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Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi-benefit framework

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Abstract

Low-income, rural frontline communities of California’s Central Valley experience environmental and socioeconomic injustice that makes them less resilient, including lack of fundamental infrastructure (sewage, green areas, health services), water insecurity, and the lowest air quality in the United States. These communities often depend financially on agriculture, but water scarcity and regulations may cause farmland retirement in California, further hindering local economy and employment. Here we propose a multi-benefit framework to repurpose cropland inside and around small disadvantaged communities to promote socioeconomic and environmental opportunities, and income and industry diversification. We simulated cropland retirement inside and around 156 disadvantaged communities in buffers of 400 m and 1600 m. We estimated (1) reduction in water and pesticide use, nitrogen leaching, and nitrogen gas emissions, (2) potential for aquifer recharge, and (3) economic and employment impacts of retiring and repurposing cropland into clean industries and solar energy. Retiring cropland within 1600 m from disadvantaged communities can reduce 2.18 km3 water use/year, 105,500 t nitrate leaching into local aquifers/year, 2,232,000 t CO2-equivalent emissions/year, and 5,390 t pesticides/year, with revenue losses up to US$ 4,213 million/year and 25,682 job positions. Investments up to $27 million/year per community for ten years potentially generate $101 million/year (total $15,830 million/year) for 30 years and 436 new jobs (total 68,066) paid +66% than farmworker jobs. In the San Joaquin Valley (southern Central Valley), where groundwater overdraft is 2.22 km3/year, potential water use reduction is 1.79 km3/year, which combined with adequate aquifer recharge can offset the overdraft. We found 99 communities with soils adequate for aquifer recharge with canals or rivers within 1600 m. This framework shows that well-planned new opportunities near disadvantaged communities may bring multiple benefits for agriculture and industry stakeholders, while improving the quality of life in the communities and producing positive externalities for society.
Page 1 of 38
Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a
multi-benefit framework
Authors: Angel Santiago Fernandez-Boua,b,c,d,*, José M. Rodríguez-Floresa,d,e, A. Guzmana,c, J.P. Ortiz-
Partidaf,d, Leticia M. Classen-Rodriguezg,d, P.A. Sánchez-Péreze, Jorge Valero-Fandiñoa,c,e, Chantelise
Pellsa,d, Humberto Flores-Landerosa,b,d,e, Samuel Sandoval-Solísh, Gregory W. Charaklisi, Thomas C.
Harmonb,c,e, Michael McCulloughj, J. Medellín-Azuaraa,b,c,e.
Affiliations
a Water Systems Management Group, University of California Merced. 5200 North Lake Rd., Merced, CA, 95343, US.
b Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California Merced. Merced, CA, 95343, US.
c Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of California Merced. Merced, CA, 95343, US.
d SocioEnvironmental and Education Network, SEEN (seen.team, 4 Venir Inc.). Merced, CA, 95340, US.
e Environmental Systems Graduate Program, University of California Merced. Merced, CA, 95343, US.
f Union of Concerned Scientists. 500 12th St., Suite 340, Oakland, CA, 94607, US.
g Department of Biology and Voice for Change, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO 63104
h University of California, Davis. Davis, CA, 95616, US.
i University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 139 Rosenau Hall, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, US.
j California Polytechnic State University. San Luis Obispo, CA, 93407, US.
*Corresponding author: Angel Santiago Fernandez-Bou, PhD
Abstract
Low-income, rural frontline communities of California’s Central Valley experience environmental and
socioeconomic injustice, water insecurity, extremely poor air quality, and lack of fundamental
infrastructure (sewage, green areas, health services), which makes them less resilient. Many communities
depend financially on agriculture, while water scarcity and associated policy may trigger farmland
retirement, further hindering socioeconomic opportunities. Here we propose a multi-benefit framework to
repurpose cropland in buffers inside and around (400-m and 1600-m buffers) 154 rural disadvantaged
communities of the Central Valley to promote socioeconomic opportunities, environmental benefits, and
business diversification. We estimated the potential for (1) reductions in water and pesticide use, nitrogen
leaching, and nitrogen gas emissions, (2) managed aquifer recharge, and (3) economic and employment
impacts associated with clean industries and solar energy. Retiring cropland within 1600-m buffers
resulted in estimated reductions in annual water use of 2.18 km3/year, nitrate leaching into local aquifers
of 105,500 t/year, greenhouse gas emissions of 2,232,000 t CO2-equivalent/year, and 5,388 t
pesticides/year, with accompanying losses in agricultural revenue of US$4,213 million/year and
employment of 25,682 positions. Buffer repurposing investments of US$27 million/year per community for
ten years showed potential to generate US$101 million/year per community (total US$15,578 million/year)
for 30 years and 407 new jobs/year (total 62,697 jobs/year) paying 67% more than prior farmworker jobs.
