Technical Support Agencies in California
NRCS California: USDA Service Centers are designed to be a single location where customers can access the services provided by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Rural Development agencies. This web site will provide the address of a USDA Service Center and other Agency offices serving your area along with information on how to contact them. You may also access the helpful NRCS Technical Guide of practices (as well as natural resources data and planning tools) tailored to your location.
Resource Conservation Districts: RCD offices around California were set up to administer needs of local people for pest control, fire fighting, water distribution, and a host of other services. Several RCDs partner with landowners to enhance water management.
UC Cooperative Extension: County-based Cooperative Extension offices are local problem-solving centers. Farm advisors, who are University of California employees, and professional staff work to bring science-based information to bear on local problems in their counties. Many farm advisors across the state work with farmers to develop and test crop-specific irrigation methods and smart water-use strategies. Here is a list of UC Water Experts.
Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT) develops best practices to manage agricultural water use and crop water use efficiency. Their APEP program is an on-farm pump efficiency program funded by PG&E. Through APEP, CIT provides agricultural producers with on-farm assessments of their irrigation pumps to reduce water and energy use, as well as educational seminars and technical assistance. CIT also developedWateright , an online tool for growers and homeowners to schedule irrigation events.
The CalPoly Irrigation Training and Research Center provides programmatic irrigation training and technical expertise to industry, farmers, irrigation districts and state/federal agencies for system management either on-farm or agency delivery systems.
Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas (ATTRA) is a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). The website includes sustainable agriculture and organic farming news, events, publications and funding opportunities. ATTRA has published an excellent Drought Resource Guide, which covers soil management, pasture and rangeland management, irrigation, and water management. ATTRA also offers a toll-free hotline for sustainable agricultural advise- call 1-800-346-9140 for English-language or 1-800-411-3222 for Spanish-language advise from an expert.
US Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART Program
Focused on improving water conservation and helping water and resource managers make wise decisions about water use, Reclamation’s portion of the WaterSMART program is achieved through administration of grants, scientific studies, technical assistance, and scientific expertise.
California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS)
CIMIS is a program in the Office of Water Use Efficiency (OWUE), California Department of Water Resources (DWR) that manages a network of over 120 automated weather stations in the state of California. Weather data from these stations is free and available online, can be used to schedule irrigations. The website also provides Resources on irrigation management and Evapotranspiration equations.
Additional Technical Support Resources
USDA Water Quality Information Center
The center provides electronic access to information on water quality and agriculture by collecting, organizing, and communicating the scientific findings, educational methodologies, and public policy issues related to water quality and agriculture.
California State University
California State University Fresno offers the Center for Irrigation Technology to develop best practices to manage agricultural water use and crop water use efficiency includingAPEP, the on-farm pump efficiency program funded by PG&E. The CalPoly Irrigation Training and Research Center provides programmatic irrigation training and technical expertise to industry, farmers, irrigation districts and state/federal agencies for system management either on-farm or agency delivery systems.
Carpe Diem West and Carpe Diem West Academy
Carpe Diem West is a non-profit 501c(3) organization that leads a broad-based network of experts, advocates, economists, decision makers and scientists to address the profound impacts the growing climate crisis is having on water in the American West. The work of the organization gives context for why the practices in this Ag Water Resource Center are needed. The Carpe Diem West Academy provides a compendium of information and tools for water and energy managers
Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship
The mission of CURES is to create and deliver science-based solutions and education to ensure that tools to control pests and grow plants are used in ways that protect people and the environment. CURES specializes in projects and educational efforts to promote environmental responsibility through implementation of effective best management practices (BMPs) for protecting water and air quality.
Natural Resources Conservation Service
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides a wide range of support and information options, including assistance with drought planning through the creation of conservation plans. NRCS has compiled a Drought Page with further helpful information and resources. See also the NRCS publication: Effective Irrigation Practices to Improve Short Term and Long Term Water Management.
Russian River Coho Water Resources Partnership
The landowner tools section of the site includes information on water savings, frost protection, stormwater catchment, groundwater recharge, and permitting. The Partnership released a video about their work in 2012.
Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas
Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas (ATTRA) is a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). The website includes sustainable agriculture and organic farming news, events, publications and funding opportunities. ATTRA has published an excellent Drought Resource Guide, which covers soil management, pasture and rangeland management, irrigation, and water management.
Farm Water Quality Planning
The Farm Water Quality Planning program is a coordinated effort by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service with the goal of improving water quality education to the irrigated agriculture industry in California.
