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Land Repurposing through the Biological Restoration of Fallowed Lands

Groundwater basins across the state are implementing various projects, including land repurposing, to bring groundwater use into sustainability. While much of the focus on groundwater has been in California’s Central Valley, other parts of the state are facing similar issues. The Borrego Springs Groundwater Subbasin covers nearly 63,000 acres in San Diego County, overlying the Borrego Valley, where the sole source of water for the community of Borrego Springs and surrounding areas, including citrus farms and golf courses, is groundwater.

Land Use Map for Borrego Springs

The Land IQ Habitat Restoration Team, along with our Land Based Science Team, are assisting the Borrego Springs Watermaster through a grant funded by the California Department of Water Resources for implementing the Borrego Springs Groundwater Management Plan, which includes a sustainability goal of reducing groundwater pumping by 75% by 2040. To meet this requirement, it will be necessary to fallow agricultural land, which in turn introduces potential adverse environmental consequences such as dust emissions, invasive plant species establishment and spread, and degradation of the landscape’s aesthetic value.

Land IQ’s responsibilities include the Biological Restoration of Fallowed Lands, which aims to avoid, reduce and/or mitigate the potential adverse effects of fallowing and rehabilitate native landscapes through the development and synthesis of databases, information, and prioritization criteria. Specific tasks related to this project include:

  • Review and Analysis of Existing Data

  • Existing Fallowed Farmland and Reference Natural Habitat Field Study

  • Brush Pile Wildlife Sand Fence Case Study

  • Farmland Fallowing Rehabilitation Strategies

  • Farmland Fallowing Prioritization

  • Watermaster’s Environmental Working Group Meetings

Fallowed crop area in Borrego Springs

Land IQ completed a review and analysis of existing databases and information in scientific literature. In spring 2023, field studies began to monitor natural rehabilitation of lands already fallowed for various time periods. The next step is to initiate a field study with imposed treatments including brush piles and mulch strips, to determine their effectiveness in providing micro-habitats for plant establishment. Ultimately, the information from all these efforts will be used to identify criteria for prioritizing land fallowing areas and develop specific strategies for land rehabilitation in each of those areas.

Stayed tuned into the Land IQ blog to keep up to date on this project.

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