In the San Joaquin Valley (southern Central Valley), where groundwater overdraft averages 2.3 km3/year,
potential water use reduction is 1.8 km3/year. We identified 99 communities with surficial soils adequate
for aquifer recharge and canals/rivers within 1600 m. This demonstrates the potential of managed aquifer
recharge in buffered zones to substantially reduce overdraft. The buffers framework shows that well-
planned land repurposing near disadvantaged communities can create multiple benefits for agriculture
and industry stakeholders, while improving quality of life in disadvantaged communities and producing
positive externalities for society.
Key words: frontline disadvantaged communities; climate justice; energy independence; environmental
justice; environmental buffers; groundwater overdraft; sustainability.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 2 of 38
1. Introduction
Rural frontline communities of California’s Central Valley experience greater socioeconomic and
environmental threats (e.g., unsafe drinking water, unhealthy to hazardous air quality, poor access to
educational resources) relative to the rest of the state, resulting in health and quality of life disparities
(Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021b; Flores-Landeros et al., 2021; London et al., 2021; OEHHA, 2017). To a great
extent, their vulnerability is created by a lack of public and private investment, proximity to air and water
polluting sources, including both anthropogenic (e.g., intensive agriculture, dairies, oil fields, and
refineries) and natural sources (e.g., arsenic in groundwater), poor climate change mitigation and
adaptation strategies, and other inadequate policies (Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021a, 2021c; Flegel et al.,
2013; London et al., 2021). Mitigating the risks of these exposures requires more holistic policies,
investments, innovation, and collaboration.
While challenges faced by California’s rural frontline communities are numerous and daunting, the State’s
proposed investments in groundwater sustainability and in habitat conservation may present an
opportunity to address these challenges through multi-benefit planning. California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA, 2014) is stimulating discussion and testing of land repurposing
strategies to achieve multi-benefits, including reducing demand on critically overdrafted groundwater by
retiring cropland and by managing aquifer recharge. As the main water users, California farmers have
become more vulnerable to the increasingly unreliable surface water supply, leading them to overdraft
underlying aquifers. At the same time, industrial scale agriculture in regions like the Central Valley has
resulted in degraded groundwater quality (besides extremely low air quality). This uneven competition for
water resources leaves surrounding rural frontline communities with dry wells or substandard water
quality (Pauloo et al., 2020), as many depend on groundwater as their primary drinking water source. New
water policies such as Sustainable Groundwater Management Act are starting to regulate groundwater
extraction and may incentivize land use changes that could benefit rural frontline communities
(Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021c). For instance, both agriculture and frontline communities can benefit from
the expansion of groundwater recharge projects to store water during wetter years, particularly if such
projects are integrated with community water supplies.
Here, we present and demonstrate an approach for protecting frontline communities from pollutant
exposure by repurposing cropland uses in buffer zones within and around these communities. Buffer
zones are defined here as physical separation areas where the land use is aimed to provide
environmental protection around and inside a specific location. Community buffering has the potential to
reduce human health risks while creating additional socioeconomic benefits for rural frontline
communities. In this study, buffer zones are intended to change cropland to other land uses to protect
local rural frontline communities groundwater resources from agricultural overextraction and pollution, to
decrease exposure from pesticide drift, and to lessen the harmful effects of particulate contamination in
air quality (Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021a; Mayzelle et al., 2015). The goal of this paper is to present a
framework for enhancing regional sustainability and resilience while mitigating environmental justice and
social inequity problems (Figure 1). Our specific objectives include: (1) creating and testing a novel land
use strategy to foster environmental and socioeconomic justice to frontline communities; (2) increasing
profitability for local farmers and landowners in these communities; (3) revealing new opportunities for
industries and entrepreneurs; and (4) restoring degraded regional ecosystems and preserving them for
the benefit of society.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 3 of 38
We estimated the impacts of creating buffers and repurposing the land surrounding disadvantaged
communities in the Central Valley of California, subdivided into the Sacramento Valley region (north) and
the San Joaquin Valley region (south). We employed the Land IQ 2016 survey (data available at the
California Natural Resource Agency’s website https://data.cnra.ca.gov/dataset/statewide-crop-mapping) to
identify land uses for each community, and we aggregated the data by land use for each region. Then, we
estimated the potential changes in income and employment loss resulting from cropland retirement (many
rural disadvantaged community residents depend on agriculture for employment; Flores-Landeros et al.,
2021), along with the associated net reductions in surface water and groundwater use utilizing water use
rates from the California Department of Water Resources (https://data.cnra.ca.gov/dataset/land-water-use-
by-2011-2015), pesticide usage based on the Pesticide Use Reports from the California Environmental
Protection Agency (ftp://transfer.cdpr.ca.gov/pub/outgoing/pur_archives), and nitrate (fertilizer) loading
(Harter et al., 2012). We computed agricultural retirement for small (< 15 km2) frontline communities
classified as disadvantaged according to the California Department of Water Resources (median
household income less than 80 % of the state’s), using the land uses inside the communities and the
surrounding 400 m (¼ of a mile) and 1600 m (1 mile) zones. Then, we quantified the income and
employment gains from repurposing part of the land into clean industry, and solar energy generation and
storage scenarios using reasonable ranges of investment values, payback, and minimum acceptable rate
of return. We also studied the potential for managed aquifer recharge projects based on the Soil
Agriculture Groundwater Banking Index (SAGBI) (O’Geen et al., 2015) and the distance of each
community to a canal, a creek, or a river. Based on our analyses, we discuss the potential for bringing
environmental justice and socioeconomic development to disadvantaged communities, water savings to
compensate the groundwater overdraft, and the economic, environmental, and social improvements for all
stakeholders. This framework is timely in regard to climate, environmental, and social justice initiatives
and has the potential to influence and guide public policies in California around reducing the equity gap,
mitigating climate change, and complying with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021c). We provide policy recommendations based on the results of this study and
the current literature.
