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Posts Tagged: water

From fracking to water affordability, UC takes on new water-related research

Lake Mendocino in 1977. Photo by Jack Kelly Clark.
Which California communities are more likely to vote down hydraulic fracturing? Are efforts to make safe, affordable drinking water more accessible working? These are among the questions University of California scientists are trying to answer with six new research projects funded by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Institute for Water Resources.

High-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a form of natural gas and oil extraction, is water-intensive and could exacerbate water stress. Gwen Arnold, professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis, is examining efforts to locally restrict high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

“There's a lot of concern over water pollution and water use in communities,” said Doug Parker, UC ANR California Institute for Water Resources director. “We're looking at the characteristics of communities that have voted on measures to restrict the practice of fracking, both where the measures have failed and where they've passed.”

Parker expects that people on either side of the issue will be able to use the study's finding to better understand differing viewpoints. Decision-makers who may be contemplating policy action on fracking will also benefit from seeing the range of relevant policies passed by other jurisdictions and the conditions that appear to favor or discourage adoption of the policies.

Another research project is assessing the Integrated Regional Water Management approach to address the lack of safe and affordable water in disadvantaged communities throughout the state. In 2011, the California Department of Water Resources funded seven pilot projects to develop models for improving water supplies for these communities.

“We want to take a look at how well Integrated Regional Water Management worked, whether it is meeting the needs of providing safe, affordable drinking water,” Parker said.

Jonathan London, professor in the Department of Human Ecology and director of the Center for Regional Change at UC Davis, and Carolina Balazs, UC presidential postdoctoral research fellow at UC Davis, are evaluating the impact of those efforts in Inyo-Mono counties, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles County, Kings Basin, North Coast, Imperial Valley and Coachella Valley.

The Salton Sea, which provides habitat for pelicans and other migratory birds, is shrinking and exposing more soil.
UC scientists also received funding for the following projects:

Learn more about these and other California Institute for Water Resources research projects by visiting http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/CIWR_Making_a_difference.

The California Institute for Water Resources integrates California's research, extension, and education programs to develop research-based solutions to the state's water resource challenges. An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

 

UC to study the fate of street trees grown in increasingly popular bioswales

A V-cut in the curb allows water from the gutter to flow into the bioswale.
To keep pollution out of the ocean and natural creeks, California city planners are looking for creative ways to manage the large amount of water that falls during rain storms. More and more, they are building bioswales, shallow roadside basins designed to hold water as it slowly percolates into the soil or can be delivered to waste water treatment plants.

In many areas, the bioswales – sometimes called “rain gardens” or “stormwater planters” – are being beautifully designed and landscaped so that, in addition to addressing flood management, they provide an artful green oasis in the largely asphalt and concrete urban jungle. Ornamental trees are a common feature.

Street trees have shaded and beautified urban areas for centuries, but because the construction of bioswales is relatively new, little is known about managing trees in areas that are periodically flooded. Public works, flood control and transportation professionals have turned to a University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) urban forestry expert for guidance.

“At this time, there is no information available about the fate of trees in bioswales,” said Igor Laćan, UC ANR Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Laćan is a native of Croatia who immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager, then completed bachelor's and master's degrees in ecology, and a doctorate degree in urban forestry at UC Berkeley before joining UC ANR in 2013.

“The lack of information has raised concerns about the potential damage to the trees growing in bioswales and the potential damage to facilities from repeated removal and replanting of dead trees,” Laćan said.

The UC ANR California Institute for Water Resources this month announced a $25,000 grant to fund Laćan's study of the performance of ornamental trees – their survival, growth and health – planted in urban bioswales. Laćan plans to compare bioswales in the city of Portland, Ore., which has more than 10 years experience with this form of stormwater management, to projects in three California Cities – San Francisco, San José and El Cerrito. The project will include the development of a monitoring protocol so that commensurate information can be collected about trees in bioswales, and collection of the information in a database for city planners to access when they are making future bioswale planting decisions.

Laćan said he will also compare trees planted in stormwater facilities with trees of the same species and age planted as street trees. Tree size, condition and presence of insect pests or diseases will be noted and soil samples will be analyzed in a laboratory.

