By TIM HEARDEN
SEBASTOPOL, Calif. -- A coalition of university and other groups is urging California water planners to consider innovative alternatives for water storage as the state's population and demand continue to grow.
The California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply, which includes such organizations as the California Water Institute and Trout Unlimited, is floating such ideas as on-farm ponds to bolster supplies.
The ponds would give growers a reliable water supply as more move away from flood irrigation in favor of precision drip systems, said Sarge Green, the project director for the Water Institute at California State University-Fresno.
The groups say they don't want to downplay the need for more traditional storage, but they want planners to expand the way they think about storage to include a broader range of retention mechanisms.
"It is really about a communication strategy that offers, in a way that makes sense, a lot more opportunities for people," Green said. "Frankly, I think it's about developing a menu of things that can be done, then finding out a way to finance it."
The coalition outlined some ideas in a report, "From Storage to Retention: Expanding California's Options for Meeting its Water Needs," which was unveiled Nov. 13.
Green said the roundtable "does not have a specific legislative agenda," although some of its ideas could be included in the next water bond measure. Private investors could also help with funding, he said.
Among the panel's suggestions is to better manage soil in mountain meadows to create a "sponge effect" that reduces water loss from runoff, Green said.
As for on-farm ponds, growers who've converted to drip irrigation could find them valuable, he said.
"A lot of irrigation systems are still somewhat hamstrung by the fact that they have to deliver on a rotation to some people in their district because the water only runs from April to July, or whatever the time may be," Green said.
"Instead of waiting to turn the drip system on when the ditch is full, (a farmer) could fill the pond up more sparingly or based on the demand of the crop ... then hook the drip system into the well or storage pond," he said. "The goal is to dose the crop with just the water that it needs, not flood the crop with water."
California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply: http://aginnovations.org/roundtables/crwfs/
From Storage to Retention: Expanding California's Options for Meeting Its Water Needs: http://aginnovations.org/articles/view/storage/