Figure 1. Schematic of the framework to repurpose farmland from inside and around rural disadvantaged
communities of California’s Central Valley. Multi-benefit projects orbit around environmental and socioeconomic
justice to achieve water sustainability and income diversification for local farmers and landowners, and they aim to
bring new opportunities for the sectors of clean industry and renewable energy generation and storage.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 4 of 38
Box 1. Key terminology and definitions.
Term
Definition in the context of this study
Frontline community
Community located by a source of injustice (in the front line of a problem).
Disadvantaged community
Community classified as disadvantaged by a government tool according to one
or more indicators. Some indicators of disadvantage are often opposite between
rural and urban areas, which may lead to biases in definitions. The minimum size
considered in the classification can also affect very small communities by
excluding them.
Rural frontline community
Community located in a rural or agricultural region that is unproportionally
exposed to pollution sources. In California, those sources include oil wells,
fracking, and some conventional agriculture practices (pesticide application,
synthetic fertilizers, intensive animal farms).
Unincorporated community
Community that has not been incorporated as its own municipality, being
normally depending on a larger
Buffer
Zones within and around a frontline community aimed to create a physical
separation area where the land use is aimed to provide environmental protection
around and inside a specific location. Community buffering has the potential to
reduce human health risks and promote environmental justice, while repurposing
buffer land uses can foster local socioeconomic benefits
Groundwater Overdraft
Excessive use of groundwater at an unsustainable way, which lowers aquifers’
depths, inhibiting shallow wells and certain ecosystems from accessing
groundwater under them.
SGMA
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is a legislation package
aimed to control excessive groundwater use in California.
Managed aquifer recharge
Replenishing of aquifers in wet periods when surface water is available, including
water that could lead to floods downstream. Aquifer recharge can be done on
the ground surface or with recharge wells that accelerate the process.
Multi-benefit framework
Fundamental structure of ideas that, correctly applied, can bring benefits for all
the involved stakeholders.
Land repurposing
Change of land use to foster a change on the impacts that land has in its
surroundings.
Central Valley of California
Great Valley in Central California that spans 16 counties, limited by the Sierra
Nevada to the east and north and the Coastal range to the west and south. It is
divided in two regions by the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers.
Sacramento Valley
Northern part of the Central Valley that includes California’s capital, Sacramento.
San Joaquin Valley
Southern region of the Central Valley. It is the most profitable agricultural region
in the United States, and it generates large amounts of oil. Five of its eight
counties rank as the worst air quality in the United States, and more than half of
the population live in disadvantaged communities.
2. Results
We selected all frontline communities in the Central Valley classified as “disadvantaged” whose surface
area is less than 15 km2, resulting in 154 communities housing 642,491 inhabitants in 177,427 households
(Table S4). From the surveyed datasets, the San Joaquin Valley (south) had 123 communities (512,963
inhabitants living in 135,112 households) with an average median household income of $37,084, and the
Sacramento Valley region (north) contained 31 communities (129,528 inhabitants living in 42,315
households) with an average median household income of $40,096. The average median household
income in the Central Valley was $37,802, much lower compared to California’s median household
income of $64,500 in 2016.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 5 of 38
2.1. Retiring agricultural land
Rural frontline communities of the Central Valley experience disproportionate exposure to pesticides,
nitrogen leaching, and nitrogen emissions that would be reduced by retiring cropland use from inside
communities and in the buffer zones around them (Table 6; Table 7 per unit area; Tables S5 and S6 are
imperial units). For example, retiring the estimated 287 km2 of agricultural land use inside disadvantaged
communities of the Central Valley would represent (1) a reduction of 2.6 Gg of nitrogen that are currently
leaching into the communities’ aquifers (equivalent to 11,353 metric tons of nitrate per year or 18 kg of
nitrate per person per year), (2) a reduction of 513 Mg of nitrogen gas emissions (equivalent to 240 Gg of
CO2), and (3) a reduction of 590 Mg of the active chemicals of pesticides that are applied inside the
communities. The effects of that cropland retirement would be more pronounced in the San Joaquin
Valley.
