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Tag: agriculture

Solving the Water Balance Equation for California

Drought has been a significant concern throughout much of the western U.S., threatening the livelihood of farmers and communities across several states. When years of drought stretch on, groundwater pumping often becomes the most viable option for the agriculture sector, leading to a negative water-balance and increasingly sparse water availability. Local water authorities are scrambling to recharge the groundwater supplies for their districts’ agricultural needs.

Fortunately, a new tool for their arsenal is now available – the Groundwater Recharge Assessment Tool (GRAT), developed in partnership with The Earth Genome and Sustainable Conservation. Through a prioritized use of dedicated recharge basins, fallow field recharge, and on-farm recharge sites, it may be possible to balance the water budget and reverse the damage caused by years of over-pumping. On-farm recharge is a relatively new approach and requires an understanding of what crops are being grown, and how flood-year waters could be applied during select weeks of the year when high-flow water is available. Currently much of that water runs off the landscape and eventually into the ocean, but on-farm recharge may provide the key to capturing that water by recharging underlying aquifers.

To calculate the best use of on-farm recharge and the impact on the water budget, GRAT allows irrigation districts to run an unlimited number of wet-year scenarios, ranking of field types based on soil and crop characteristics, and detailed cost calculations.

Setting detailed criteria requirements helps to optimize the selection of sites based on an irrigation district’s individual needs. Weighted indexes are calculated dynamically using a number of geophysical variables linked to each criteria.

GRAT allows the automated selection of sites up to a target recharge volume or cost ceiling, and then the manual removal or selection of additional sites based on local expert knowledge.

Advanced, dynamic charting gives real-time updates of groundwater balance and estimated costs based on selected sites. Once the balance has been reached, the option to save the plan can be used to share results with decision makers throughout the district.

GRAT was co-created in collaboration with Madera Irrigation District and Tulare Irrigation District.  It is also now being rolled out to other interested Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) in California, to support their Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) reporting requirements.

 

Three Compelling Story Maps for Agriculture Risk

We worked with Conservation International to upgrade their Vital Signs mapping applications. Using the Esri story map series template, we customized, optimized, and styled the atlases to reflect the mission and spirit of Vital Signs.

Vital Signs - Ghana Atlas

Designed to provide risk management tools for agricultural development, the atlases feature new functionality including the ability to:

  • Re-order layers
  • Adjust transparency
  • Download datasets
  • Share the maps on social media

“These atlases will enable planners and managers in Africa, who do not have GIS skills, to manipulate and overlay different data layers for planning and also provide access to relevant data from a wide variety of sources and sectors.”

Sandy Andelman, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at Conservation International


The atlases provide a baseline and a synthesis of existing data on agriculture, ecosystems, and human well-being, on which Vital Signs is building. They also enable anyone to visualize where Vital Signs is collecting data, in the context of what is already known.

Vital Signs - Tanzania Atlas


“Blue Raster helped our team optimize Vital Signs’s Online Interactive Atlases and add user-friendly functionality. They understood our needs and lent the support our team needed in the critical months before release.” 

Kellee Koenig, GIS Manager at Conservation International


Blue Raster leveraged ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS desktop to build the atlases. Visit the site, and see how Blue Raster helped Conservation International leverage and customize a current Esri Story Map framework to provide three compelling risk management tools for the agriculture industry.