On the Water Front

Selected tag(s): groundwater

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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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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Learning from shared scarcity: the Colorado River, the Yellow River and the world

One of the largest rivers in the world struggles to reach the ocean. Spread across a huge slice of a continent, its basin supports millions. Yet the weight of its work to irrigate and power booming farms and cities in an increasingly arid zone is straining the river to a breaking point. For many working in the western water space, this describes the Colorado. A river whose over-work and over-allocation, despite its fundamental role in sustaining life for half a continent, seems in many ways singular.  

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Hispanic Heritage Month: meet local leaders helping communities address key water issues

As Hispanic Heritage Month ends, we celebrate our Hispanic Water Leadership Institute alumni making a difference in their communities.

Nearly 20% of the United States identifies as Hispanic. The largest minority group in the country is also the largest group disproportionately impacted by contaminated groundwater. This is due to a lack of resources and widespread inequities in funding, policies, investment in water infrastructure and education.

EDF’s Water Leadership Institute annually hosts a cohort of leaders working tirelessly to address these inequities. These remarkable leaders are mobilizing their communities and advocating for change by securing funding, advocating for policy shifts, and engaging their community members on local water challenges.

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