Toward Sustainable Groundwater in Agriculture – An International Conference Linking Science and Policy

This three-day international conference brought together leading scientists, policy analysts, policy and decision makers, and agricultural and environmental stakeholder groups to define and highlight the science, challenges, and potential policy solutions in agricultural groundwater resources management and groundwater quality protection that will provide a sustainable future at regional, national, and global scales.

Groundwater is the lifeline for many rural and agricultural regions and their associated cultures and populations around the globe and a cornerstone of global food production. Groundwater constitutes nearly half the world’s drinking water and much of the world’s irrigation water supply. Population growth, overexploitation, salinization, nonpoint source pollution from agricultural activities (including animal farming, ranching, and forestry activities), impacts to surface water, and groundwater quality and quantity conflicts at the urban-rural interface have reached global dimensions and threaten the health and livelihood of this planet.

Program overview:

Over 200 speakers and poster presenters were on hand. The conference featured daily plenary sessions, concurrent tracks with oral presentations, and poster sessions with reception offering a wide range of policy and technical presentations.

The conference will featured discussions about threats to groundwater, such as overuse; salinity; nonpoint source pollution from agricultural activities, animal farming, agricultural groundwater impacts to surface water; and groundwater quality and quantity conflicts at the urban-rural interface, which have reached global dimensions and threaten the very livelihood of this planet. Challenges, opportunities, and successful solutions in the technical and policy fields were highlighted. The conference offered a unique opportunity for networking across disciplines.

Session topics explored a broad diversity but related set of issues at the groundwater-agriculture nexus:

Groundwater Management and Policy
California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)
Nitrate policy, assessment, and monitoring
Nonpoint source pollution from animal agriculture
Groundwater-dependent ecosystems and groundwater-surface water interaction
Managed aquifer recharge
Energy-water-food nexus
Environmental justice and livelihood
Climate change and adaptation
Economics and policy
Salinity and salinity policy
Emerging contaminants
Modeling and data (groundwater quantity/management/quality)
Agricultural BMPs for groundwater resources quantity and/or quality protection
USDA National Insights and Actions

The over 300 attendees included:

agricultural leaders/advocates/extension trainers in local/regional/state organizations
groundwater managers and technical personnel in local and regional water agencies
regulatory and planning agency personnel in regional/state/federal agencies
consultants in engineering, hydrology/hydrogeology, and agricultural resources management
scientists, researchers, and students with interests at the groundwater-agriculture nexus
NGOs working in environment, environmental justice, and agriculture

The Foundation and UC Davis sponsored a similar conference in 2010. The 2016 conference was held June 28-30 at the same location – the Hyatt Regency at the San Francisco Airport in Burlingame. Additional pre-conference workshops were held Monday, June 27.

Videos and powerpoint presentations of the 2016 conference will be available by September 2016. A journal special issue call is forthcoming by August 2016.