On the Water Front

Revisiting the first OpenET Applications Conference: how satellite-based data is transforming water, farm, and forest management 

This spring, hundreds of scientists, engineers, water managers, farmers and ranchers gathered in New Mexico to share and learn about how OpenET data is being used to advance water resources management. OpenET has radically improved access to data on evapotranspiration (ET) — or how much water plants and other vegetation consume. The result has been a flood of new applications of ET data in land and water management. 

This year’s convening in New Mexico was a first-ever chance to take stock of all the ways people are using OpenET. The conference cut across a wide range of geographies and sectors and revealed a quickly emerging, dynamic community of practice centered on the platform.  Read More »

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How public-private partnerships can improve water sustainability

The scale of the global freshwater crisis requires an all hands effort. Fostering diverse, sometimes difficult, partnerships — particularly between policymakers, producers, and frontline communities — is at the heart of EDF’s water program.

Buzz Thompson’s new book argues the scale of the water crisis requires stronger public-private collaboration.

Partnership is also at the center of an intriguing new book from Stanford law and environmental social sciences professor Barton “Buzz” Thompson. In Liquid Asset: How Business and Government Can Partner to Solve the Freshwater Crisis, Thompson argues partnership — between the private sector, lawmakers, state agencies, philanthropic foundations, and non-profits such as EDF — gives us the best chance to address the growing freshwater challenges confronting the world today. He explores exactly how such public-private partnerships can develop by addressing four key questions:

    1. Does the private sector promise anything unique in solving the global water crisis?
    2. What are the risks of private involvement given the “public-ness” of water?
    3. What are the challenges of working in a traditionally public sector?
    4. How exactly can the private and public sectors partner?

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Cómo la reutilización de tierras está comenzando a transformar comunidades y ecosistemas vulnerables en California

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El extenso Valle Central de California se enfrenta a la disminución de los niveles de agua subterránea y al incremento de cambios bruscos de clima, entre sequias e inundaciones, por cambio climático.

La próxima vez que te encuentres buscando direcciones en tu teléfono móvil, mueve el mapa hacia el centro de California y haz zoom. Activa la capa de satélite. Lo que verás es un desconcertante mosaico. Un inmenso tablero de ajedrez marrón y verde, dividido en rectángulos, cortado por autopistas, rodeado por colinas y montañas. Este es el famoso y problemático Valle Central de California, potencia mundial en producción agrícola que cada vez más se asocia con titulares sobre la sobreexplotación de aguas subterráneas, las crecientes olas de inundaciones y sequías. No es un paisaje que uno asociaría inmediatamente con colaboración y  transformación.  Read More »

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Here’s how land repurposing is beginning to transform strained communities and ecosystems in California

Satellite image of California's Central Valley

California’s sprawling Central Valley is confronting declining groundwater levels and increasing ‘climate whiplash’ between drought and flood.

Next time you find yourself looking up driving directions on your phone, scroll over to central California and zoom out a bit. Turn on the satellite layer. What you’ll see is a mindboggling patchwork. A massive brown and green checkerboard, cut up in rectangles, sliced by highways, besieged by a ring of arid foothills. This is California’s famed and troubled Central Valley — an agricultural powerhouse that’s increasingly associated with headlines about disappearing groundwater and growing waves of flood and drought. Filled with sharp lines, it’s not a landscape one would immediately associate with collaboration and transformation.   Read More »

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Rosa learned how to help her community get reliable, clean water. You can too.

Aerial view shows algae at O’Neill Forebay, a joint Federal-State facility and part of the State Water Project in Merced County, California. Algal blooms may contain toxins that can be harmful to people and pets. Photo taken May 25, 2022.
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources, FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY

In 2022, Rosa applied for the Water Leadership Institute. Her motivation? To actively address severe water challenges impacting her family in El Nido in Merced County. Located in California’s breadbasket, Merced County is a scene of abundance with lush fields, orchards, and prospering dairy farms. Yet, beneath this scene lies a harsh reality. Rosa’s family and neighbors grappled with the consequences of water contamination, a pervasive issue with a grasp on daily life.

For years, Rosa made the bi-weekly trek to purchase clean water for her family’s ranch. Routinely, she stocked up on large quantities of jugs and bottled water to ensure her family had safe water to cook, clean, and drink. When this water ran low, they reluctantly turned to their domestic well for cleaning and personal care. Her family was aware that the well was not clean, but that was the best alternative available. Oftentimes, when they turned on the faucet, the water was foamy, had a strange smell, and ran white, the same color as the milk from the nearby dairy farms. She and her neighbors even began noticing their hair would fall out when they used the faucet water for bathing.

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Fields of Innovation: A Trip Showcasing Multi-Benefit Land Repurposing

Embarking on a field trip can often feel like stepping into a storybook, especially when the narrative and scenery revolve around transforming landscapes. This feeling was palpable last November when the Environmental Defense Fund organized a trip to Merced and Stanislaus Counties in California. The journey wasn’t just a tour; it was a vivid illustration of how multi-benefit land repurposing (MLRP) is bolstering groundwater sustainability in areas hardest hit by climate change.  Read More »

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