This World Water Day, and every day, we celebrate California Almond farmers’ commitment to sustainable water solutions. These solutions can be found all around us in nature, as highlighted by this year's World Water Day theme, “Nature for Water.”
The California Almond community’s response to this theme is the exploration of on-farm groundwater recharge, which speeds up the natural process of rainfall replenishing underground aquifers. By accelerating this process through the managed flooding of almond orchards, the California Almond community can help to ensure long-term water sustainability for all Californians.
California’s aquifers are collectively the state’s largest water storage system and used statewide for drinking water and farming. On-farm groundwater recharge applies excess winter floodwater to dormant almond orchards, allowing it to seep down and fill groundwater basins. Through the Almond Board of California, almond farmers and processors have invested $1.4 million in research through UC Davis, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Sustainable Conservation, and Land IQ to ensure this practice can work in almond orchards and benefit groundwater resources.
UC Davis researchers performed studies on almond orchards to look at risks and rewards of applying extra water during the dormant season. With two years of data available from on-farm trials, Dr. Helen Dahlke has found winter groundwater recharge had no negative effect on almond trees and, in some locations, helped trees stay more hydrated during the growing season.
Preliminary findings from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory show distinct localized pathways where water moves more quickly through the soil, even if, from the surface, that soil looks the same. With more detailed information on soil composition below the surface, farmers could work to target specific areas of their orchards to get the greatest recharge effect.
Since 1982, California Almond farmers have invested in 201 different water research projects spanning these groundwater recharge studies, irrigation efficiency, water quality and more.
The results of this research have helped California Almond farmers improve irrigation efficiency and reduce the amount of water it takes to grow one pound of almonds by 33 percent over the last 20 years.1 But there’s more work to be done, which is why we have worked with irrigation experts to create the Almond Irrigation Improvement Continuum, a roadmap for California Almond farmers to accelerate adoption of research-based, water-efficient practices and technology.
To learn more about the almond community’s commitment to water sustainability, visit Almonds.com/Water.
1University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14.