$350,000 Rockefeller Foundation grant awarded for water budgeting prototype in California

April 28, 2015

The Freshwater Trust, a nonprofit river restoration organization, was recently awarded a $350,000 grant from The Rockefeller Foundation for a research project that could model sustainable allocation of freshwater resources. The grant is part of a larger effort by The Rockefeller Foundation to encourage the development of more sustainable and equitable freshwater management practices.

The research project will use data from California’s Salinas watershed. Aptly nicknamed “America’s Salad Bowl,” the Golden State’s Salinas Valley has long been considered one of the most productive agricultural economies in the world. Yet it has not been spared from the state’s historic drought, and The Freshwater Trust’s water budgeting prototype has potential to address water scarcity challenges.

Using their tool “BasinScout,” the organization will obtain a full picture of the watershed, including information on the total supply of groundwater and the impacts of consumptive uses, such as irrigation and municipal drinking water.

Data will then be used to model a water use “budget” for the basin where “credits” can be assigned to users for both consumption and conservation impacts. This prototype could demonstrate a more sustainable management approach to the limited resource across the region’s diverse group of water users, including poor and vulnerable populations.

“We are focused on building tools and methods that accelerate the pace and scale of restoration for freshwater ecosystems,” said Joe Whitworth, president of The Freshwater Trust. “The Salinas Basin presents a data-rich environment on which to build our research and potentially replicate our model for other drought-impacted or compromised watersheds.”

Based on the findings of this project, The Freshwater Trust’s model could help decision makers understand the trade-offs associated with various allocation scenarios of limited water resources.

The Freshwater Trust was one of five groups that received a competitive grant from The Rockefeller Foundation.  All projects awarded explore mechanisms to achieve more equitable and sustainable division of water among freshwater ecosystems and competing water users, including poor and vulnerable populations.

Founded in 1983, The Freshwater Trust is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit that uses technology, data, and cooperative, market-based solutions that benefit rivers, working lands and local communities.  The organization is dedicated to accelerating the pace and scale of quantified conservation in order to achieve environmental gains on a timeline that matters.

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