The partner cities are volunteering their involvement in the project.

“They recognize the important role trees play in their environments and the lack of information we now have on tree performance,” Laćan said. “I believe we'll sign up more partner cities as our work continues. San Francisco, San José and El Cerrito are pioneers.”

Data collection for the project begins in April 2015.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Author: Jeannette Warnert

A street corner where two uses of the parkstrip can be seen: a classic lawn-and-trees arrangement on the right, and a bioswale on the left. The bioswale incorporates trees, but their performance (growth and lifespan) in such habitats remains unknown.
A street corner where two uses of the parkstrip can be seen: a classic lawn-and-trees arrangement on the right, and a bioswale on the left. The bioswale incorporates trees, but their performance (growth and lifespan) in such habitats remains unknown.

Posted on Monday, March 16, 2015 at 9:00 AM
Tags: Igor Lacan (2), water (75)

Grasscycling can help Californians conserve water

An electric mulching mower, which cuts grass clippings into fine pieces and leaves them on the lawn. (Photo: Cheryl Reynolds)
Gov. Jerry Brown asked Californians to cut water use by 20 percent a year ago. Officials at the State Water Resources Board announced in March that water users haven't come close to meeting the conservation goal. To help homeowners save water while maintaining a beautiful lawn, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) horticulture advisors recommend “grasscycling” turf at homes, schools, parks and businesses this spring and summer.

In short, grasscycling involves leaving grass clippings on the lawn, rather than collecting them in a bag and shipping them off to a landfill.

“The clippings sift down to the soil surface and act like a mulch, reducing water evaporation so you can cut back on irrigation,” said Karrie Reid, UC ANR Cooperative Extension environmental horticulture advisor in San Joaquin County. “This is a simple and elegant way to save water that requires very little extra effort.”

If you don't have a mulching mower, Reid says, “It's probably time to replace the mower.” As an alternative, a mulching blade can be attached the bottom of most mowers. The special blade makes a second cut when mowing over grass, cutting grass clippings into finer pieces.

In most California climates, mowing once a week with a mulching mower is sufficient. If grass is growing so quickly a once-per-week mowing cuts off more than one-third of the blade, it's a sign that too much water is being applied.

In addition to reducing water use, grasscycling cuts down on fertilizer needs.

“As the clippings break down, nutrients are returned to the soil,” Reid said. “Most of the fertilizer that is applied to lawns ends up in the leaf blades, so it only makes sense to retain as much of that on the lawn as possible.”

A five-page UC ANR publication on mowing and grasscycling is available for free download from the UC ANR Catalog. The publication includes a table with mower height settings for the most common types of turf grass grown in California.

In addition to working with horticulture professionals, Reid serves as advisor to the coordinator and volunteers of the UC Master Gardener program in San Joaquin County. Master Gardeners are UC ANR volunteers who are trained by UC academics in sustainable landscape, ornamental tree and garden development and maintenance.

More than 6,000 volunteer Master Gardeners form a network to disseminate research-based gardening information across the state, donating upwards of 350,000 hours of time each year.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 11:26 AM
Tags: conservation (2), drought (16), Karrie Reid (1), water (75)

Too wet outside to work? Watch a drought video

'Groundwater and surface water interactions under water shortage,' Thomas Harter's presentation, has been viewed nearly 1,400 times.
Rain has begun falling, but California continues to operate under severe water scarcity from low precipitation over the past three years.

“California will need about 150 percent of normal rainfall this winter to end the drought,” said Doug Parker, director of UC California Institute of Water Resources. “Although the rains have come, we can't afford to let our attention drift away from carefully managing our water supply.”

The UC California Institute of Water Resources, with support from the California Department of Water Resources, has recorded presentations by scientists in the UC system and other organizations on a variety of topics related to water management and drought. “Insights: Water and Drought Online Seminar Series” is accessible by computer or mobile device.

The online seminars enable UC Cooperative Extension and the other scientists to share their knowledge with a larger audience than those who can attend meetings in person, said Daniele Zaccaria, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in agricultural water management in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis.

