Partner Spotlight: Sustainable Conservation

Who is Sustainable Conservation?

Sustainable Conservation is a California-based non-profit whose mission is to tackle California’s natural resource challenges surrounding land, air, and water. They do this by bringing partners together, facilitating conversations, brokering relationships, and bridging different fields of expertise. Currently, their work covers critical habitat and species restoration, reducing waste from the dairy industry to boost clean water in the Central Valley, and creating a sustainable water supply for California, but has spanned many areas since they were founded in 1993.

Partnership with CARCD

Sustainable Conservation has been a critical partner to the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) for many years. Our missions are aligned and focused on conserving, restoring, and managing California’s natural resources while meeting the needs of diverse communities throughout the state. Notably, Sustainable Conservation has provided critical support to the Resource Conservation District (RCD) Capacity Building Program by connecting us to funding opportunities, and providing guidance and leadership on program development.

Their support has been crucial to the successes of the RCDs. Without funding from the state, many districts survive on project-based funding, which is not conducive to longer-term visioning or planning. The RCD Capacity Building Program encourages the sustainable growth of RCDs, provides their staff and leadership with relevant trainings, establishes durable regional collaborations, builds a strong statewide network of support and shared resources, and aims to provide RCDs with an opportunity to plan for their future success.

“Healthy private lands in California are key to a thriving future for the state’s environment and people – especially in light of a changing climate,” said Sustainable Conservation Executive Director Ashley Boren. “The California Association of Resource Conservation Districts and individual districts statewide are positioned better than anyone to accelerate critical conservation and restoration of private lands. They provide invaluable leadership, innovation and technical assistance to their local communities, and we couldn’t be more honored to continue our decades-long partnership.”

Dire Water Situation in California

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires over-drafted groundwater basins to achieve balance between supply and demand by the 2040s. California is under increasing water stress due to droughts, increasing regulations to protect endangered native fishes, and growing demand by a growing population. Farmers and other producers often bear a large burden of the scarcity. The Valley’s annual groundwater deficit could lead to producers struggling to afford water and the potential for many acres of irrigated cropland to be taken out of production.

Using California’s Existing Water Storage Under Ground

In light of the depletion of groundwater resources and the recent passing of SGMA, Californians have been looking for solutions. Sustainable Conservation is hosting workshops and participating in public forums, as well as working hand-in-hand with San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts, farmers, and agricultural associations/groups to explore solutions through groundwater recharge specifically on agricultural lands. The Public Policy Institute of California’s report states that capturing unused water and putting it in the ground could offset up to 25% of the San Joaquin Valley’s annual groundwater overdraft.

The Groundwater Recharge Assessment Tool (GRAT) is web-based tool that guides water agencies and managers in maximizing groundwater recharge at the landscape level. Sustainable Conservation developed the tool in partnership with The Earth Genome, and with assistance from the Tulare and Madera irrigation districts. It identifies optimum recharge sites based on factors like soil and crop type, and timing of water deliveries.

Learn more about Sustainable Conservation’s groundwater recharge initiatives by visiting their 2018 Annual Report.