Californians have relied on wells to provide water for towns and farms for over a century. It has become clear that we are overusing our water resources and overdrawing the groundwater aquifers across the state. In order to bring groundwater basins back into balance, the State passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, requiring that groundwater basins are sustainably managed by 2040. Due to historic over-pumping, it is estimated that >750,000 acres of currently productive agricultural lands may go out of production in order to bring groundwater use into balance. This land-use change could lead to a disconnected patchwork of dusty fields that are no longer able to be farmed.
Environmental Incentives is working with EDF and other partners to build a more resilient future for California. The Central Valley Resilience Initiative seeks to establish an integrated landscape that supports wildlife habitat and high-quality agricultural land, while sustainably managing the water resources. We will do this by working with diverse stakeholders, land managers, farmers, and communities to identify priorities and incentivize land-use changes that encourage the coexistence of natural resources and agricultural output. Through the Central Valley Resilience Initiative, we are working to ease the transition to managing groundwater more sustainably by exploring incentives for land and water managers to develop alternative benefits on their land such as wildlife habitat or groundwater recharge.
We believe that land-use change can be strategic, coordinated, and prioritized to realize the greatest environmental and community benefits. Through this project, we hope to support new state and local funding programs to help ease the SGMA transition and ensure meaningful outcomes for wildlife and develop a clear understanding of environmental outcomes and targeted incentives to support farmers decision-making. We will also support pilot projects with landowners and water managers to demonstrate the potential groundwater and habitat values of different land management regimes.