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Posts tagged: water

UTEP Researchers Take a Different Path to Tackle International Drought Issues

UTEP text and the state of Texas layered onto an image of a river

Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are helping policy makers and residents manage their ever-shrinking water resources using new and different approaches. (Image by Stephanie Engle)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are working with stakeholders to determine the course their research will take.  The result, they say, is better science that is more useful to end users – and the scientists learn a lot, too.

Rather than have their own science-based questions direct their research, Dr. Josiah Heyman and his research partner Dr. William Hargrove will let stakeholders – the actual users of their science – point the way.  According to Heyman, this “participatory approach” is science for the public’s sake, not for the scientists’ sake.  The two lead a multi-institutional, multi-national project that is tackling drought-driven water supply issues in the Southwest. Read more »

Wildfire-Related Tragedy Leads to Landmark Forest Restoration Partnership

A tractor working on trees

In July/August 2013 the Forest Service and City of Flagstaff, Arizona conducted a pilot project off FR240 (Schultz Pass Road) to assess impacts and capabilities of two types of logging equipment on steep slopes and best methods for slash piling on slopes (to allow for the greatest consumption during prescribed pile burning). (FWPP photo)

The Schultz Fire of 2010 started with an abandoned campfire. High winds blew the flames into neighboring trees and brush, igniting a wildfire that would grow to 15,000 acres of the Coconino National Forest and threaten residents near Flagstaff, Arizona. In the following days 750 homes would be evacuated. It took 300 firefighters several weeks to contain the fire in the steep slopes North and East of the city.

Flagstaff had been spared from fire, but not its aftermath. In July 2010, heavy flooding due to monsoonal rain events on the burned-over slopes of the San Francisco Peaks caused an estimated $133-147 million in damage to neighborhoods just outside the city.  A 12-year-old girl, Shaelyn Wilson, was killed when she was swept away in a flash flood. Read more »

Recognizing the Value of Cleaner Watersheds

A watershed in the Stanislaus National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada region of California

A watershed in the Stanislaus National Forest, located in the Sierra Nevada region of California. Photo credit: US Forest Service

The mission of the Forest Service is to “sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” The provisioning of water resources – notably clean drinking water and flood control – is central to this. Growing demand for our water resources, spurred by population growth, and the effects of climate change further challenge the Forest Service to successfully meet the needs of present and future generations.

In the western United States – where water flowing from national forests makes up nearly two-thirds of public and commercial water supplies – water scarcity and wildfire threats have galvanized diverse stakeholders to invest in healthy headwaters. Local communities, public utility companies, businesses, non-governmental organizations and state and local agencies are investing in watershed restoration to avoid catastrophic economic losses. Read more »

Could Forest Thinning Help Ease Water Shortages in the United States?

A river beside forests below a blue sky

Researchers found that thinning could boost water yield, but the results are not proportional. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Planning for the future of the nation’s water resources is more important now than ever before as severe drought grips the West, affecting heavily populated areas and critical agricultural regions. Forests generally yield huge quantities of water—much more than crops or grasslands—but also use a lot of water during the growing season, so some land managers wonder if forest thinning could boost water supplies to people and ecosystems in a changing climate.

U.S. Forest Service researchers from the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory tested this idea and found that the results were not so cut and dried. Their findings were recently published in a special issue* of the journal Hydrological Processes. Read more »

Training the Next Generation of Watershed Managers to Fight Drought

Student interns from the California State University System working on a watershed management project

Student interns from the California State University System work on a watershed management project. A NIFA-administered grant has funded nearly 220 interns who worked more than 77,000 hours on projects that provide them real-world experience so they will be better prepared for careers in natural resources. (Photo courtesy of Michele Penilla)

With drought reaching historic proportions in Western states, America needs people with both knowledge and experience in water management to help ensure that forests and working lands stay ahead of the effects of climate change.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is partnering with land-grant universities, minority-serving institutions, federal agencies, and other organizations to get qualified students out of their classrooms and into the field where they can pick up real, hands-on experience in natural resource protection. Read more »

USDA Conservation Innovation Grant Helps Rice Growers Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Voluntarily Participate in California’s Carbon Market

Poly pipe and alternate wetting and drying

Arkansas Rice Growers implement precise water management to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing poly pipe and alternate wetting and drying. Photo credit: Adam Chambers.

Imagine a rice farmer in Arkansas altering his water management techniques to deliver water more efficiently and use fewer days of flooding, allowing for more precise water and nutrient management while maintaining consistent yields. After a decision by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), in addition to improving water quality and reducing water use and nutrient input costs, that Arkansas farmer now has the option of selling carbon credits to large regulated emitters in California.   

In 2012, California put in place a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions, one of the most aggressive climate change programs in the world. Last week’s groundbreaking vote by CARB adopted the first crop-based agricultural offset protocol, designed to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions from rice production. Methane and nitrous oxide are potent greenhouse gases emitted through the cultivation and fertilization of rice fields. Read more »