Tuesday, April 17, 2012 by Lee Mannering

Sustainability stories: Driscoll’s Pajaro Valley water conservation

It’s been a few weeks since the last sustainability story here on Field to Fork, but recently I received some information from Driscoll’s Strawberry Associates concerning its first large-scale sustainability project, which is focused on water conservation and improving water quality in California’s Pajaro Valley.

For decades the Pajaro Valley aquifer has been in overdraft due to groundwater depletion and saltwater intrusion since the 1950s. To remedy this, Driscolls has been actively working to improve water levels and the water quality of the aquifer to ensure that agriculture can continue to thrive in the valley. Some of its key projects include:

  • Establishing a formal forum for dialogue and collaborative projects with more than 50 community leaders and stakeholders
  • Conducting water use research and data collection
  • Piloting irrigation technologies, and efficiencies
  • Conducting grower irrigation trainings and extension
  • Managing the Valley’s first private aquifer recharge pilot project
  • Researching nutrient management and leaching
  • Partnering with growers and the Resource Conservation District to develop practice-based incentives to reduce water use and improve water quality

In speaking with Driscoll’s Sustainability Specialist Naomi Sakoda, I learned that the aquifer recharge pilot was officially launched this year. She told me that it is the first basin to be built collaboratively between private and public agencies. “Driscolls recognizes that its grower community is the largest collective user in the Valley and therefore sees it as a responsibility and opportunity to drive the community toward solutions in order to protect the highly fertile and critical agricultural community. We partnered with one of our growers, landowners, the Resource Conservation District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. We hope that it can serve as a model for others, and that we can eventually leverage what we learn our learnings to help other landowners replicate something similar on other properties,” she noted.

Unfortunately, the lack of rainfall since construction finished has hampered Driscoll’s efforts to yield expected results; hydrologic estimates from UCSC predict the basin will capture 200 acre feet of water per year (eight acre feet per day of rainfall for 30 days of rain).

If you’ve got a sustainability story to share, please let me know. We highlight these items here on the blog, the PMA website, and in the Sustainability Community on PMA Xchange.

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