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san joaquin valley resource conservation district collective

Modesto, CA

Groundwater Sustainability in California's San Joaquin Valley


Openings: 1 of 1

Focus Area: Agriculture

Watershed Management, Climate Mitigation & Adaptation, Regenerative Agriculture

project breakdown







Education & Outreach


Goals & Needs

The San Joaquin Valley is the epicenter of the groundwater crisis in California that prompted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Twenty Critically Overdraft Basins and several High Priority Basins are located in the valley. The GrizzlyCorps Fellow will work with 8 groundwater basins in Madera, Merced and Stanislaus Counties to bring on-farm water conservation messaging to partners, communities and most importantly the farmers and ranchers that rely on water to grow our food. Groundwater Conservation Plans will be created at the field level to include climate smart conservation practices that will increase carbon sequestration, reduce emissions and conserve water. The Fellow will be an integral part of coordinating with existing research, outreach to farmers and ranchers through field days, demonstrations and workshops as well as the assessment and planning steps to creating the Groundwater Conservation Plans with individual farmers and ranchers. Our hope is that the capacity at each RCD located within the service area will be built and that the partnerships built with other organizations, GSAs and local governments will bring the role of agriculture in climate mitigation. 

Capacity Building Projects

East Stanislaus RCD will be the lead agency working with East Merced RCD and Madera-Chowchilla RCD. These organizations already have MOUs and shared employees on specific projects which will aid the Fellow in the large service area. The Fellow will have two main roles in bringing together the San Joaquin River Hydrologic Region Watershed 1) representation of the RCDs are regional meetings, GSA meetings and other governmental regions that address water use and conservation; and 2) assisting farmers and ranchers with conservation planning to prepare them for the reduction in groundwater allotments and exploring practices that will increase the potential for recharge.

RCDs have been historically understaffed and funded in the Central Valley and therefore has not been viewed as a potential partner in watershed level projects. The goal of this project will be to bring the visibility of the RCD with watershed partners and establish the RCD as a technical assistance and implementation partner for future projects. Measurables will include: 9 presentations to partners on the intersection of RCD services, conservation planning and the needs of groundwater sustainability; 3 partnership proposals submitted for continued work on groundwater conservation and recharge; and 10 Groundwater Conservation Plans with individual farmers and ranchers.

The RCDs could become a resource for others through innovative solutions to the complex resource concerns related to groundwater and plans that will demonstrate the important role that climate smart agriculture could play in addressing those resource concerns. All too often, agriculture is viewed as an end user that further strains the ever-growing delicate watershed, but it is a vital part of the world food system. In addition, agriculture is a keystone industry for the economics of the San Joaquin Valley. As land is fallowed to balance water budgets, the remaining agricultural lands will need to be economically viable to ensure the economy of an area that is already populated by many Disadvantaged Communities.

The three RCDs have been building capacity in conservation planning over the past two years.  East Stanislaus RCD has been building its Watershed Programs with the most recent GrizzlyCorps Fellow. This project focuses on a specific resource concern that will build a bridge between those two existing programs. RCDs have programs that address Water Conservation, Soil Conservation, Community Education and many more. However, groundwater was only recently recognized by USDA NRCS as a resource concern related to conservation planning and has released new conservation practices to address recharge. RCDs need to develop the messaging and technical assistance that will assist our food growers when regulatory changes and reduced water allotments begin under SGMA.

Organizational & Community Highlights


The Resource Conservation Districts in Stanislaus, Merced and Madera counties have been building their collaboration over the last few years. Initially, under Carbon Cycle Institute funding a Carbon Farm Hub was created that has grown to include all climate smart agriculture programs related to conservation planning. East Stanislaus RCD (ESRCD) serves as one of the leads due to their staffing capacity but also the projects we are implementing. UC Merced is a research partner currently collection data on Soil Health Systems on Orchards under USDA with ESRCD. Madera County is home to a pilot groundwater recharge funding program with Sustainable Conservation, Madera Irrigation District and USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services with Madera-Chowchilla working on creating Groundwater Conservation Plans for farmers and ranchers to prepare to apply to that funding. All three RCDs (ESRCD, MCRCD and East Merced RCD) are part of an American Farmland Trust project to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices through NRCS' Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The workplace will provide mentorship with the assistance of experienced planners located in the East Stanislaus RCD office and our partners as well as ground-up experience in helping bring that knowledge to other RCDs and partners to build technical assistance access for farmers and ranchers.


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