Pacific Institute, Sustainable Water Management
The Pacific Institute works to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities by conducting interdisciplinary research and partnering with stakeholders to produce solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity in California, nationally, and internationally.
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program
The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) website includes information on grants and education to advance sustainable innovations within American agriculture. SARE also published Smart Water Use on Your Farm and Ranch, an overview of soil, water, and crop management options for sound water use.
Water As A Crop Initiative
A program of the Sand County Foundation, the mission of the Water As A Crop Initiative is to empower landowners with knowledge and resources to effectively improve the conservation of water.
Data & Analysis
California Water Rights Atlas
The Water Rights Atlas was created by the Resource Renewal Institute by organizing and distilling state-level data to improve efficiency and access for water resource managers and the public.
California Department of Water Resources
Since releasing the Integrated Water Resources Information System (IRWIS) to the public, a page has been created to provide a list of useful, alternative resources, tools and web pages related to groundwater management.
The Spatial CIMIS page provides the ability to view daily reference evapotranspiration (ETo), daily solar radiation (Rs), station location, and long-term average ETo zones maps and to generate daily ETo and Rs data at 2 km spatial resolution for the State of California.
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC), a resource of the USDA, identifies resources about sustainable food systems and practices to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture and farmers worldwide. AFSIC includes a page on water conservation resources.
Aquafornia: The California Water News Blog
Aquafornia is owned by the Water Education Foundation, and covers California water news from both traditional and non-traditional news sources, presenting the many sides and views of the water picture, with the goal of fostering understanding of various positions and discussion toward resolution of these often controversial issues. Aquafornia also includes a section on research and publications.
CalCAN Water Stewardship for Climate Resilience Webinar
This webinar includes presentations on how on-farm water use efficiency measures and on-farm water storage can enhance the resiliency of farming operations to water scarcity and climate change. Speakers include John Green and Brittany Heck, Gold Ridge RCD, and Kevin Greer, Tehama RCD.
CAWSI YouTube Channel
The CAWSI YouTube Channel contains a collection of videos categorized into different playlists focusing on specific water stewardship practices. These videos can also be found in the CAWSI Interactive Database of Ag Water Stewardship Case Studies.
In December 2011, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in California released eight YouTube videos, providing a quick glimpse into some of the Agency’s most popular conservation opportunities.
Drought Proofing Your Farm
This comprehensive checklist of on-farm drought management strategies and practices was presented by UC Cooperative Extension Irrigation and Water Resources Advisor, Michael Cahn, at the Ecological Farming Conference, January 22, 1010.
Guide to Beneficial Management Practices for Specialty Crop Farmers
Released by the American Farmland Trust, this guide matches California’s leading specialty crops with specific farming practices, their environmental benefits and sources of funding to pay for their use. It outlines practices that reduce pollution, conserve water and energy, improve wildlife habitat, and moderate climate change. Included is a list of practices that are beneficial to water use efficiency.
Low Cost Methods of Measuring Diverted Water
Published by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, this resource assists water right holders in using simple and inexpensive methods of measuring diverted surface water.
Recharge: EcoFarm’s Water Blog
This blog serves as a community forum, highlighting issues and solutions pertaining to ecological agriculture and on-farm water use management practices.
The Water Cycle
This web page provides many links to discussions of the hydrologic cycle, including primers on evaporation and transpiration from various scientific organizations. There are diagrams and videos that would be useful to explain the water cycle to a general audience.
In April of 2014, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply released their new report entitled,From Crisis to Connectivity: Renewed Thinking About Managing California’s Water & Food Supply. This latest report describes the concepts of connectivity and connected benefits as a means to provide a whole-systems approach to meet California’s water challenges. This report recognizes that connections among urban, agricultural, and ecological water users are often broken or dysfunctional, leading to negative impacts on all water users. To address this problem, the report assessed current needs and identified patterns of disconnects among the key players in California water management. The reports suggests a new innovative approach to water management, connectivity, and identifies three guiding principles to the connectivity approach: Connected Thinking, Institutional Linkages, and Public and Stakeholder Engagement. The report highlights five current cases where the connectivity approach and the guiding principles are being used to successfully bring about connective-benefit solutions. These cases are described in greater detail in the companion report: Applying the Connectivity Approach: Water and Food Supply projects that Connect, Link, and Engage.
