How can we enact change?

Earlier this week, we got to do some water quality monitoring around Elkhorn Slough for the Coastal Watershed Council. We collected data about the water’s salinity level, which increased as we neared the Slough. Some areas had low levels of oxygen and were quite acidic, while others had very high levels of oxygen and a high pH level. We also took samples of the water to send to a lab that checks for nitrate levels. The ultimate goal of the project is to compare water quality of streams near organic versus conventional farms, from which there is greater chemical runoff. The Coastal Watershed Council is also involved in the restoration of a farmland called Triple M, owned by Alba Organic farms, where the hope is to restore the biodiversity and make the location more hospitable to species such as the California red legged frog, the tiger salamander, and the Santa Cruz long toe salamander. Despite the organization’s large data bank; however, it does not have the jurisdiction to actually enact laws that will help keep the water sources it monitors clean or suited for wildlife. This got me to thinking about ways to best distribute data to local leaders who can propose solutions to issues such as the growing piles of trash in nearby streams. To compare this approach, we also visited the sustainability headquarters of Driscoll’s berry corporation. To this end, we got to see their new water aquifer, which comprised of water tunnels leading to areas with high percolation rates where the water is collected and pumped for agricultural use. Driscoll’s also developed the technology of tensionmeter probes, which farmers use to measure the water levels of their produce as opposed to just sticking their fingers in the topmost soil layer, which is often dry. The probes not only prevents over-irrigation and water waste, they also foster cooperation among  farmers who share satellites that obtain the data from the probes. Driscoll’s efforts seemed like a more direct, encompassing approach to dealing with water issues in the area, addressing the salt water erosion that comes from pumping too much water from the Monterey Bay and inefficient water uses by local farmers. Finally, Driscoll’s also incentivizes farms to recycle their plastic tarps, which it sells for re-use as plastic bags and subsidizes farmers’ conservation efforts based on performance results rather than practice implementation. Ultimately, I found both trips to be insightful into ways that we can address water issues and broader conservation questions. Looking forward, I think a combination of both data compiling, law propositions, new technologies, and behavior changes would be the most effective way to combat and prevent the growing environmental issues our class studied. 

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