Net water use reduction would total 234 hm3 inside disadvantaged communities of the Central Valley, 379
hm3 within the 400-m buffer, and 1,950 hm3 within the 1600-m buffer (Tables 6, 7, S5, and S6). Net
groundwater use reduction, which accounts for irrigation efficiency and irrigation water infiltration
decrease (Table S7), can contribute to reducing the groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley by
roughly 85 hm3 per year inside disadvantaged communities (representing a reduction of 4 % on the
estimated annual overdraft), 152 hm3 in the 400-m buffer (7 % reduction), and 782 hm3 in the 1600-m
buffer (34.3 %).
Table 6. Retired area and reduction in total water and groundwater use, nitrogen leaching, and pesticide use in the
San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley inside frontline communities, in a 400-m buffer, and in a 1600-m
buffer.
San Joaquin Valley
Retired
area
Water
use
reduction
N loading
reduction
N
emissions
CO2 equivalent to
N2O emissions
reduction
Pesticide
use
reduction
(km²)
(hm³)
(Gg year-1)
(Gg year-1)
(Gg year-1)
(Gg year-1)
Inside
communities
218
180
1.96
0.393
184
0.52
% of Total
1.2 %
0.9 %
0.9 %
1.0 %
400-m buffer
353
315
3.45
0.691
324
0.76
% of Total
1.9 %
1.6 %
1.6 %
1.5 %
1600-m buffer
1,748
1,607
17.81
3.562
1,668
4.34
% of Total
9.4 %
8.1 %
8.1 %
8.5 %
Total
18,506
220.2
44.0
51.01
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
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Sacramento Valley
Retired
area
Water
use
reduction
N loading
reduction
N
emissions
CO2 equivalent to
N2O emissions
reduction
Pesticide
use
reduction
(km²)
(hm³)
(Gg year-1)
(Gg year-1)
(Gg year-1)
(Gg year-1)
Inside
communities
69
54
0.60
0.120
56
0.07
% of Total
1.0 %
1.1 %
1.1 %
0.8 %
400-m buffer
79
64
0.67
0.134
63
0.08
% of Total
1.1 %
1.2 %
1.2 %
0.9 %
1600-m buffer
418
342
3.46
0.691
324
0.46
% of Total
5.9 %
6.2 %
6.2 %
4.8 %
Total in region
7,042
55.5
11.1
9.51
The Sacramento Valley does not have critically overdrafted basins according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Table 7. Reduction per hectare in total water and groundwater use, nitrogen leaching, and pesticide use in the San
Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley inside disadvantaged communities, and in 400 m and in 1600 m around
them.
San Joaquin Valley
Retired area
(hectares)
Water use
reduction
(m3/hectare)
Groundwater use
reduction
(m3/hectare)
N loading reduction
(kg/hectare)
Pesticide use
reduction
(kg/hectare)
Inside
communities
21,809
8,268
3,897
90
24.0
400-m buffer
35,280
8,927
4,300
98
21.6
1600-m buffer
174,831
9,194
4,473
102
24.8
Sacramento Valley
Retired area
(hectares)
Water use
reduction
(m3/hectare)
Groundwater use
reduction
(m3/hectare)
N loading reduction
(kg/hectare)
Pesticide use
reduction
(kg/hectare)
Inside
communities
6,908
7,807
2,182
87
10.6
400-m buffer
7,877
8,158
2,234
85
10.5
1600-m buffer
41,796
8,191
2,246
83
10.9
In the Central Valley, 64 small disadvantaged communities (42 % of the studied) are crossed by a river or
a canal, of which 48 have an excellent recharge banking potential (for example, Figure 3). About 90 % of
the studied communities (139 communities) have moderately good or better recharge banking potential
areas, of which 99 communities (64 % of the total) are within the wider buffer of 1600 m from a canal or a
river (Table 8; Table S8). In the San Joaquin Valley, where the current groundwater overdraft is critical in
many areas, about 60 % of the studied communities (73 communities) that are within 1600 m from a river
or a canal also have moderately good or better banking recharge potential. Considering the best possible
soil at each community within the 1600 m buffer, the average recharge banking potential measured by
SAGBI is classified as excellent in the San Joaquin Valley and in the Sacramento Valley. Aquifer recharge
in the Central Valley has the potential to increase groundwater storage, reduce groundwater overdraft,
and increase hydropower generation without substantially impacting environmental flows (Maskey et al.,
2022).
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 7 of 38
Table 8. Potential sites for recharge inside disadvantaged communities of the Central Valley. Each row shows the
number of communities within a certain distance (crossed by, within 400 m, and within 1600 m) of a river, a creek, or
a canal that have SAGBI index within 1600 m classified as excellent, good, moderately good, moderately good or
better, or any SAGBI index.
