Westside Subbasin Multi-Benefit Agricultural Land Repurposing Program

Host: CeresCollab
Openings: 2
Project Focus: Climate Adaptation (e.g., sea level rise planning, environmental justice, climate migration planning), Climate Mitigation, Ecosystem / Habitat Conservation / Biodiversity Protection, Energy Efficiency, Infrastructure Development – including Broadband, Public Health, Renewable Energy, Water Management, Water Policy
Skills Needed: Community Engagement, Relationship Management, Community Outreach, Stakeholder Engagement,

Remote or On-Site Placement


Service Needs & Plans

The agencies and entities served include the Westlands Water District (WWD), the WWD Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), the communities and cities of Huron, Avenal, Lemoore Naval Air Station, Three Rocks, Cantua Creek, and Westside. These rural communities and municipal entities have limited budgets and yet expansive needs. This project will support the communities as they identify agricultural land repurposing projects that will have community benefits as improving air quality, reducing agricultural groundwater pumping which means reduced threats to drinking water availability, and facilitating groundwater recharge. Additionally, the project includes a pilot program to provide job training to displaced agricultural workers to gain skills in plumbing for residential grey water capture and reuse.

Project Description

The overarching goals of the project are to preserve and enhance the long-term viability of groundwater resources within the Subbasin, reduce groundwater overdraft, avoid undesirable results, and improve flexibility in managing water supplies. To achieve these goals, Westlands Water District GSA (WWD) will develop a plan to convert land to a less water-intensive use, especially groundwater, through a basin-scale effort. The plan is to address drought resiliency to minimize the adverse impacts on the agriculture economy, rural population, and the environment during extended periods of drought. Public outreach will be conducted to ensure input from growers and DACs is incorporated in the plan. The project includes collaborating with interested growers to retire their farmland for the implementation of a groundwater sustainability project. The groundwater sustainability projects implemented by interested growers involve projects that convert land to a use with substantially lower water demand and may include, but are not limited to, groundwater recharge projects and solar generation. Interested growers are required to grant the District easement of the converted land. Notice of solicitation and funding application will be sent to growers and DACs within the Subbasin so they are aware of the funding opportunity.

The fellows will help plan and conduct community outreach and engagement; create a contact list of community groups and members; support the convening an advisory group comprised of community representatives from across the District; creating and distributing outreach, informational, and educational materials; conducting surveys, listening sessions, and interviews; and supporting the organization and facilitation of community engagement events.
A major project outcome will be the Multibenefit Agricultural Land Repurposing Plan (MALRP), as well as convening the advisory group to inform the plan and potentially subsequent implementation of multibenefit projects.

The MALRP effort will allow WWD to expand land repurposing efforts in the Subbasin through a process that considers multiple beneficial uses, engages residents and landowners, reduces groundwater use, supports wildlife habitat, and helps the Subbasin achieve its Sustainability Goal as outlined in the Westside GSP. The plan itself will contain a project selection tool, and establish a ranking system that will guide Westlands in prioritizing multi-benefit land repurposing projects.

Desired Skills

It would be great if they have skills and experience with meeting management, research, and qualitative surveying.

Organization & Workplace Highlights

Based in California’s Central Valley, CeresCollab has projects all around the state. We specialize in community outreach and engagement for local and regional planning projects, and support local leaders as they take ideas from seed to fruition.

We bring extensive experience and professionalism to every project and customize our support to your needs and concerns. Our work includes public engagement process design, interest-based negotiation, small and large group facilitation, and interest group outreach on a range of issues. We have expertise with contract development and administration, project management, collaborative community engagement, public outreach and participation, workshop planning, strategic planning, policy analysis, alternative dispute resolution, and mediation.

CeresCollab’s workplace culture is one of respect, inclusion, and collaboration. We can offer fellows an opportunity to gain valuable outreach and engagement experience, receive meeting management training, and develop group collaboration facilitation skills.

CeresCollab works remote/virtually. Westlands Water District can provide a workspace for the fellows during their time with the project.

Community Highlights

CeresCollab is one of several project partners led by Westlands Water District on the Westside Multibenefit Agricultural Land Repurposing Project Block Grant from the California Department of Conservation. The project area is the Westside Subbasin of the San Joaquin Valley.
The San Joaquin Valley is the southern half of California’s Central Valley. It extends from the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta in the north to the Tehachapi Mountains in the south, and from the California coastal ranges (Diablo and Temblor) in the west to the Sierra Nevada in the east.

The valley contains two large river systems, divided north and south. The northern portion of San Joaquin Valley is called the San Joaquin Basin: the watershed of the San Joaquin River and its tributaries including parts of the Kings River. The somewhat larger southern portion is the Tulare Basin, an endorheic basin centered on Tulare Lake. Much of the river water flowing to the Tulare Lake has been diverted for agricultural uses.

The valley produces 12.8% of California’s agricultural production. Major crops include grapes (wine grapes, table grapes and raisins), cotton, almonds, pistachios, citrus, and vegetables.

While rural agriculture is the primary economic drive for the region, there is increasing exurban development to support distribution centers and recent suburban housing developments for transplants from coastal urban areas.

Much of the San Joaquin Valley is dotted with historically black farming communities which have seen a population demographic shift from large scale agricultural production, water shortages, and economic changes.

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