Module

Applied Activity Part 6: Sustainable Water Management in Your Agroecosystem

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Applied Activity Lesson 6:

Sustainable Water Management in Your Agroecosystem

 Observe: Your Climate and Weather

As you learned in the previous lesson, managing water in your ecosystem is a challenging but important task. In this activity, you’ll look at your farm’s water use, your farm’s adaptations for water conservation, and the climate and weather of your agroecosystem. After, you’ll predict ways you could better conserve water or adapt to your particular water resources.

First, you need to determine the climate and weather for your farm, and determine when your agroecosystem is water deficient or has excess water that could be harvested. Using the chart below, take notes about your region:

                                  Measure:                   Notes On Your System:
Average Total Annual Rainfall USA: https://www.currentresults.com/Weather/US/average-annual-state-precipitation.php and world: http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Geography/Average-rainfall-in-depth/Mm-per-year)
Distribution and periodicity How is rainfall is spread throughout the year, both on average and during a specific year? i.e. are there predictable wet and dry periods? For example, Mediterranean climates are noted for their wet winters and long dry spells in summer

Availability

Does it penetrate into the root zone? Does it fall with a serious intensity (such as many inches of rain in a short time period) and lead to runoff and flooding?

Predictability of rainfall     

What is the degree of variability in rainfall patterns in your system? The higher the variability, the less predictable the rainfall for any particular time period is.

Average Annual Temperature/ Temperature Range 
  • Looking at your climate and weather information, what are some crops that would be unsuitable for your climate?

 

  • Would you say that your agroecosystem has a deficit or an excess of water? Does it vary during different times of the year?

Observe: Trace Your Watershed

  • Create another layer of the farm map. Do you notice any strategies or techniques for conserving water on your farm? Make note of them on your map.
  • Visit your farm to create another layer of the farm map. Do you notice any plants that look like they could use more water (wilting, dry soil, etc.)? Mark an outline of these plants on your farm map using red ink.
  • Do you notice any parts of your farm that seem to be subject too much sun light (with sunburn marks, slowed growth, plant damage) on the plant or other signs of heat stress? Mark an outline of these plants on your farm map using orange ink.
  • Do you notice any parts of your farm that seem to be too cold (stunted growth, etc) ? Mark an outline of these plants on your farm map using blue ink.

Interact: Your Farm’s Watering Regime

At a convenient time for your farmer (or steward of your chosen field site), talk to them about their soil moisture and temperature management plans. Proposed questions:

  • What sort of irrigation technology do you use?
  • How often do you irrigate? Make a notation on your farm map of how often they water each block.
  • If used, what is the source of your irrigation water (well, city water, pond, etc.)?
  • How does water leave your farm?
  • What crops use the most amount of water?
  • Are there any methods in place to save water or recycle water back into the agroecosystem?

Analyze: Water Management

Now, think back on the questions you just asked and analyze your site using what you’ve learned in this course:

  • How do you maintain balance throughout the year of your irrigation water sources?
  • How does water leave your farm?
  • What parts of the farm look stressed for water? Why do you think that is?
  • What methods could you use on your farm to reduce water use, conserve water on farm, or reduce evapotranspiration on the farm?
  • In agroecology, one of the goals is to achieve balance in the agroecosystem. What could you do to reduce water loss from the farm, and maintain on-farm water resources? What could you do to protect existing water sources from pollution or other forms of degradation?

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