Central Valley
Excellent
Good
Moderately
Good
Moderately
Good or better
Any SAGBI
River or canal crosses community
48 (31 %)
39 (25 %)
50 (32 %)
57 (37 %)
64 (42 %)
River or canal within 400-m buffer
61 (40 %)
51 (33 %)
63 (41 %)
74 (48 %)
83 (54 %)
River or canal within 1600-m buffer
82 (53 %)
63 (41 %)
81 (53 %)
99 (64 %)
112 (73 %)
Any distance to a river or canal
113 (73 %)
91 (59 %)
107 (69 %)
139 (90 %)
154 (100 %)
San Joaquin Valley
River or canal crosses community
39 (32 %)
25 (20 %)
36 (29 %)
43 (35 %)
48 (39 %)
River or canal within 400-m buffer
47 (38 %)
51 (41 %)
63 (51 %)
74 (60 %)
59 (48 %)
River or canal within 1600-m buffer
65 (53 %)
63 (51 %)
81 (66 %)
99 (80 %)
84 (68 %)
Any distance to a river or canal
94 (76 %)
66 (54 %)
86 (70 %)
110 (89 %)
123 (100 %)
Sacramento Valley
River or canal crosses community
9 (29 %)
14 (45 %)
14 (45 %)
14 (45 %)
16 (52 %)
River or canal within 400-m buffer
14 (45 %)
51 (165 %)
63 (203 %)
74 (239 %)
24 (77 %)
River or canal within 1600-m buffer
17 (55 %)
63 (203 %)
81 (261 %)
99 (319 %)
28 (90 %)
Any distance to a river or canal
19 (61 %)
25 (81 %)
21 (68 %)
29 (94 %)
31 (100 %)
Figure 3. Teviston, Tulare County, and nearby disadvantaged communities with their Soil Agriculture Groundwater
Banking Index (SAGBI) rating as a proxy for the quality of the soil for recharge. Teviston has excellent soil
groundwater banking potential, it is crossed by a river, and it is about 1 km away from a canal; yet Teviston needed
drought relief during the 2012 2016 drought and their wells failed again in 2021.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 8 of 38
In the San Joaquin Valley, retiring agriculture from inside small disadvantaged communities represents a
direct revenue and employment loss of 1 % for the sector, the 400-m buffer represents 2 %, and the
1600-m buffer represents 10 %. In the Sacramento Valley, retiring agriculture from inside disadvantaged
communities represents a direct revenue and employment loss of 1 % for the sector, the 400-m buffer
represents less than 1.5 %, and the 1600-m buffer represents around 7 %. More details are available in
Table 9 and Table S9, and all the model results are available in the Auxiliary files (4.1. IMPLAN Runs).
Table 9. Direct, indirect, induced, and total revenue and employment loss from retiring cropland in the San Joaquin
Valley Region and the Sacramento Region inside disadvantaged communities, in buffers of 400 m and 1600 m
surrounding them, and the combination of inside the communities and the surrounding 1600-m buffer.
San Joaquin Valley
REVENUE
(million US$)
inside
400-m
1600-m
within 1600-m
Total in region
Direct
-$169
-$327
-$1,631
-$1,800
$16,749
Indirect
-$54
-$102
-$510
-$564
Induced
-$52
-$101
-$502
-$554
Total
-$275
-$530
-$2,643
-$2,918
$167,095
EMPLOYMENT
(job positions)
inside
400-m
1600-m
within 1600-m
Total in region
Direct
-1,076
-2,038
-10,188
-11,264
105,941
Indirect
-633
-1,221
-6,110
-6,743
Induced
-366
-708
-3,533
-3,898
Total
-2,075
-3,967
-19,831
-21,906
1,903,922
Sacramento Valley
REVENUE
(million US$)
inside
400-m
1600-m
within 1600-m
Total in region
Direct
-$35
-$48
-$255
-$290
$3,678
Indirect
-$13
-$17
-$91
-$104
Induced
-$11
-$15
-$79
-$90
Total
-$59
-$80
-$426
-$485
$116,183
EMPLOYMENT
(job positions)
inside
400-m
1600-m
within 1600-m
Total in region
Direct
-261
-372
-1,938
-2,200
26,823
Indirect
-117
-160
-848
-965
Induced
-75
-102
-537
-611
Total
-453
-634
-3,323
-3,776
1,218,682
2.2. Repurposing agricultural land
Our study estimated a range of investments and alternatives to repurpose agricultural land (Table 10).
The investment in industry (ranging from $10 million per community in 5 years to $100 million per
community in 10 years) in a 30-year project with 2 % of inflation would produce a revenue increase from
$468 million per year and 1,726 jobs to $4,938 million per year and 20,300 jobs in the San Joaquin Valley.
