To recap from Part 1 of this series:
- Water risk analysis requires a clear scope of what you are analyzing
- There are tools and datasets that provide a macro view water risk at the global and regional levels
- Most projects require more detail than a macro water risk analysis can provide on its own.
Micro Views: Water District Risk and Groundwater Sustainability Plans
We define Water District Risk as the potential for a deficit in available water supplies that are sufficient quality and quantity to meet average water demands within a water district’s jurisdiction. Simply put: is there enough water to meet demands? If we return to our hypothetical situation, we are working with parcels in two different water districts for AgriHarvest Farmhands LLC. Upon further research you discover Water District A has a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to receive Central Valley Project Water, Water District B does not. There are multiple data points that you would need to assess relative riskiness of each water district including:
- Historical Water Delivery Data
- Present Allocation Percentages for agricultural water for that Water District’s CVP contract(s)
- General water demand based on crops within the water districts irrigated acreage service territory
- Water delivery infrastructure
- Reliance on groundwater pumping to meet water demands
The below map represents the WRI Aqueduct 2.0 map with AQUAOSO’s water district risk research overlaid on top. This provides a view of both macro-regional risk, but also the districts within risky regions that may have a stronger water supply than their neighbors.
After calling around and conducting online research, you discover that the relevant Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) released a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Reliance on groundwater requires a review and understanding of newly implemented GSP because it contains insights into the sustainable yield and proposed projects that could impact groundwater pumping for properties both within the GSA and Water Districts for the next 5 to 20 years. This step can take many focused hours to map out a picture and compare the strengths and weaknesses of Water District A and Water District B. Below is a visual example of how data from reviewing GSPs can assist with understanding specific risks and actions for a region:
The map above shows areas where there was mention of pumping limits as a necessary management action to bring the subbasin into sustainability. The blue lattice areas show where there are general supply strategies for increasing the amount of water while also bringing the subbasin to sustainability. Specific water management strategies and how they benefit or negatively impact AgriHarvest Farmhands LLC’s properties provides glimpse into the future of water supply reliability in light of local water management practices.
Combining visual representation of data like the maps above help provide context and frame your analysis.
A Note About Variables
The above list of data attributes could easily expand into 20, 30, even 50 variables. However, it is important to understand which are the strongest datasets, or signals, and what are weaker datasets, also called noise. AQUAOSO selects strong signals that show the potential for impacts to water supply availability to reduce the amount of noise for our customers. Data is helpful, too much data is not.
Looking Closer: Parcel Level Water Risk Analysis
You have an understanding from NASA and WRI that there are global and regional factors that are causing water stress. AgriHarvest Farmhands LLC specifically has parcels in two different water districts in a water stressed region of California. Your research also uncovered potential restrictions on future groundwater pumping. Do we know is there enough water to meet demands on particular parcels?
The limitations of a water district analysis are that some water districts are large with varying topography, soil quality, and other localized concerns. You will need to complete the journey from satellites in space to the parcels in question using parcel-level data and analysis.
Again, we find that there are a multitude of variables that increase the noise and can drown out the signal. At AQUAOSO, we work with our customers on identifying the variables that matter most and the workflows to gather data for those variables. For example, we provide workflows for capturing more granular data that is helpful to assessing AgriHarvest’s water risk:
- Land Ownership
- Endangered Species Habitat
- Crop Water Demand
- Water Budget
- Groundwater Banking
The above, paired with your prior research, provides a more complete picture of each parcel. Also, AQUAOSO provides software that allows you to group parcels and assess the whole group as well as each individual parcel, something AgriHarvest Farmhands LLC and your organization would find interesting to review.
The Complete Picture
We explored the different levels of analysis that may be required when assessing water risk for a group of parcels. Not all levels are necessary for every assessment. Remember that a complete picture means you understand the context:
- Geographic Scope
- Type of Thing for Analysis
- Most Important Variables
Setting up your research process to understand both context and results will clear out the noise, isolate the most important signals for water risk, and provide a better decision making foundation for your organization.
Looking to get started on your water research and need a partner? AQUAOSO’s research and analytics software is the perfect companion! Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with your water risk research.