University of California

Presentations 2016

Detailed Report by Session Themes : Livelihoods

Dar, Aaditya

Presentation Title
The Groundwater Constraint: Responses to Falling Water Tables in India
Institution
George Washington University
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Abstract
The objective of this paper is to examine the trends in groundwater depletion in India and analyze their short term consequences by studying their impact on area under irrigation. Indian agriculture continues to employ three out of five people in the labour force and its development is crucial for the growth of the entire economy. Efforts to increase the growth rate of agriculture have relied on increasing the intensity of cropping, use of high-yielding variety of seeds, expansion of irrigation facilities and use of fertilizers. On one hand, the modern seed-fertilizer-water technology, has catalyzed the entire crop production system, but on the other it has led to deleterious environmental consequences (in terms of ground water depletion). An open question in policy circles now is whether the groundwater constraint is binding or not, and if it is then what is the impact of falling water tables. To study this we present results from a new panel dataset that records groundwater levels in 20,166 wells, four times a year, over 1996-2012. We document two results: firstly, overall trends in groundwater depletion mask important regional and temporal heterogeneity. We can identify three distinct phases: (a) in the first phase - the period of concentration - groundwater is declining in the north and west (excluding Maharashtra); (ii) in the second phase - the period of diffusion - there is a remarkable improvement in the second phase as locii of groundwater extraction shifts to east (though in terms of magnitude the problem is not severe); (iii) in the third phase - the period of resurgence - the erstwhile problem areas from phase 1 make a comeback and the problem intensifies in the new areas that were added in phase 2.Secondly, analyzing the impacts of falling water tables, using over 100,000 observations and high resolution spatial data, we find that a 1 meter fall in November’s water table leads to a decline in irrigated area by approximately 0.1 percentage points. To put these numbers in perspective, it is important to remember that gains in area under irrigation are notoriously sluggish and that it has taken India more than 60 years to increase gross irrigated area by 20 percentage points (net irrigated area has increased only by 13 percentage points since independence). Given that the magnitude of the impact we estimate is a third of the average annual gains India has made in irrigation since independence, this implies that the groundwater constraint is strict and binding.

Pavelic, Paul

Presentation Title
Options for viable small-scale groundwater irrigation systems in the least-developed, water-rich case of Lao PDR
Institution
International Water Management Institute
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Abstract
In a poorly developed, water-rich country such as Lao PDR, most attention has historically been given to surface water development issues with limited consideration to groundwater. However, even with such relative abundance, spatial or temporal shortfalls and occasional droughts are faced, and groundwater is being increasingly relied upon to achieve broader socioeconomic development goals. Whilst groundwater development for domestic supplies has progressed ‘below the radar’ with mixed success under rudimentary governance arrangements, the consequence has been little knowledge and capacity to manage the groundwater resources and virtually no groundwater use for irrigation. All this is gradually changing with groundwater beginning to be included in water policies and development plans. A research project which began in 2012 (http://gw-laos.iwmi.org/) seeks to explore the role of expanding groundwater use for agriculture to address food security issues and enable diversification of cropping beyond paddy. Considering this challenge from an integrated, multidisciplinary perspective, the project is working towards creating:• improved understanding of the hydrogeological systems and water balance across regions and scales;• clarity on the way groundwater is perceived and used under different contexts; • clearer definition of the socio-economic costs and benefits of groundwater irrigation through establishment of pilot trials; • tools that assess how to achieve sustainable groundwater development and avoid negative environmental impacts; and • strengthened technical and institutional capacity within government, universities and other important stakeholders.This paper will focus on presenting the key findings from a techno-economic and institutional evaluation of irrigation pilot trials that have been setup on the Vientiane Plains; one of the major ‘food bowls’ of the country. Dry season small-scale groundwater irrigation of cash crops using shallow wells that are managed by individual farmers as well as deep tube wells that are managed by user groups are being evaluated and compared. These performance evaluations consider the profitability of various crop types, source of energy, irrigation methods and water use efficiency, labor availability, land tenure and other factors.On the whole, they reveal that there are viable alternatives to the current portfolio of publicaly supported, medium or large scale surface water irrigation schemes which provides viable livelihood options for smallholders residing beyond the command areas. This completely neglected area of government policy would include greater emphasis to decentralised systems of irrigation based on the use of tube wells, dug wells (or even small on-farm ponds), managed by individual farmers or small collectives who have greater control over water delivery.

