In the water-strained areas of the west, conservation has long been heralded as the smartest most efficacious way to manage water. Luckily, under the careful guidance of local community leaders from both agriculture and urban interests we are way ahead of the game. In the most recent Basin Management Plan process, conservation accounted for 41 percent of our solution to solve overdraft and halt the inward creep of salt water.
Our neighbors to the north, Soquel, Aptos and Santa Cruz, arenít as fortunate as we. Their city leaders have decided they only have two choices to insure that water continues to flow from their customers faucets: either conservation/extreme conservation and/or desalinization. De-sal water is extraordinarily expensive and has the carbon footprint of a dinosaur. Agriculture cannot survive on the cost created by building these high tech engineering facilities and must be more creative and adaptive.
In the Pajaro basin, the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PVWMA) has quite a few cards to play. The recent Basin Management Plan process identified seven solutions that apply science and common sense; with conservation and the use of recycled water being at the top of the list.
Back in 1985 when the PVWMA was formed, there was talk of conservation, however, until now, there has not been a concerted effort in our valley to understand and apply the science of conservation. With federal, state and local entities, state of the art irrigation technology, and a data backed effort by the PVWMA and some key individuals, namely Kirk Schmidt, the farm community is now collecting the tools to make a difference; a big difference.
As multiple interests have scrutinized crops, there have been some amazing results. Strawberries, one of our largest crops, were regarded as a major water consumer. As early as two years ago, they were thought to use upwards of 3-plus acre feet per acre. In laymanís terms thatís just short of a million gallons/acre. Through a closer look at crop requirements by UC Davis and a commitment to reduce water use, local companies like Driscollís have done something miraculous: water use has been fine tuned to as low as 1.67 acre feet per acre. The PVWMA water use records show this quick turnaround.
On the creative side, The Community Water Dialog Group, a stakeholders group committed to solutions, is transitioning into a group that will include further outreach and input into sustaining our water supply. This group of interested citizens has been fundamental in soliciting, debating and promoting solutions.
Presently, the PVWMA is soliciting input for a required California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process that looks at the most recent Basin Management Plan. A recently formed Ad-Hoc Funding Committee is presently soliciting the help of community members and will be seating this important committee by the end of this June.
It is an exciting time for me, to take the 18 months that produced the Basin Management Plan and turn it into a working solution. There is lot to do yet and looking at a fair, legal and community supported process to apply the solution to our treasured valley will be a challenge. It will require an extraordinary effort, but it is so worth it.We need community input for this vital process, please contact the PVWMA to offer your ideas or help either online at email@example.com or call 722-9292.
Dave Cavanaugh is vice-chair of the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency and chair of the Ad-Hoc Funding Committee.
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