“Farmers, landscape professionals, land managers, irrigation consultants, resource managers from water districts and others can view the half-hour video presentations on YouTube whenever it is convenient for them, obtaining science-based information that stems from applied research conducted by several scientists over the last 10 to 15 years,” said Zaccaria, who coordinates the speaker series.

Lynn Ingram's presentation on 'Climate change and paleoclimatology: 2013/2014 in perspective' has been more than 800 times.
Topics include drought impacts on natural resources, drought preparedness, water management in urban landscapes during a drought and crop management with limited water.

Currently 39 videos addressing drought and water management in different settings are available, and more talks will be added in the coming months. The videos are also being used by Cooperative Extension in other states and have been viewed hundreds of times. “Groundwater and surface water interactions under water shortage,” by Thomas Harter, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, has been viewed nearly 1,400 times and “Climate change and paleoclimatology: 2013/2014 in perspective” by Lynn Ingram, professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley, has been more than 800 times.

The following titles have recently been added:

Water resources management in the Pajaro Valley, California
Brian Lockwood, senior hydrologist, Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency

Managing corn under California's drought conditions
Mark Lundy, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Sutter, Yuba and Glenn counties

Droughts, climate change, and dams: Reconciling a future for California's native inland fishes
Peter Moyle, professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology at UC Davis

Managing landscapes on limited water
Loren Oki, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis

Drought - An insidious stress on wildlife
Greg Giusti, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, forests and wildland ecology in Mendocino County

Agricultural water management practices under limited water supply: Lessons from recent droughts
James E. Ayars, agricultural engineer, USDA-ARS

Soil moisture monitoring and utilization during a drought
Dan Munk, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, irrigation, soils and cotton in Fresno County

Land subsidence along the Delta-Mendota Canal and neighboring areas
Michelle Sneed, California Water Science Center, US Geological Survey 

How to save water and beautify your landscape ... the sustainable way
Janet Hartin, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, environmental horticulture in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties

Efficient citrus irrigation
Blake Sanden, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, irrigation and soils in Kern County

Using agroecological practices to enhance the resilience of organic farms to drought
Miguel A. Altieri, professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley

The drought videos are available at http://ucanr.edu/insights and https://www.youtube.com/UCANR.

Posted on Monday, December 15, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Growing wine grapes without irrigation possible for some, not all

It's easier to grow wine grapes without irrigation in the Napa Valley, which receives more rainfall than the San Joaquin Valley.
California's ongoing drought is raising the interest of wine grape growers in dryland farming, reported David Pierson in the LA Times. Pierson interviewed Napa Valley growers who are already dry farming their vineyards. While it may be feasible to rely solely on rainfall in the Napa Valley, San Joaquin Valley growers would have a hard time setting a grape crop without irrigation.

"If you don't water in the San Joaquin Valley, you're not getting a yield," Larry Williams, a professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis and based at Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, told Pierson.

Last month Sacramento Bee columnist Mike Dunne used Williams' study of water use of chardonnay grapes in the Carneros Region to refute the amount of water a Dutch researcher claimed was required to produce a single glass of wine. “In California vineyards and cellars, is 29 gallons of water to produce a single glass of wine a realistic estimate?” Dunne asked Williams, who explained that California grape yields per gallon of water are much higher than in Europe.

“The mean yield of wine grapes in Europe ... is around 1.8 tons per acre using data I've gleaned from research papers,” Williams says. “The mean chardonnay yields across California are 7.4 tons per acre.”

Based on Williams' research, Dunne wrote, “Vines of the dry-farmed portion yielded 4.9 tons per acre, while vines on the irrigated portion produced 6.3 tons per acre. The upshot was that 14.2 gallons of water was needed in the dry-farmed block to produce a typical 4-ounce pour of wine, while 15.3 gallons of water was needed in the irrigated parcel to produce a 4-ounce pour of wine, totals far lower than the figure calculated by the Water Footprint Network.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 4:34 PM
Tags: drought (16), Larry Williams (1), Water (75), wine grapes (1)

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