California Water Action Collaborative Tours Almond Research Site

Posted March 24th, 2017

More than ever consumers are interested in where their food comes from and how it is produced. While the recent drought in California has brought almond conversations to the forefront, companies across the board are talking to their customers about how products can be good for people, their communities and the planet.

For the food & beverage companies and leading environmental organizations who make up the California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC), that means coming together to pursue collective action projects that will improve California's water security for people, business, agriculture and nature. This commitment to improving the environment in which their ingredients are grown and end products are produced translates to investment in innovative solutions including groundwater recharge research.

Members of CWAC, including representatives from Coca Cola, General Mills, Nestle, Campbell Soup Company, World Wildlife Fund and the National Forest Foundation, recently toured Nick Blom?s Modesto-area almond orchard that is serving as a test plot for Almond Board-funded groundwater recharge research. By directing excess winter flood waters onto active crop land, the California almond community is testing and demonstrating how groundwater recharge can become an important tool in California?s water management toolbox. This approach will enable local water managers to better balance water supplies, weather droughts and floods and support agricultural production.   

Tour attendees heard from researchers Ken Shackel of UC Davis and Peter Nico of Lawrence Berkeley Labs who are analyzing the impacts of this practice to tree and orchard health and the movement of water beneath the soil subsurface, respectively. Daniel Mountjoy of Sustainable Conservation spoke about the many considerations to groundwater recharge that stretch beyond field and laboratory research ? like water rights, infrastructure needs, policy discussions, planning tools and more.

UC Davis researcher Dr. Ken Shackel shows tour attendees how tree roots are being monitored for impacts from intentional groundwater recharge.

In addition to being an almond farmer, Nick is the Board President of the Modesto Irrigation District. Tour attendees heard how irrigation districts have a unique opportunity and responsibility to manage groundwater resources as required under California?s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Groundwater recharge, should it be proven viable on active farmland, can play an important role in that.  

Modesto-area almond farmer Nick Blom explains the management considerations for testing on-farm groundwater recharge in his orchard.

Almond Board President and CEO, Richard Waycott also addressed the group, speaking to how recharge fits into the California almond community?s larger research priorities and commitment to continuous improvement. ?Nick and his family represent the mindset of the California almond industry in that they are very forward thinking and always looking for new innovations,? said Richard. ?The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will be a game changer for all Californians, particularly agriculture, so to the degree which we can use this approach to augment Mother Nature, we will do so.?

Daniel Mountjoy closed the tour with a challenge to attendees. ?Of all the players involved in this project, no single farmer, researcher, or organization is going to solve this alone. NGOs, crop associations, and companies all have a role to play in encouraging participation in research, growing the knowledge base and working together to find true California water solutions.?

To learn more about this research, check out this short film highlighting a variety of Almond Board research partners and projects, including on-farm groundwater recharge. 

In the Orchard , Water