Net Zero Water Farming A Race Against Time To Meet SGMA Requirements
This topic detail net-zero water farming to meet SGMA requirements. In California, we have a huge problem but there is also an opportunity associated with it. The problem is that we’re over drafting our agricultural land by 30% which means we need to fallow up to 30% of our agricultural land to maintain groundwater balancing.
On the other hand, if we could reduce our water usage by 30%, we can keep using 100% of our land in production. We will also have a new statement to give to the world that all of our crops are sustainable for the long term. In California, we have a new law called SGMA which restricts a timeline for us to get to groundwater balancing.
To fulfill the SGMA requirements, we propose the Net Zero Water Farming technique. The first of the plans came out in 2020, the next group of plans is due in 2022. We have to start thinking about hitting groundwater balancing within five years and have a plan to be fully groundwater balanced in 20 years. That doesn’t account for droughts so we have this time race to get there much faster than the due date in 20 years.
The natural water table currently is about 75 to 500 feet down. Then you have that natural quarter very fringe which is about two to five feet above the saturated zone. The saturated zone is called the groundwater table. It’s dropping anywhere from one to two feet per year. We have to get this under control.
Current strategies are all about drip irrigation. Drip irrigation allows us to conserve water but does not allow recharging. With drip irrigation, you always see that big puddle on the surface as it’s dripping and the water constantly evaporates from the surface. But When you turn off the drip irrigation, the top three inches of moist soil is still available to the solar heat to evaporate.
For recharging, we currently have two solutions. The first one is flood irrigation or flood Mar where we flood the fields. Which fully saturates them while the trees are dormant to recharge the groundwater. The second option is the drain tiles. The drain tiles are placed 14 to 10 units below the surface and are used as a reverse drain tile. They’re not trying to drain the water out but they’re filling the drain tiles with water. And trying to get water down into the groundwater Basin.
Our solution is Aquifer Pipe. So This pipe has a special design to raise the water table up into what we call a virtual water table. We create this virtual saturated zone which also has a virtual category fringe associated with it. That fringe is still two to three feet from the surface. The saturated zone is buried five feet below the surface. And about two to three feet in height. This is to get that category Fringe into the zone where the roots can absorb the water.
The Aquifer Pipe isn’t a new technology. So that we already have systems installed in urban areas for the past four years. We take water from showers and laundries and irrigate lawns with it. Placing the pipe about one foot below the surface and creating this moisture plume that is eight feet wide.
The difference is that in agriculture we’re going from a three-inch pipe diameter to six-inch pipe diameter. So This creates a much bigger moisture plume from which the trees can feed. The virtual water table sits in the middle of the service road. Which means if you have trees ten to eleven feet on each side of the pipe. This large six-inch diameter pipe sits at the center of that road.
It’s specially designed to create this moisture plume; this moisture plume goes two feet high and fourteen feet wide. This moisture plume covers the full length of the service road. The trees feed on the moisture plume not directly from the pipe. The virtual table is placed below the surface so that we can avoid water loss due to evaporation. We are also feeding trees at the roots which cuts water consumption by 50%.
The aquifer pipe is a six-inch in diameter and can run for the full length up to a mile. You can also call it a smart drain tile or subsurface irrigation. In this particular picture, we’re showing the v-shape of the pipe. And the center area where the quarter shows how big this pipe is. To give you an idea about the size of the pipe, if you place your phone along the pipe. Your phone is still going to need a couple more inches to be the size of a six-inch diameter pipe.
We are pushing water along the side channels of the pipe. And then it seeps into the center channel through seep holes that are a quarter-inch wide. The Center channel becomes fully saturated creating a virtual water table that allows surrounding soil to wack it up. And creates the moisture plume as shown in the last picture. The moisture plume is two feet high and 14 feet wide and that is where the trees feed on. They do not feed on the pipe directly; they’re always feeding on the moisture plume that’s being created.
Groundwater Recharger with The Aquifer Pipe
We also need to take care of the recharging of the water table so the Aquifer Pipe can be used for all the seasons. During the summertime, we need to create the virtual saturated zone in the virtual category fringe to feed the trees and not let any water go down to deep percolation.
And in the wintertime or when surface water is abundant, you want to overcharge it meaning you want to add in more water than what is needed for the trees. To get that additional water available on the surface down into the aquifer and recharge the groundwater that allows you to pick up additional groundwater banking credits and create that longer sustainability for your farm. Although this process described for winter you can recharge at any time when there is an availability of surface water because it’s so far below the surface, you’re not going to disrupt any type of surface operations.
There are plenty of other benefits to the pipe and we don’t emphasize them as much as we emphasize the water because we’re trying to help Net Zero Water Farming achieve groundwater balancing on an individual basis.
You’re going to start to see savings in some of these other areas such as fewer weeds because there’s no surface water being implied. You will not have weed seeds that need germination so that eliminates the need for herbicides and the labor to apply the herbicides.
Another advantage is that there’s less irrigation maintenance because we remove all the surface irrigation. It is all subsurface, you don’t have rodents eating up irrigation lines or pests clogging up the offices or even the calcium buildup on your drip emitters due to the hard water that we have here in California.
There is no service water during harvest time so you do not need to worry about at the harvest time shaking the trees and having the nuts sitting in some water channel and developing fungi and causing a reduction in your crop yield.
You don’t have the sprinkler systems or the drip systems too close to the trees where it’s eating away at that crown and causing a crown rot in your trees to die because once again the water is all below the surface about two feet to three feet.
With Aquifer Pipe, you can Recharge anytime. Unlike flood Marr which is a winter type recharging system, in this system, you can recharge any time of the year whenever water is abundant. If there’s a rain early March or we’re having a nice rainstorm right now, we can take advantage of that additional water and recharge the orchards. It would be a bad time with the flood Marr system to flood your portrait and cause some damage to your crop this early in the season but with an aquifer pipe, you can do it any time of the year.
Overview of Net Zero Water Farming
The pipe is down below and the moisture plume below. therefore the tree roots are going to grow three to five feet deep into the soil structure so as the crop starts to grow and you start to get top-heavy and you do not need to have blow overs to your trees.
Something is interesting with the deep roots and how it might increase chill hours. The logic behind that is that currently, we measure chill hours on the surface and as with most of our irrigation being a drip. The roots are closer to the surface as well. So, on a hot summer day, that soil warms up and wakes up the dormant roots by pushing roots deeper to 3 to 5 feet. In the case of Aquifer Pipe. We’re going to be away from those hot days thus increasing the chill hours for the trees. That is a very interesting study that I’m looking forward to learning more about.
There is sustainable long-term farming that adds value to anybody who has to sell their product to a value chain. They want to make sure that there’s going to be sustainable Net Zero Water Farming inputs to their products either a juicing company or a large restaurant chain that additional value is showing that you are at groundwater balancing and you’re not going to be limited to restricting your crop during the drought or other similar situation. That freedom is going to give you that value-added to your harvests. And you crop because you’re sustainable for generations.
So, let us help you reach groundwater balancing Net Zero Water Farming, give us a call. We will be happy to visit your farm, talk about the different ideas. And tell you a step-by-step approach to meet groundwater balancing under SGMA applications. Because you want to be more of a sustainable farmer in the future.