By Adam Livingston
The issues of water and farmland retirement remain front and center as ongoing drought cuts further into surface water deliveries, with stakeholders continuing to grapple with the challenge of bringing groundwater use in line with sustainable supplies.
At the same time, rising food prices and other threats to global supply chains remind us not to take our region’s agricultural bounty for granted—indeed, we believe it is all the more important to conserve agricultural land that remains viable, and to ensure that any farmland retirement that cannot be avoided is carried out in a way that benefits the region’s environment, economy and public health. SRT is committed to working with landowners, water agencies and others to find common ground on water and farmland retirement.
Earlier this summer, the California Department of Conservation (DOC) announced that its Multibenefit Land Repurposing Program will provide $10 million block grants to two groups of water stakeholders here in Tulare County, one in the Kaweah watershed and one in the Tule.
The Kaweah group is led by the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District (KDWCD), a longstanding partner on land and water conservation efforts, including a groundwater recharge pilot project at SRT’s Kaweah Oaks Preserve.
In the Tule Watershed, the DOC grant will be administered by the Pixley Groundwater Sustainability Agency, with input from a variety of experts and stakeholders, including SRT. Both grants will support ongoing efforts to build partnerships and work with willing landowners on farmland retirement, with repurposed lands providing benefits such as habitat connectivity, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration.
In keeping with our role as a partner for farmers and ranchers, and our extensive experience with conservation, restoration and long-term land management, SRT has offered our services to help implement projects in both watersheds. Specific projects will depend on local needs and opportunities to collaborate with individual landowners. In both the Kaweah and Tule watersheds, we believe that the new funding will provide an opportunity for SRT and other willing partners to demonstrate on-the-ground approaches to land repurposing that provide long-term benefits for people and nature alike.