created equal. Some streams support more biological diversity.
The ecosystems science researcher said he is optimistic about the future.
"Although the drought has severely affected California's freshwater ecosystems, it also has raised awareness about the need to improve water management and better prepare for climate change," he said.
For more on threats to California native fish, read Identifying gaps in protecting California's native fish in the UC California Institute for Water Resources' blog The Confluence.
In December, Lake Nacimiento was at 16 to 17 percent of capacity. It has now risen to 22 percent. Lake San Antonio, which dropped to 3 percent of capacity last summer, is still at 3 percent now. It is so low that engineers refer to it as a "dead pool" because gravity cannot pull water out of the reservoir when it is at that level.
The Monterey County lakes don't fill as quickly as other lakes - such as Shasta, Folsom and Oroville - because they are fed by relatively small watersheds. Nacimiento and San Antonio were built in the 1950s and '60s for flood control and to recharge aquifers. With dropping aquifer water levels, farmers have had problems with their wells, the story said.
“Some growers' wells pull in as much air as water, so that they need repairs or lose the wells entirely. I've seen well drillers around, which indicates re-drilling,” said Michael Cahn, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey County. “This is a cost for agriculture.”
As they drill deeper, farmers also risk more seawater flooding in, contaminating the limited water supply. It was seawater intrusion that originally led to the construction of the Nacimiento and San Antonio dams.
Cahn was quoted at the end of the story with a positive message.
“The aquifers are currently at the lowest levels ever recorded, but they can go back up,” he said.
UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist Toby O'Geen was the lead author of research published in California Agriculture journal that identified agricultural lands in California suitable for flooding in order to bank groundwater. He has created an app that allows landowners across the state to assess the suitability of their property for groundwater banking.
The Modesto project will determine what impact winter flooding will have on the health of almond trees and almond yield. UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor Roger Duncan was quoted in the Los Angeles Times about the potential advantages and disadvantages of flooding crops in the winter. He said water could spur more fungal diseases, but could also drown out worms and mites that damage crops.
The Almond Board of California is funding the project, anticipating that certain almond orchards will be good candidates for groundwater recharge.
"Almond orchards have good soil characteristics, and water delivery systems are already in place,” said Bob Curtis, director of agriculture affairs for the almond board. “Winter flooding should actually benefit the trees while replenishing groundwater to benefit us all."
Following are recent articles about the project:
Researchers test a possible drought solution by flooding an almond farm
Geoffrey Mohan, The Los Angeles Times, Jan. 20, 2016
(Reprinted in Daily News 24/7)
Scientists flood almond orchards to restore groundwater in California
Capital Public Radio, Jan. 20, 2016
Stormwater floods Modesto almond orchard in experiment to restore aquifer
San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 19, 2016
(Reprinted in the Contra Costa Times)
Researchers show off groundwater recharge near Modesto
Modesto Bee, Jan. 20, 2016
(Reprinted in the Fresno Bee and Bloomberg Business)
UC Davis scientists flood Modesto orchards in hopes of finding way to restore groundwater
CBS13, Sacramento and Modesto affiliates, Jan. 20, 2016
Researchers test a possible drought solution by flooding an almond farm
KTLA News 5, Jan. 20, 2016
(Rebroadcast on KRQE News 13)
Orchard tries experiment to restore aquifer
Morning Ag Clips, Jan. 20, 2016
Almond orchard key to water banking experiment
AgraNet, Jan. 20, 2016
Solis was born in Mexico City and began contributing to the family income at the age of 13 as a grocery store bagger. He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Instituto Politecnico Nacional.
When Solis was hired to help a community of 300 manage its water resources, he was nervous about his abilities, the article said.
"However, like many hardworking Latinos, Samuel put his fear and doubts to the side, and decided to pursue this great opportunity," wrote reporter Vanessa Parra.
Solis earned a master's degree in hydraulics at Instituto Politecnico Nacional, and a Ph.D. in environmental and water resources engineering at the University of Texas, Austin. His research centered on the Rio Grande, a river shared by Mexico and the U.S. (Mexicans call the river Rio Bravo.)
"I was under friendly fire from people of both nations," Solis said. "Because I was doing my research in the Rio Grande/Bravo while living in Texas, people from the U.S. thought I was a spy and people from Mexico thought that I was a traitor," he said.
The language and culture barriers that Solis once perceived as negative characteristics became valuable assets when he joined the University of California. He is able to communicate with Spanish-speaking farmers on a personal level.
Solis began his work in California just as it was caught in the grip of the current four-year drought. The dry period, he said, can be viewed as a "tipping point" to change the way the state uses and manages its water. His research focuses on water planning and management.
"We develop methods for finding strategies to better distribute water, ensuring adequate quality and the right timing," Solis said. "We consider the scientific, social, environmental, and economic aspects of basins. Our goal is to improve California's water management through cooperation, shared vision and science-based solutions."
The subject was raised recently by two University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) experts in a position paper they published on their website, the story said. Don Hodel, UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in LA County, and Dennis Pittenger, UC ANR Cooperative Extension area environmental horticulturist at UC Riverside, said landscapes and turf offer tremendous benefits to residents, communities and the environment.
"Nobody thought this out," Hodel said.
The LA Weekly article also quoted Loren Oki, the UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist for landscape horticulture based at UC Davis. Among the obvious problems created by California's turf-removal program, Oki said, is "encouraging people to plant during the heat of the summer, which is the worst time" for new plants to survive in the ground. He predicts many of the low-water plants will not survive the late-summer heat.
Another UC Davis scientist, biochemistry professor William Horwath, raised the potential for turf removal to kill the "decomposition community" that lives in soil.
When cities and homeowners remove vegetation from land, that diminishes the diversity of the soil biology, especially the larger fauna such as worms, which feed off of the droppings of leaves and other materials from plants.
"If you are not growing anything, just gravel or mulch, you'll be losing a lot of worms, and you will at the same time be losing a lot of carbon from under the soil back into the atmosphere," Horwath said.
Oki was one of the authors of a recent post on the UC ANR California Institute for Water Resources blog, The Confluence, that provides practical, well-thought-out advice on drought-tolerant landscaping in California.
"A variety of options exist for gardeners implementing landscaping changes," the article says. "Trading in your turf for concrete, rock, or artificial turf are options. However, none of these selections promote healthy soils and other ecosystem services. In fact, all of these options can be problematic because they create a heat island effect and may have water infiltration or runoff issues."
The story details seven strategies for conserving water while maintaining a living landscape.