Water Conservation

There are many ways to conserve water in agricultural settings including increasing the water storage potential in the soil, capturing irrigation runoff and stormwater, and reducing water use to match crop needs. Increasing water storage potential in soil can be done through several methods that increase the carbon content or water absorption into the soil. Practices including composting, crop rotation, reduced tillage, mulching, land smoothing, cover crops and biochar. Water harvesting can include collecting the water for future use or allowing infiltration into groundwater. Cleaning the water of pollutants is an important aspect to consider in developing storage and infiltration solutions. Water harvesting and water storage technologies include designing ways to collect and store rainwater, sediment basins, vegetated treatment systems and woodchip bioreactors.

Overviews of Multiple Practices

Collection of Practice and Guidance Documents from RCD Monterey Co.
Source: RCD Monterey Co. | The website for the RCD Monterey County has a collection of technical references and guidance documents to assist with water conservation, water quality and erosion control.

Water Quality, Conservation, Drought and Irrigation
Source: National Center for Appropriate Technology | Download free or low cost publications on a variety of conservation topics including measuring and conserving water, pump and motor maintenance, managing grazing in riparian areas, soil moisture monitoring, micro-irrigation and much more. Site also contains links to other information sources.

The Forgotten Practices
Source: NRCS | This overview of a wide variety of practices for water conservation includes management practices, vegetative practices, and structural practices. Powerpoint version.

Sustainable Agriculture Video Archive
Source: National Center for Appropriate Technology | View videos on a wide array of topics: cover cropping, conservation, farm finance, crop insurance, energy, urban agriculture, livestock, poultry, organic and more.

Soil Building for Resiliance
Source: CalCAN | Building healthier soils can help growers enhance the resilience of farm operations and cope with a changing climate while improving crop yields, increasing soil water holding capacity and water infiltration rate, increasing soil fertility, and decreasing input costs.

Water Use Efficiency & On-Farm Storage for Climate Resilience
Source: CalCAN | This webinar explores practices to help farmers bank more water in soils and catchments and improve water use efficiency on-farm, thereby increasing the water independence and resilience of farming systems when water is scarce and increasingly costly.

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Cover Crops

Low residue cover crops or winter fallow vegetable production fields
Source: UCCE | Cover crops planted in fallow vegetable fields are an effective cultural practice for reducing erosion and protecting water quality during the winter. By reducing run-off volume and protecting the soil from erosion cover crops also minimize sediment and nutrient loads during rain events, and by taking up residual soil nitrate, they minimize nitrate leaching.

Cover Crop
Source: NRCS | This guide describes the types of cover crops that can be used to build soil organic matter and increase nitrogen in the soil and how to make decisions about which cover crop to use in the field.

Estimated Costs and Benefits of Annually Planted Cover Crop
Source: UCCE | Cover crops provide biomass to the soil. This guide helps evaluate decisions regarding the planting and maintenance of annual cover crops such as legumes, cereal grasses, or mustard.

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Large Scale Composting
Source: Cornell University | This webpage contains links to large scale composting examples, designing and testing, health and safety, and how to use composted materials. It also covers odor management, marketing compost, and both manure or non-manure composts.

Soil Management and Composting
Source: West Virginia University | Direct application of organic matter and composting are discussed including with the issues to consider and manage when considering utilizing waste organic matter on farms.


Sonoma Biochar Initiative
Source: Sonoma Ecology Center | The Sonoma County Biochar Project features production of biochar from local wood wastes, field testing of its use and effectiveness at three local farms, and demonstration of renewable energy capture and use.

International Biochar Initiative
Source: IBI | This webpage contains information on how biochar works, why it improves soil functions and reduced greenhouse gas emissions and how to learn more about biochar.

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Water Harvesting & Farm Ponds

Water Harvesting on the Farm
Source: NRCS | Outline of the sources and uses of harvested water on production farms.

Farm Ponds for Irrigation
Source: CA Ag Water Stewardship Initiative | A description of the benefits and challenges of installing farm ponds for collecting water for irrigation. This website also contains many useful links to resources for constructing farm ponds as well as case studies.

Sediment Basin

Estimated Costs and Benefits of a Sediment Control Basin
Source: UCCE | Sediment control basins can remove soil from runoff and protect downstream water. This paper evaluates the cost of installation and maintenance as well as the benefits and drawbacks.

Vegetated Treatment Systems

Vegetative treatment systems for water quality improvement
Source: RCD Monterey Co. | How vegetated treatment systems work to reduce nitrate concentration, remove sediment and pesticides, and improve water quality. Also Q & A on the basics.

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Woodchip Bioreactors

Passive Systems for Denitrification of Tile-Drain Effluent
Source: UC Davis | Description of how woodchip bioreactors remove nitrate from tile drain water and basic concepts for sizing, design and other considerations.

Woodchip Bioreactors for Nitrate in Agricultural Drainage
Source: Iowa State University | Itroduction of woodchip bioreactors for removing nitrate from agricultural drainage water along with basic questions and answers. Practical guide for farmers considering a bioreactor.

Woodchip Bioreactors
Source: Minnesota Dept of Agriculture | Illustration and description of how woodchip bioreactors work to remove nitrate from large volumes of drainage water. Photo of digging the trench, location and cost estimate.

Technology Summary of Proven and Experimental Technologies for Denitrification of Tile-Drain Effluent
Source: UC Davis | Comparison of different types of technologies for nitrate removal including woodchip bioreactors, anoxic reactors with chemical feed, ion exchange and hybrid constructed wetlands. This comparison includes advantages and disadvantages of each as well as cost and size estimates.

Keyline Design

Keyline Design for Water storage
Source: CA Ag Water Stewardship Initiative | Description of the Keyline design for increasing water storage through landscape countouring to collect and distribute rain water. Includes the benefits along with links to useful resources and case studies.

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