TFT, Conservation Partners Release Tools to Streamline Conservation Planning in California

October 30, 2020

PORTLAND, OR — Resource conservation managers can now maximize the effectiveness of conservation programs using methods developed by The Freshwater Trust (TFT) and funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). TFT completed the three-year, $779,000 project with a focus on conservation practices in California.

Drought has spurred the enacting of regulations that require farmers and ranchers to sustainably manage and ultimately improve water quality and quantity in the state. In response, TFT built a data-driven scenario-planning system that allows NRCS and other planners to leverage cutting-edge data science and technologies to develop strategic, optimized plans for implementing actions within a watershed or groundwater basin. The system will ensure the plans are most effective at meeting conservation goals and complying with regulations.

Working closely with NRCS practitioners and agricultural producers in Solano County, TFT developed and ground-tested methodologies that assess the feasibility of various NRCS practices on individual fields. Additionally, the methods quantify the costs of implementing one or more of the practices and the resulting impacts on water resources.

There are approximately 7,000 fields producing 80 different commodities including fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, seed, nursery stock and livestock in this region. NRCS practices to improve land management and water availability include: irrigation efficiency improvements, cover cropping, and aquifer recharge.

“We’ve worked to build a system that enables conservation practitioners, resource agency managers, and producers to evaluate options to meet a variety of surface and groundwater objectives driven by state regulations more efficiently and cost-effectively,” said David Primozich, vice president of water with TFT.

Partners on the project include NRCS Vacaville, Dixon Resource Conservation District (RCD), and Solano County Water Agency.

“Our partners set out clear questions to explore for developing an agricultural decision-support system,” said Nick Osman, conservation programs manager with TFT. “Can you help us identify farm practices that have a positive impact on a water budget—as well as the most effective and efficient locations for implementing these practices? In combination, do these practices have a positive impact on the region’s groundwater supply and groundwater-dependent ecosystems?”

The result is a robust scenario-planning system that allows managers to develop strategic, optimized plans for facilitating NRCS practice implementation in California.

The team integrated multiple publicly available data sets, models and analytical methods to quantify the site-specific economic costs and water resource impacts of NRCS practice implementation across thousands of agricultural fields.

The CIG program awards funds to public and private grantees to “develop the tools, technologies, and strategies to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands and develop market-based solutions to resource challenges,” according to NRCS, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture. Since 2004, more than $300 million has been invested in  different projects.

“This process demonstrates the broad applicability of data analytics tools to maximize the effectiveness of watershed-scale conservation programs,” said Primozich.

“The methods shared here can significantly advance the remote strategic planning capabilities of NRCS, groundwater sustainability agencies, and other conservation planners.”


  • Final report: Streamlining Regulatory Compliance and Conservation Planning: Data Analytics Applications for Producers, Planners, and Agencies.
  • Map-based web application for the Solano County area. Through this web application the user can: (1) view all economic and water resource impacts for feasible NRCS practices for each field, (2) identify priority sites and actions for specific water resource objectives, and (3) dynamically develop optimized conservation programs through the scenario planning system (SPS) for this region.
  • A description of the methodologies that support the SPS, as well as descriptions of example conservation programs developed via these methods.
  • Example outreach materials that can be used to facilitate the implementation of strategic plans developed through the SPS.

#California    #CIG    #groundwater    #NRCS