Growing Returns

Developing rural water leaders as drought and water scarcity intensify

An immigrant who left Mexico when he was young to make a new life in California. The owner of a small family farm who grew up in the Central Valley. A water utility operator who served in the Navy.

These are among the diverse participants who graduated at the end of July from our fourth cohort of the Water Leadership Institute, a program developed to help rural communities more effectively participate in water decision-making and policy.

EDF partnered with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) and Self Help Enterprises six years ago, after passage of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), to develop the Water Leadership Institute. The West Turlock Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) joined forces with EDF and RCAC to bring the institute to Stanislaus County for this fourth installment, which was hosted online due to COVID-19.

Over 15 weeks, I had the wonderful opportunity to get to know these leaders better as they developed skills and understanding that will help them become stronger advocates for their water resources and their communities.

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3 ways New York and New Jersey can address flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, bringing a path of destruction to many of the state’s coastal communities.

As the storm moved northeast, Ida brought record rainfall, to many states, including New York and New Jersey where devastating floods caused loss of life and millions in damages. The region has not experienced a storm on this scale since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

And climate change is increasing flood risk with rainfall.

According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, the heaviest rains in the Northeast already produce 55% more rain compared to the 1950s and could increase another 40% by 2100.

As the region begins recovery efforts, here are three actions that New York and New Jersey leaders can take to reduce climate-fueled flood risk.

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Climate change is destabilizing the Colorado River Basin. Where do we go from here?

In June, a portion of my neighborhood in Flagstaff, Arizona, was put on pre-evacuation notice due to a nearby wildfire. A few weeks later, storms dumped heavy rains over a burn scar from a 2019 fire that caused destructive floods through parts of town. So far, this summer has been our third-wettest monsoon season on record, a complete contrast from our two driest monsoon seasons on record in 2019 and 2020.

These extremes are just a few local examples of the havoc that climate change is causing around the world. Here in the West, we are now in uncharted territory with the first-ever shortage declaration on the Colorado River.

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5 principles for resilient groundwater management in Texas

Although Texas has a solid foundation for managing groundwater, this foundation is cracking under the combined pressures of increasing demand and decreasing supply.

These pressures are pitting rural areas against urban areas and landowners against each other, with groundwater conservation districts caught in the middle.

To overcome these challenges and ensure resilient water supplies, Texas leaders must improve the state’s framework for managing groundwater. That means finding common ground among diverse stakeholders on how to best sustain supplies.

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5 ways FEMA and states can leverage financial tools to build resilience, fast

This blog is co-authored by Eric Letsinger, CEO, Quantified Ventures.

Climate change is exacerbating flooding, leaving many regions increasingly vulnerable. The recent IPCC report indicates seas will rise 6 to 12 inches by 2050, and climate change is fueling more intense storms and increased precipitation.

States must act fast to finance and implement solutions that address these risks now and in the future.

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As drought intensifies, this California water manager is testing new tools to help farmers, communities and wildlife

Aaron Fukuda

Aaron Fukuda is general manager of the Tulare Irrigation District, general manager of the Mid-Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency and a participant in the Kaweah Regional Conservation Investment Strategy steering committee process.

Growing up in Hanford, California, Aaron Fukuda learned about the connections between water, animals and plants at an early age. His mother, a biologist, taught him how to study owl pellets and how rain changed the landscape when he was a kid.

As an adult, Fukuda is more focused on what’s happening both on the ground and underground with the region’s increasingly scarce water supplies.

Fukuda wears three hats that give him a unique perspective on the region’s water and land issues as general manager of the Tulare Irrigation District, general manager of the Mid-Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency and a participant in the Kaweah Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS) steering committee process. Read More »

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5 ways federal policymakers can bring equity into flood risk reduction

Flooding remains the costliest, most deadly natural disaster in the U.S., causing more than $1 trillion in damages since 1980.

As climate change continues to fuel more intense hurricanes, sea level rise and heavier rain events, more Americans are at risk from flooding than ever before. And federal resources to protect communities from flooding are not provided to all communities equitably.

This gap in protection is a direct result of unintentional, but consequential flaws in the current cost-benefit analyses that agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) use for flood protection projects.

Here are a few ways policymakers and coastal planners can help adjust cost-benefit analyses to expand access to flood protection and achieve more equitable results.

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What agricultural lenders need to know about emerging carbon market opportunities

Carbon markets have captured the attention of the agriculture sector, and agricultural lenders are no exception. I recently heard from a lender that their number one question from their farmer borrowers is about carbon credit opportunities.

As trusted advisors to farmers, here’s what lenders need to know to navigate these conversations. Read More »

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4 strategies for policymakers to get more natural infrastructure in the ground, fast

Climate change is fueling increased flood risk across our nation’s coastal regions and floodplains. 

States and local communities are turning to natural infrastructure as a key solution to build long-term flood resilience. Natural and nature-based features like wetlands, dunes and reefs offer multiple protective benefits — from absorbing stormwater, to minimizing the shock of storm surge to reducing flood severity. 

However, identifying funding for natural infrastructure projects is not always straightforward.  

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Quick action needed to achieve full mitigation potential of soil carbon credits

The potential for agricultural climate solutions has led to surging interest in credits for soil carbon sequestration. The stakes for climate change and farmers are high, and there is a pressing need to evaluate emerging protocols for measuring, reporting and verifying soil carbon sequestration and net greenhouse gas removals.

With that in mind, Environmental Defense Fund and the Woodwell Climate Research Center reviewed 12 published protocols for soil carbon credits from cropland and rangeland, and published the results in a new report — Agricultural Soil Carbon Credits: Making sense of protocols for carbon sequestration and net greenhouse gas removals.

Here are the challenges the report found with current soil carbon credits and recommendations for overcoming them to build confidence in soil carbon markets. Read More »

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