• Alexis Duncil

Innovative Solutions for Surviving the California Drought Crisis

Updated: 5 days ago


By Alisha Wilson: In the Fall of 2020, a Climate Clock went live above New York City’s Union Square with the intention of bringing awareness to the remaining time left for humanity to save itself from the worst effects of climate change. The clock is a graphic reminder of the importance of keeping global warming below 1.5℃. The clock is ticking for New York and for the rest of the world. California is currently experiencing extreme drought conditions that are linked to climate change. With July being Smart Irrigation Month, we’re joining the Irrigation Association in becoming proud of our past and focused on the future by sharing important information from our past that can help fuel a better future surrounding our most precious resource -- water.

California is not immune to imagining a life without water even if it is just for a day. Though some might believe that California’s water crisis is something of the 21st century, water crises date back to the early 1800s when a gruesome drought caused Sonoma county to be declared unsuitable for agriculture. Despite the agricultural drought not lasting long in Sonoma, it is important to reflect on the solutions we created that transformed the county into one that is renowned for world-class wines, vineyards, organic produce, and sustainable agriculture.

Due to the Central Valley's role in supplying 8 percent of U.S. agricultural output (by value), including 40 percent of their fruits, nuts, and table foods, it is imperative that we remain committed to sustainable innovations while feeding the nation. It’s a massive goal, but how do we get there? We’re glad you asked.

Recent innovations have shown that smart irrigation practices are an effective solution for California farmers. In short, smart irrigation controllers monitor weather, soil conditions, evaporation, and plant water use to automatically adjust watering schedules based on site conditions rather than a preset schedule. To put it plainly, smart irrigation systems save water. Caltrans’ and Hydro-Scape Irrigation’s case study is a prime example of this, where they replaced 342 of their outdated, timer-based irrigation controllers with WeatherTRAK throughout District 12, saving 53 million gallons of water, within the first 4 months of implementation.

In addition to smart irrigation, groundwater management has been an integral part of California’s success as an agricultural powerhouse despite extreme weather patterns. During dry years, groundwater contributes up to 46 percent (or more) of the statewide annual supply, and serves as a critical buffer against the impacts of drought and climate change. In some communities in California, groundwater is the only means of access to water. However, the consequences of over pumping are threatening in many ways. Thus, local agencies are required to form GSAs for high and medium priority basins under Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

“We’re deploying a comprehensive approach to meet the sobering challenges of the extreme weather patterns that imperil our way of life and the Golden State as we know it, including–funding to tackle the drought emergency while building long-term water resilience,” said Governor Newsom.

California has been dedicated to producing empirical change, understanding that climate change and sustainability cannot be accomplished in a year. Now that California has halted water withdrawals from some rivers and creeks, farmers (and everyone else for that matter) are imagining a life without water. Our greatest threat continues to be the loss of the greatest resource of all, but we find that bleak circumstances create the most innovative trailblazers with solutions.

Wondering what some of those solutions are?

The first innovator on our list is Pumpsight, where pump efficiency is more than a single number. Optimization, fail prevention and data logging are the benefits that Pumpsight highlights in their technology. Pumpsight provides customers with the information to keep pumps running at peak efficiency by integrating multiple sensors to measure pressure in pumping plants and standard flow meters to provide real-time information. Pumpsight provides analytical data on pump efficiency, well-specific capacity, and pumping cost. In short, Pumpsight gives you the data you need to make sure your water is being used efficiently wherever, whenever.

Our second innovator, Verdi, combats drought and increases crop yield by supporting farmers in customizing nutrition for every plant, and focuses on allowing crops to reach their optimum potential no matter what climate, terrain, or soil they grow in. Their technology allows farmers to augment existing farm infrastructure with swarms of smart actuators that enable location-specific delivery of water, fertilizer, and other inputs.

Finally, we have UmidaAG, who provides farms with sustainable groundwater management infrastructure. They work thoroughly with each farm to develop a plan to reduce water needs during the growing season, then a strategy to rebalance and recharge the groundwater from excess surface water flow, resulting in more water with less effort and resources. The extra groundwater serves as reserves for disruptions to water delivery. UmidaAG sustainability analysts design groundwater neutrality plans that exceed the SGMA rules.


If the Central Valley hopes to continue to feed the nation, it’s imperative that we focus on innovative solutions in the face of California's water crisis. To learn more about the ventures listed here and others who are leading the way for solutions surrounding water, energy and agricultural technology, please visit www.valleyventures.org/cohorts.

 

Funding & Other Opportunities


Department of State-Accelerating Women’s Empowerment in Energy

Deadline: July 6

California Department of Conservation-Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC)

Deadline: September 9

Department of Agriculture-AFRI Foundational and Applied Science Program

Deadline: December 31


Check out the California State Grants Portal for more funding opportunities!






 

Members in the News


Climformatics Inc. awarded with the Concept award, by the California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development (CalSEED) program approved by the California Energy Commission (CEC) California Energy Commission.


Listen to Valley Ventures Alumni, Wendy Owens of Hexas Biomass, talk about plant-based solutions to CO2-intensive raw materials.


See how OffGridBox is making a difference in sub-Saharan Africa.


Cal Poly Humboldt cutting the ribbon on California's first 100% renewable energy, front-of-the-meter, multi-consumer microgrid!


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Watch our Inclusive Energy Innovation Video and learn more here.

 

WET Center and Partner Events

2022 Agri-Pulse Food & Ag Issues Summit | July 11 Join Agri-Pulse as they discuss the top economic and policy issues impacting California farmers and food companies, including innovations to produce more crops with less water, opportunities to advance climate-smart practices, new strategies for job training, political engagement, and much more.



 

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Save the Date Agtech day October 28.

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