WATSONVILLE—In December, the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PVWMA) Board of Directors approved a $1.2 million water conservation program aimed at further bolstering the efforts already in place by farmers.
PVWMA is partnering with the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD) and the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) to provide technical expertise and training to help Pajaro Valley farmers use water more efficiently.
Such conservation efforts are having a positive effect and are helping PVWMA reduce groundwater use and address the problem of overdraft.
A staff report shows that between 2015-19, agricultural water use in the Pajaro Valley was down by nearly 2,750 acre-feet, or about 8%, when compared to the baseline period of 2006-2010.
“The trend lines show amazing progress,” Board member Mary Bannister said. “If you look at the 10-year trend lines, then the 7-year trends, and finally the 5-year, it’s clear the Valley is demonstrably making progress toward our goal, and it is a good thing because [conservation] is the most affordable project within the Basin Management Plan.”
Bannister added that conservation is much more cost effective than pipelines and other hard construction projects.
Since implementation of the Basin Management Plan Update began in 2014, the PV Water Conservation Program has grown to provide irrigation efficiency assistance to over 20 growers per year.
As part of the project, RCD and UCCE technical experts evaluate farming practices and then provide recommendations to improve practices. This includes installation of water monitoring and modern irrigation equipment, training on irrigation system operation and maintenance and training irrigators.
Now, PVWMA is increasing incentives for farmers to modify their irrigation practices to become more resource-efficient at a faster rate.
The new program will increase the number of farmers participating in the agricultural water conservation program and ultimately increase the volume of water conserved within the Pajaro Valley. It runs from 2021-23, and is consistent with the conservation goal of 5,000 acre-feet per year by 2023.
“The best way to make a change is to educate people; the RCD and UC have been working on that for many years,” Board member Javier Zamora said. “By giving [farmers] some cash [through the rebate program] they will have an incentive to help us reach our goal.”
For information, contact PVWMA at 722-9292 or visit pvwater.org/conservation/.