Another year of drought means we’re all once again being asked to conserve.
But, it’s not as easy for farmers on the Central and South Coasts, who need to use groundwater to supplement scarce rainfall. In Ventura County, hundreds of farmers are taking part in a unique water market program.
It not only includes state of the art water usage monitoring, but sets up an exchange, almost like a mini stock market, where they can sell some of their surplus water allocation, or buy surplus water allocated to other farmers.
The hope is that it will help improve water conservation in the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency, which manages groundwater use for about 50,000 acres of agland in the county. The state is forcing agencies like Fox Canyon to do more to limit water use.
So, farmers under the agency’s domain worked with it to come up with an innovative plan. State of the art water use monitoring equipment is being installed on farms to allow farmers, and the agency to keep closer tabs on water use. If a farmer realized they would have a surplus in their annual water allocation, they can sell it to another farmer, while if they run short, they can buy it from another farmer. The water market in effect gives the allocation value and should therefore encourage conservation.
The innovative plan was developed with the help of California Lutheran University’s Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, which also manages it. The Nature Conservancy got a major grant to help fund the program, which allows farmers who sign on early to get the internet-based monitoring systems for free.
The new systems allow already-required water usage monitoring to be done with a solar power system which transmit data to users via the internet.
Officials with Ranch Systems, which are installing the devices, say it’s like replacing a human gas meter reader who visits your home with an automated one. But it also has the potential for farmers to do more, like remotely control water flow.
So far about 200 of the 700 farmers in the Fox Canyon Agency’s jurisdiction are onboard. With closer monitoring being required by the state anyway, officials are hoping more farmers will take advantage of the available grant money to do what they have to do anyway.