Policy Considerations for Managing Agricultural Nitrogen
On May 30, 2013, the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment (CRAE) reached consensus on a set of policy guidelines for decision-makers as efforts move forward to address the long-term impacts to groundwater from agricultural nitrogen. The publication,Policy Considerations for Managing Agricultural Nitrogen to Reduce Groundwater Contamination in California, communicates both a set of key facts important to building policy regarding nitrate in the agricultural context, and a set of key considerations to support effective policy-making. This effort represents the best consensus among agricultural, environmental and other public interest organizations that have united around the need for collaboration to achieve an effective and coordinated policy framework. The document highlights, among other things, the need to provide additional technical support to farmers and ranchers to further accelerate adoption of beneficial management practices and the varying behavior of nitrogen in agricultural environments from place to place, which means policy and regulatory responses must not apply a one-size-fits-all solution.
Collaborative Management of Agricultural Landscapes
On March 21, 2013 AGree convened leaders of a sampling of best-in-class watershed projects from across the US for a day-long workshop in Washington, D.C. Farmers, ranchers, and conservation professionals who lead successful watershed collaborations, along with members of AGree’s Workgroup on Production and Environmental Outcomes, discussed the most significant factors driving/catalyzing the emergence of collaborative watershed and landscape management; the most important enabling conditions to the successful execution of such initiatives; and, the obstacles to achieving intended watershed objectives.
From Storage to Retention
On November 13, 2012, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply released a new report entitled From Storage to Retention: Expanding California’s Options for Meeting Its Water Needs. The report builds on earlier work focused on agricultural water stewardship, and argues for an expansion of approaches to storing water that increase supply reliability for specialty crop agricultural production and other beneficial uses while protecting ecosystem health. Management approaches must support a broad range of options, including ecologically sound large-scale reservoirs, a patchwork of on-farm ponds, expanded soil capacity to retain water, and improvements in groundwater recharge, among others. The report highlights both a conceptual shift in water management that it argues is a necessary underpinning of effective water storage, and recommends a set of priority actions that constitute high-leverage opportunities to improve California’s water storage capacity and management.
Agricultural Water Stewardship Recommendations
On June 22, 2011, the California Roundtable on Water and Food Supplyreleased a set of proposed strategic actions to increase water security for California agriculture while maintaining or improving other beneficial uses. Roundtable members identified agricultural water stewardship as a key area of importance for sound long-term water management. In its report, Agricultural Water Stewardship: Recommendations to Optimize Outcomes for Specialty Crop Growers and the Public in California, Roundtable members present a unified set of principles for agricultural water stewardship. The report also identifies a set of targeted recommendations for state agencies, water suppliers, local water management groups, and the agricultural and research communities designed to facilitate long-term solutions.
Policy Brief Makes Case for Ag Water Stewardship
In July 2010, then CAWSI members CAFF, EcoFarm, OAEC WATERInstitute, Polaris Institute, and Wild Farm Alliance released a 4-page brief outlining the critical importance of incorporating a stewardship approach to water management on farms in California. While many farmers recognize the role that smart water management plays in ensuring the economic viability of farms as well as its conservation value, public programs that provide support for ag water stewardship lag. The paper Why Water Stewardship for Agriculture provides a brief overview of the approaches needed, particularly at this time of water scarcity in California and beyond.
Water Stewardship: Ensuring a Secure Future for California Agriculture
This publication, produced by then CAWSI members CAFF, California Institute for Rural Studies, EcoFarm, OAEC WATER Institute, Polaris Institute, and Wild Farm Alliance in 2008, outlines the case for agricultural water stewardship in the current political, environmental, and economic context. It proposes a set of principles to guide ongoing agricultural water stewardship efforts. Finally, this document offers a strategic framework for on-farm practices, policies, and the multi-stakeholder collaborations necessary to implement meaningful solutions.
California Water Stewards: Innovative On-Farm Water Management Practices
California Institute for Rural Studies conducted a series of case studies highlighting California farms successfully implementing a broad range of “water-wise” practices. In addition to reduced water use, benefits of these practices include improved soil health, increased carbon sequestration, enhanced wildlife habitat, improved water quality, and reduced costs associated with water, energy, and labor. The case study findings provide information for growers interested in implementing more sustainable water practices.
Why Water Stewardship for Agriculture?
This California Agriculture Water Stewardship Initiative policy brief written by Dave Runsten, Policy Director of Community Alliance with Family Farmers and CAWSI Editorial Board Member provides an overview of the benefits associated with various on-farm water stewardship practices such as building soil organic matter, irrigation scheduling and management, and keyline plow. The Policy Brief also presents water stewardship strategies at the irrigation district and regional levels.