Growing Returns

Selected tag(s): green infrastructure

What the Oroville Dam crisis tells us about natural infrastructure

Oroville Dam

Oroville Dam is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 80 miles north of Sacramento. At 770 feet, it's the tallest dam in the U.S.

The crisis at Oroville Dam in Northern California has abated, but problems could return with more rain in the forecast for later this week.

If you haven’t heard, the reservoir behind the dam reached capacity last weekend, sending water over an emergency spillway for the first time since its construction in 1968. Authorities ordered more than 180,000 people downstream to evacuate their homes over concerns that the spillway could fail, sending an enormous uncontrolled rush of water down the Feather and Sacramento Rivers.

While the evacuation order has since been lifted, our thoughts still go out to those affected. We continue to monitor and try to make sense of the situation, and while many lessons will eventually be pulled from this experience, there is much to reflect on today.

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How agriculture’s resilience to climate change benefits us all

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81 percent of Americans live in cities, but rely on rural areas for everyday needs.

Traditionally, governments haven’t factored farms and ranches into their climate mitigation and adaptation planning. Instead, the focus has mostly been on protecting urban communities. But that is all changing. At the National Adaptation Forum earlier this month in St. Louis, agriculture was top-of-mind in discussions about reducing emissions and building resilience to climate change.

That’s because in order to protect people, 81 percent of whom live in urban areas, we’ll need to protect what’s around where they live, too. It’s largely rural areas, like the farming town of 1,100 people where I grew up, whose working lands and farms provide valuable services to urban areas. These services include food security, flood and drought protection, recreation and water storage. Agriculture can also play (and is already playing) a big role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The more resilient we can make agriculture, the better off we’ll all be. Read More »

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How nature can protect farmers against droughts and floods

medium_15820852967Wacky weather isn’t just a fluke. According to the National Climate Assessment (NCA), extreme weather events are becoming more common and are likely to increase in the future, which poses challenges for farmers and communities.

Traditional ways of responding to weather crises, such as building higher flood walls and digging deeper wells are expensive and often fail.

The good news is that farmers are increasingly turning to more natural solutions and practices, often referred to as “green infrastructure,” that use nature to reduce the impacts of both floods and droughts.

Green infrastructure is also needed to reduce fertilizer pollution and restore the Gulf of Mexico dead zone to safe levels, as a new study published today in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) reports.

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