This post was republished with permission from the author. The original will published in the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau ‘Between the Furrows’ Newsletter, May 2013.
By Staci Ruffoni, RCD of Santa Cruz County
The Pajaro Valley groundwater basin is in an overdraft condition, as documented in numerous studies conducted over the past 55 years. In response to this serious issue, a group of major landowners in the Valley created the Community Water Dialogue (CWD) in July 2010. Since its onset, the group has included a wide variety of stakeholders, including landowners, growers, government representatives, and environmental groups. The CWD and the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCDSCC) have taken a pro-active approach in identifying solutions to the overdraft problem.
Many growers in the valley have and are using irrigation management systems as a tool to safely conserve water without jeopardizing their bottom line by measuring water efficiency in their fields through probes and wireless towers. The towers involved with this technology, if purchased by individual growers, present a sizable and redundant investment. Through private donors, existing users and a grant from the RCDSCC, these towers have been purchased to create a valley wide network, the WIN Project. This network allows growers to simply rent or purchase the field monitoring equipment, making this technology accessible to everyone.
The WIN Project uses the Hortau, Inc towers and connects with technology to measure soil tension in real time via the internet. Soil tension measures direct water availability and plant stress. This real time information allows growers to anticipate when to irrigate and for how long; keeping crops growing in optimal conditions. This plant based approach to irrigation management has proven to reduce water use by 30% with no detriment to the crop. For more information about the WIN Project contact the RCDSCC at 464-2950.