In the Sacramento Valley, it would range from $111 million per year and 410 jobs to $1,175 million per
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 9 of 38
year and 4,807 jobs. Those jobs would be paid on average 18 % and 24 % more than the agricultural jobs
lost in the land retirement in the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley respectively.
The investment in solar energy generation and storage (ranging from 10 MW or $21 million per
community in 5 years or 100 MW or $171 million per community in 10 years) in a 30-year project with 2 %
of inflation would increase the revenue from $861 million per year and 3,045 jobs to $7,526 million per
year and 29,734 jobs in the San Joaquin Valley. In the Sacramento Valley, it would range from $222
million per year and 811 jobs to $1,939 million per year and 7,855 jobs. Those jobs would be paid on
average 100 % and 110 % more than the agricultural jobs lost in the land retirement in the San Joaquin
Valley and the Sacramento Valley respectively. Employment income in the combination of industry and
energy sectors in the repurposed land is roughly 67 % higher than in crop agriculture.
Table 10. Annual equivalent value and mean number of jobs for the land retirement and land repurposing considering
a 30-year project and 2 % inflation.
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Annual Equivalent
Value
Mean
#jobs/year
Average
income/job
Annual Equivalent
Value
mean
#jobs/year
Average
income/job
Buffers
(land
retirement)
inside DACs
-$340,771,881
-2,075
$45,949
-$72,482,240
-453
$44,991
400 m
-$642,121,037
-3,967
$46,457
-$97,483,135
-634
$44,031
1600 m
-$3,272,579,945
-19,831
$46,388
-$527,473,155
-3,323
$44,268
Industry
Low
$467,537,985
1,726
$54,473
$111,478,034
410
$54,910
High
$4,937,594,683
20,300
$54,416
$1,175,491,199
4,807
$55,425
Solar
Low
$861,100,732
3,045
$94,507
$222,332,813
811
$95,157
High
$7,525,745,978
29,734
$90,776
$1,938,670,610
7,855
$91,558
For land retirement, the most unfavorable case has a minimum acceptable rate of return (MARR) of 8 %, which is associated with
land retirement inside the communities and in the 1600-m buffer, while the 400-m buffer has a MARR of 10 %.
For land repurposing, Low” is associated with MARR of 8 % and payback of 7 years, and High is associated with MARR of 10%
and payback of 5 years. Industry investments range from $10 million invested in 5 years to $100 invested in 10 years. Solar energy
investments range from $21 million invested in 5 years to $171 invested in 10 years.
We considered 31 communities in the Sacramento Region and 123 communities in the San Joaquin Valley Region.
Average income/jobaccounts for the labor income calculated with IMPLAN that includes the spillover effects in the economy.
The surface area needed for Solar ranges from 0.31 km2 (low) to 3.36 km2 (high) (Table 4). The surface area needed for industry
depends on the industry but is it only a small fraction of the buffers, leaving enough surface area to implement other land uses with
environmental positive externalities that are not as easy to monetize as the ones presented in this table.
3. Discussion
The objectives of this framework are (1) to bring environmental and socioeconomic justice to frontline
communities; (2) to reduce net water use to partially offset current aquifer overdraft; (3) to improve the
revenue of local farmers and landowners; (4) to provide new opportunities for industries; and (5) to benefit
the environment and society (Table 11).
Our analyses indicate that removing agricultural land uses from inside small rural disadvantaged
communities can reduce direct and indirect exposure to crop-related health threatening emissions.
Environmental justice is a main concern in the Central Valley among rural disadvantaged community
stakeholders (Flores-Landeros et al., 2021), and this framework can improve environmental conditions for
those residents. Our analysis also puts in perspective the costs of keeping conventional agriculture inside
rural communities. For example, retiring the 218 km2 of agricultural land inside disadvantaged
communities of the San Joaquin Valley represents a direct economic impact of $169 million (Tables 9 and
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 10 of 38
S9), while providing one gallon of water (3.8 L) per person per day costs about $187 million per year (at
$1 per gallon in 2016, Rodwan, 2016). This suggests that residents of rural frontline communities of the
San Joaquin Valley are paying for the real cost of the food produced there. A similar case can be
portrayed with air quality related to pesticide use and tillage practices. Part of the 520 Mg per year of the
pesticide active chemicals used can be transported with dust by tillage (Alletto et al., 2010), reaching
inside residents’ homes (Harnly et al., 2009) and threatening their health (Gunier et al., 2017). Air quality is
one of the greatest concerns of residents of rural disadvantaged communities of the San Joaquin Valley
(Flores-Landeros et al., 2021) that is underrepresented in California policy, research, and relative news
(Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021b). These negative externalities of conventional agriculture inside rural
disadvantaged communities can be eliminated or become positive externalities by adopting regenerative
agriculture practices (Giller et al., 2021). In addition, agroecological practices can create comparatively
more stable jobs (Finley et al., 2018), and organic products generate higher revenue per unit produced.
