Water is one of the most important substances on Earth. Freshwater supplies for people, agriculture, and the environment are renewable but limited. Precipitation in the United States falls mostly on private land and is used intensely to produce food and fiber for people. This modified landscape often drains too quickly, resulting in inadequate aquifer recharge, soil erosion, poor water quality, and intense downstream flooding.
The Water As A Crop® initiative empowers landowners with knowledge and resources to effectively improve the conservation of water where it falls and produce clean water as a valuable crop.
Water As A Crop® facilitates dialogue between landowners, local partners, and prospective water conservation funders in water stressed areas. Water As A Crop® produces interactive workshops to build knowledge and confidence in water conservation practices and water markets. Investments in pilot projects help evaluate and demonstrate results.
Water As A Crop® communications efforts inform and inspire responsible water stewardship and recognition of the great value of water.
The first Water As A Crop® demonstration project is located in the Trinity River Basin of Texas. The Trinity River is a primary water source for Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston. Sand County Foundation developed a partnership with landowners, who collectively hold 1,000 contiguous acres along the river, and a local conservation group, Trinity Waters, to design, promote, and implement suitable conservation practices to enhance water resources on private land. Incentives are paid to landowners who adopt practices to slow erosion such as cross fencing to enable managed grazing, replanting native prairie grass, and working to improve water quality in the Trinity’s tributary creeks.
The program will then scientifically measure changes in water quality and quantity as a result of the use of these practices. The goal is to arm landowners and water managers with lessons learned, so these water and soil management practices can be effectively replicated and applied across the nation.
Sand County Foundation is working with rural and urban partners in the Skunk Creek watershed, a tributary to the Big Sioux River in southeastern South Dakota. The goal of this effort is to optimize the use of rainfall on private lands for sustained agricultural productivity and improved water quality downstream. With partners, we are developing strategies to promote voluntary soil and crop management practices that maximize water infiltration and soil moisture retention. These practices can improve farm profits while reducing sediment, bacteria, and nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorous, downstream.