California Dairy Water Quality Improvement
California’s dairy industry is incredibly important for global milk production, as well as local revenue and jobs. Over 90% of the state’s dairies are located in the agriculturally-rich Central Valley, a region suffering from poor groundwater quality and increasingly uncertain water supplies.
Dairy producers in California use water to flush their cows’ stalls, and the nutrient-rich water is then applied to the crops producers grow to feed their cows through flood irrigation. While the practice is a good use of on-farm waste and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers, many dairies often generate more manure and nutrients than can be applied safely to their crops. Excess nitrates and other potentially harmful substances can contaminate underground aquifers, threatening critical groundwater resources much of the Central Valley relies on for irrigation and drinking water.
This project, led by Sustainable Conservation, partners with dairy farmers to convert irrigation of forage crops from flood to drip, deploying an innovative new technology that delivers manure nutrients directly to crops through irrigation drip tape. 217 acres are expected to be converted to manure drip irrigation systems. The manure drip fields utilize approximately 47% less water to grow 21% more crops compared control flood fields.
Nominated by the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), this project received the 2020 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Community Impact, learn more here.
* Project utilizes best management practices to filter and/or reduce pollution inputs into rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands or near-shore marine areas