Rempel, Jenny

Presentation Title
The Importance of Rural, Farmworking Communities in Advancing Policy Solutions that Address Agricultural Pollution of Groundwater
Institution
Community Water Center
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Abstract
Access to safe drinking water is a guaranteed right under California law (AB 685) that many Californians are still waiting to access, in part due to inadequate regulatory programs protecting groundwater from nonpoint source contamination. Unsafe drinking water impacts over one million Californians annually, and over 10,000 Californians have recently experienced complete household water loss as wells dried up in the drought. The communities forced to deal with unreliable, unaffordable, and unsafe water are disproportionately Latino and disproportionately low-income. They are concentrated geographically in the state’s agricultural regions, where nitrates, pesticides, and other nonpoint source contaminants enter groundwater due to current farming practices. The poorest rural, agricultural communities are not only most impacted by unsafe water; they are also driving solutions to the drinking water crisis facing California by advancing unprecedented campaigns for groundwater protection.Ninety percent of communities in the agriculturally rich San Joaquin Valley rely on groundwater for their drinking water sources. In 2014, the San Joaquin Valley was home to 432 community water systems with maximum contaminant level violations. Thus, 30 percent of the community water systems statewide that were out of compliance with drinking water standards were located in this agricultural region that is heavily reliant on groundwater for its drinking water supplies. Not all drinking water violations are due to agriculture, but many of these community water systems have had to close wells, drill new wells, or install treatment facilities to address nitrate and pesticide pollution from agriculture. Nitrate contamination alone is costing families, local governments and the state tens of millions of dollars a year. These drinking water problems will only get worse unless regulatory programs secure significant changes in current agricultural practices. In fact, if nothing is done to prevent it, by 2050, nearly 80 percent of the residents in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley will be impacted.The AGUA Coalition was formed as a regional, grassroots coalition of impacted community residents and allied nonprofit organizations dedicated to securing safe, clean, and affordable drinking water for the San Joaquin Valley. Through community organizing and policy advocacy, the AGUA Coalition and its partners have advanced critical policies to promote drinking water solutions and address regulatory gaps that have left groundwater in the region unprotected from nonpoint source pollution. Due to the AGUA Coalition’s advocacy and stakeholder engagement, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has begun to implement the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program and the Dairies Program to protect groundwater sources from agricultural nonpoint source pollution. These innovative regulatory programs will not remain successful without continued outreach to and engagement with the agricultural communities impacted by unsafe water. We share lessons learned from working with the AGUA Coalition for over a decade toward the goal of protecting groundwater from nonpoint source pollution.

Young, Charles

Presentation Title
Implementing California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Farmer Perceptions and the Balance of Groundwater and Economic Sustainability
Institution
Stockholm Environment Institute
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Abstract
Implementation of the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) will require policy creation at the level of individual groundwater basins. This will require cooperative efforts between counties, municipalities, irrigation districts and others to fully represent the array of stakeholders reliant on groundwater resources. The goal of the work described in this presentation is to develop and apply a decision making framework that can be widely used to address the planning challenges local agencies will encounter during the implementation of the SGMA. With funding from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and a focus on a high priority groundwater basin in Yolo County, the objectives are (i) to understand farmer behavior in light of the SGMA, (ii) develop a shared mental model for the study area amongst stakeholders using quantitative models embedded within formal participatory processes, and (iii) to develop a program of outreach and communication to increase the impact and scalability of both process and outputs. The overall approach utilizes the principles of Robust Decision Making (RDM). Specific tools used in implementing RDM include integrated water resources and economic models that are developed and driven by a stakeholder process involving farmer surveys, focus groups and a stakeholder advisory committee. In this talk we will present an integrated water resources model that was built to respond to the participatory decision making process, an assessment of risk perception to new policy among farmers in Yolo County, and how this participatory decision making framework that utilizes innovative visualization of results can inform and influence the risk perception of farmers and water managers in the context of SGMA, by co-developing a shared mental model amongst diverse stakeholders.

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