On the Water Front

Selected tag(s): agriculture

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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Revisiting a centuries-old approach to farming that embraces water scarcity.

As discussions at COP28 wrestle with climate impacts on global food and water security, we hear from a Hopi farmer on his thriving practice of dry farming and his hopes for shared learning in Dubai.

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The arid climate of the Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona receives a mere 8.5 inches of annual rainfall. For perspective, the yearly United States average is 30 inches. Despite this severe aridity, for over 3,000 years, the Hopi people have stewarded an extraordinary agricultural tradition centered on dry farming.

Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson is an Indigenous Resiliency Specialist at the University of Arizona and a leading practitioner of Hopi dry farming — a form of agriculture that eschews irrigation in regions with limited water moisture. As a 250th-generation Hopi dry farmer, his ongoing traditional practices are a  testament to the power of cultural values and the potential of climate-adaptive farming. These ongoing Hopi farming practices defy modern notions of crop needs and vulnerability in areas with limited irrigation and water supply. Read More »

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Water is a high-level priority at COP 28, we need to look to ground-level users for solutions

Water has finally reached the highest levels of global climate negotiations. The path to a sustainable freshwater future, however, lies with ground-level users. At COP 28, EDF is elevating their voices, their needs and the approaches they find most useful.

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While greenhouse gases drive climate change, many of its impacts are inherently liquid. Whether through drought, flood, sea-level rise, or contamination, water increasingly forms the turbulent core of the climate crisis.

Over the past year, this basic reality was finally acknowledged at the global planning table.  Thanks to a strong push from its Egyptian hosts, last year’s edition of the main UN climate conference, COP 27, made water a central theme. The cover decision — the summation of the conference’s key agreements — featured water and food for the first time. The decision acknowledged the central role of water in countering climate impacts and called for water-related targets in national climate planning. 

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New report: Investing in Arizona’s water future

This blog is co-authored by Rachel O’Connor, Manager, Climate Resilient Water Systems.

As Arizona’s water crisis worsens due to extreme drought and overuse, more attention than ever is being directed toward addressing this critical issue. At the federal level, an influx of funding has become available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. And at the state level, the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) has just begun accepting proposals for its first allocation of $200M for water conservation projects.

While differing ideas abound, it is critical that our finite time and resources are dedicated to a combination of sensible and distributed multi-benefit projects that stand to bring genuine benefits to Arizonans and the environment. Single “silver-bullet” solutions are often unrealistic and obscure potential negative social, economic, and environmental impacts.

To facilitate the conversation, the Water for Arizona Coalition, which includes EDF, has released a new report titled, Investing in Arizona’s Water Future. The report provides a succinct overview of some of the water conservation and augmentation options that have been brought forward including estimates for the water benefit, cost, and time-frame for each option along with additional considerations.

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Water Leadership Institute reunion: Bridging connections over water

This blog is co-authored by Sue Ruiz (Education Manager, Self-Help Enterprises), Chris Freimund (Director of Development, Watershed Progressive), and Laura Dubin, Rural Community Assistance Corporation

During a rainy Saturday in Visalia, graduates from the Water Leadership Institute (WLI) gathered for an alumni reunion. It only seemed fitting that alumni congregated to discuss solutions to water challenges in an area that historically suffered from drought and recently suffered from severe flooding.

Co-hosted by the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), Self-Help Enterprises (SHE), and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the gathering was meant to foster a support network for community water leaders and influence the future of the WLI. The alumni reunion also included local organizations that work to engage communities to promote equity and water resilience, including the Community Water Center (CWC), Watershed Progressive, and Linguistica Interpreting and Translation. Read More »

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Collaboration and strategic land repurposing: An interview with Julie Rentner, President of River Partners

Most of California’s Central Valley is dedicated to productive and diverse farmland, helping make California the country’s fruit, nut, and vegetable basket. However, due in part to increasingly intense and variable climate conditions, we must manage agricultural landscapes to ensure productivity and reliance for future generations.  The 2,100-acre Dos Rios Ranch Preserve near Modesto is an inspiring example of how marginal farmland can be reimagined to support sustainable agriculture. It also serves as a model to create an abundance of new community and environmental benefits, similar to the types of projects that will be funded by California’s new Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program, a program that incentivizes landowners to voluntarily repurpose land to support long-term water sustainability in the Central Valley. Furthermore, the organization has planted over 350,000 native trees and vegetation, restored 8 miles of riverfront land, and created nearly 250 jobs — an overall success for the area’s ecosystems and economy. The Ranch provides a multitude of new uses, building biodiversity, recreational, climate resilience, cultural, and flood control benefits while improving the health and stability of our water systems which are the backbone of our economy.

Photo Credit: River Partners

We asked Julie Rentner, President of River Partners, to sit down with EDF to discuss the Preserve’s beginnings and journey from irrigated cropland to one of the state’s most significant and largest private-public floodplain restoration projects.

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