RCDs launch regional collaboration to improve watershed health

Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) work at many scales—from individual properties to entire watersheds—to improve water quality, water quantity, wildlife habitat, and access to clean water for communities. This month we reached out to several RCDs about an innovative program that they developed to address watershed health at a regional scale.

LandSmart is a regional collaborative program that helps land managers meet their natural resource management goals while supporting productive lands and thriving streams. LandSmart was developed by the Sonoma RCD, Napa County RCD, Mendocino County RCD and Gold Ridge RCD in collaboration with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), land managers, and environmental agencies. By working together, they offer an enhanced program that draws upon the skills and expertise of each RCD, and provide their communities with a unique, cost effective conservation service that is specific to the region and offered through a trusted and local organization.

The LandSmart program is approaching watershed health through assisting producers with irrigation efficiency, sustainable water sourcing, stormwater management, water quality monitoring, and assistance with permitting.

Vineyard Irrigation System Evaluations

This program provides on-site irrigation system evaluations for vineyard owners and managers. These evaluations determine system distribution uniformity, identify irrigation issues that need to be addressed, and provide recommendations to improve performance. Staff also discuss potential cost share programs, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which can offset costs for growers interested in implementing recommended changes to irrigation systems.

Alternative Water Supply Development

The RCD provides technical field visits to landowners interested in developing alternative water supply and storage. Projects range from off stream storage ponds to small rainwater catchment systems with the goals of increasing the amount of water flowing in our streams during the summer dry season and assisting landowners in developing more secure and reliable water supplies, especially important in years of drought.

Stormwater Management

The RCDs recently updated “Slow it, Spread it, Sink it, Store it!,” guide to beneficial stormwater management assists landowners to manage runoff, offers best management practices featuring small to large scale techniques, and provides local resources to get projects started. Traditional building and landscaping practices were designed to dispose of stormwater as quickly as possible. This outdated paradigm typically results in significant damage to land, structures, and the surrounding environment. Slowing down, spreading and sinking stormwater can help protect your property & increase its value, provide a free source of water for irrigation, conserve drinking water, beautify your landscape, promote groundwater recharge and much more!

Groundwater Elevation Monitoring Program

The groundwater elevation monitoring program includes groundwater monitoring on private lands as part of an effort called the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring (CASGEM) program. This is the first statewide program of its kind, designed to collect groundwater elevations, facilitate collaboration between local monitoring entities and the Department of Water Resources, and to report this information to the public.

Water Quality Control Permitting Assistance for Vineyard Managers

Vineyard properties in Napa County and the Sonoma Creek watershed with five or more acres planted to winegrapes are required to comply with a new water quality control permit adopted in June 2017. Recently, the SF Bay Regional Water Board approved Third Party Programs, including Sonoma County RCD and Napa County RCD LandSmart programs to assist growers in complying with the new permit. They will be able to work with growers to help them meet the permit requirements to develop and verify a Farm Plan. Working with Third-Party Programs can reduce the fees growers pay to the Regional Board, lower the amount of monitoring and paperwork required, and provide helpful guidance through the compliance process. Vineyard Planning Workshops for 2019 have been announced.

LandSmart and Soil Health

LandSmart is partnering with the North Coast Soil Health Hub to provide technical assistance with soil health and help create Carbon Farm Plans with producers. More information can be found on the Soil Health Hub site.