Practicum Project | 2010

Decreased Water and Increased Yields in the Westlands Water District

Students: Jenna Martin

Independent Project

Advisor: Dr. S. Trimble

Less water availability to farmers has resulted in a pursuit for new irrigation technologies and water management. My senior capstone utilized remote sensing techniques to analyze spatial, spectral, and temporal domains of water reduction in the Westlands Water District, as well as examined a case study of one farmer’s success in sustaining agricultural production in spite of restricted water availability. This project compared crop yields of conservation irrigation to conventional farming to determine if a comparable or superior yield is possible with decreased water distribution through more sustainable management decisions. Results implied that an average of 25-50% less water was required by a center pivot machine using Low-Elevation Spray Application (LESA), and produced 122% more tomatoes compared to the California average for conventionally irrigated tomatoes. These field data collections were coupled with remote sensing technology to monitor the Westlands Water District during the periods of June, July, and August of 1999 through 2009 using Landsat 4-5 Thematic Mapper+ and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery. It was found that trends in fallowed land were found to be increasing, most likely in response to the trend of reduced water supply in the Westlands Water District. A definite increase in fallowed land and reduced “greenness” (cultivation) can be associated with concurrent policies to reduce water allocations. This capstone examined benefits and limitations of irrigation efficiency through sustainable irrigation strategies, as well as applied a remote sensing approach of observing water resource reductions in an agricultural region of California’s Central Valley.