For example, in 2019, conventional grapes were sold by producers in the United States for $1.14 /kg,
while grapes certified organic were sold on average for $1.45 /kg, according to National Agricultural
Statistics Service (NASS). The air quality in metropolitan areas corresponding to five counties of the San
Joaquin Valley is the worst in the United States (American Lung Association, 2021), and some rural areas
have even worse air quality, with residents reporting nose bleeding after pesticide sprays nearby and
children systematically suffering from asthma (Flores-Landeros et al., 2021). While analyzing the effects of
oil extraction and fracking was not our objective, within 1600 from the selected disadvantaged
communities of this study there are 12,252 oil wells (working, idle, or abandoned). California is scheduled
to ban fracking permits by 2024 and any oil extraction by 2045. For example, some communities of Kern
County (that has the worst air quality in the United States) include Maricopa with 2,001 oil wells within the
1600-m buffer (total area 29 km2) and McKittrick with 3,480 wells (41 km2) (Figure S1). Those
communities can dramatically benefit from land repurposing in a similar framework to this one.
Water use reduction is one of the main concerns of water users in California, especially for water agencies
needing to implement groundwater sustainability plans to meet Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act (SGMA) requirements. Buffer zones to bring water security to disadvantaged communities can be
narrower by implementing artificial recharge projects so that the wells do not pull the water from
underneath the communities’ soil and the potential pollutants (nitrates and pesticides) are not transported
towards the community with underground water. Besides increasing water availability, artificial recharge is
a tool to reduce concentration of nitrate contamination and other pollutants in groundwater within
communities of the Central Valley (Bastani and Harter, 2019). Our study suggests that for each
percentage unit of total agricultural land use retired inside or around disadvantaged communities of the
San Joaquin Valley, the net water use reduction will compensate for 3 to 4 percentual units of the
groundwater overdraft. This ratio is explained by the California water balance: about 10 % of the water
use in California contributes to overdraft (Escriva-Bou, 2019), and retiring all the water use from one user
compensates for their contribution to the overdraft and for the overdraft caused by others. The maximum
overdraft reduction with this approach corresponds to about 38 % by retiring 10.6 % of the agricultural
land in the San Joaquin Valley, although total surface water reduced corresponds to nearly 80 % of the
overdraft (land within 1600-m buffer zone, Tables 7, 8, and S8). While this is not enough to completely
offset the current overdraft, this framework can be used in combination with other approaches, such as
conveyance of excess winter flows from the Sacramento Valley to the San Joaquin Valley, which can help
recover up to 30 % and 62 % of the current overdraft in the San Joaquin River Basin and the Tulare Lake
Basin, respectively (Alam et al., 2020). That combination does have the potential to solve the current
overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 11 of 38
Nitrate contamination of aquifers is a salient issue in the Central Valley (Castaldo et al., 2021; Rosenstock
et al., 2014). About 51 % of the nitrogen inputs in California leach into groundwater, 10 % become
atmospheric losses, and 5 % become runoff losses (Harter et al., 2012). Nitrogen use reduction near
disadvantaged communities would improve groundwater quality (although it may take several years for
the current elevated nitrate concentrations to decrease). In addition, it would also contribute to climate
change mitigation by decreasing the N2O emissions (Almaraz et al., 2018). Interestingly, this reduction in
nitrogen leaching and nitrogen gas emissions can be achieved by transitioning from conventional
agriculture to regenerative agriculture, which fosters healthy soils (that sequester more carbon and
increase water storage), biodiversity, ecosystem protection, food that is more nutritious, and better quality
of life for farmworkers and the surrounding communities (Sharma et al., 2022). Most of the agriculture in
the Central Valley in 2016 was conventional agriculture (Wei et al., 2020), which presents an outstanding
opportunity to mitigate climate change by repurposing it into regenerative agriculture or other carbon-
negative land uses, such as habitat for nature or renewable energy generation and storage (Fernandez-
Bou et al., 2021c). Carbon-neutral land uses that bring other opportunities can be also interesting to
mitigate climate change at a less cost for California’s economy. For example, retiring cropland in the San
Joaquin Valley from inside disadvantaged communities and in a 1600-m buffer would represent a
reduction of 1.85 Gg CO2e (CO2-equivalent) and $1,800 million of direct revenues, which represents a
reduction of 1,028 g CO2e per US$ lost. California’s economy for 2016 had a ratio of g CO2e per US$ of
gross domestic product equal to 171.5 g CO2e per US$ (gross domestic product of $2.5 1012 and 429 1012
g CO2e; data available on https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/ghg-inventory-data). This suggests that retiring these
agricultural lands decreases six times more CO2e per one US$ lost than the average of California’s
economic activities. Overall, this framework creates opportunities to develop policies for polluter
industries to pay farmers to transition from conventional to regenerative agriculture in exchange for
carbon credits. If correctly done, this type of approach can reduce total greenhouse gas emissions,
improve farmers’ revenues, create better environmental conditions, and benefit farmworkers with more
safe, stable, and better-paid jobs.
Agricultural land repurposing is one of the most promising ways to improve socioeconomic opportunities
near rural disadvantaged communities while preserving or improving other stakeholders’ revenues and
wealth. Our study shows how revenues can improve within a broad range of feasible investments in clean
industry and solar energy generation and storage. Other economic opportunities that are more difficult to
monetize might be: transitioning to regenerative agriculture, which has higher revenues and generates
better-paid farm work jobs (Finley et al., 2018); wildlife corridors, habitat creation, and green areas, which
provide ecosystems services for nearby communities (for example, potentially improving mental health,
and water and air quality) and for agriculture (for example, more natural pollinators and more natural
predators for agricultural pests); managed aquifer recharge projects, which contribute to the reduction
and can potentially solve the groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley; space for facilities in
public-private partnership that can benefit industry and communities (for example, water treatment plants
and deeper wells co-paid for by the new local industry and the government).
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
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Table 11. Summary of the multi-benefit framework to repurpose agricultural land around small rural disadvantaged
communities of California’s Central Valley. Employment and revenue losses (in red) can be compensated and
overturned by reasonable investments in clean energy and solar energy generation and storage. Policy is necessary
for some initiatives to succeed (in yellow), while other initiatives may not have any effect on each other (in blue).
Overall, the framework is positive, and with correct policies it may be a significant success for all involved
stakeholders.
Multiple-benefit framework
Retiring
cropland
Green
areas
Solar panels
Ag-industry
Balance
Rural
frontline
communities
Income
Less income
Potential for
opportunities
More income
POSITIVE
Work
Job losses
More jobs
POSITIVE
Water access
More water for less Ag
over-pumping nearby
No effect
More reliability
using deeper
wells in PPP
POSITIVE
Water Quality
Cleaner water
POSITIVE
Air Quality
Less dust and pesticide drift
No effect
Cleaner activities
POSITIVE
Agriculture
Revenue
Improved by
less
competition
No effect or
improved
Cheaper, reliable
energy
Improved
logistics
POSITIVE
Workforce
May compete for labor
INCONCLUSIVE
Water access
No effect
No effect
No effect
POSITIVE
Water
regulations
POSITIVE
Landowners
Revenue
Ag loss
Subsidies
More income opportunities
POSITIVE
Land value
Same or better
Better
POSITIVE
Environment
Conservation
Improved
Improved by using
more clean energy
No effect.
Avoid polluter
industries
POSITIVE
Water
Improved
POSITIVE
Air quality
POSITIVE
Industry
Revenue
No effect
Better due to cheaper,
reliable energy
Improved
POSITIVE
Investment
POSITIVE
Columns
: different actions of this framework.
Rows
: stakeholders and how this framework may affect them.
Green
: positive outcome.
Yellow
: with adequate policy, it is possible to achieve the written goal.
Blue
: no change.
4. Main challenges of this framework and policy recommendations
This study is a tool that shows how multi-benefit approaches to repurpose cropland can promote social,
environmental, and climate justice for rural disadvantaged communities while benefiting other
stakeholders, such as landowners and industry. This tool is not intended to provide detailed information
about a specific community or place. To develop specific projects within this framework at the community
level, it is important to conduct feasibility studies in partnership with local stakeholders, including
interviews with stakeholders, potential funding sources, market studies, and environmental analyses.
Any project implementation should be supported by the communities and partially based on community-
based participatory research. This will improve prospects for consensus about the type of economic
sectors surrounding the communities and prevent the new initiatives from creating new injustice (Balazs
and Morello-Frosch, 2013; Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021a). Adequate communication can minimize
language and cultural barriers to reach more efficiently to every stakeholder.
Agricultural land uses that are currently contributing with positive externalities, such as regenerative
agriculture or rice crops used as wetlands (Sharma et al., 2022), can be preserved (not repurposed) and
included as part of this framework to receive similar incentives as they are contributing towards the
overall objective. Small farms provide important positive externalities that include more crop and non-crop
biodiversity while producing higher yields (Ricciardi et al., 2021). In California, farms growing traditional
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 13 of 38
Southeast Asian produce are small (2 hectares or 5 acres in average) but culturally very important (Thao
et al., 2019). Preserving small farms around disadvantaged communities contributes to the objective of
this framework, especially if they practice regenerative and climate-smart agriculture (Fernandez-Bou et
al., 2021c). Promoting the improvement of low-cost sensing devices that are currently relatively expensive
(e.g., non-dispersive infrared sensors to measure methane or nitrous oxide) can dramatically improve
environmental monitoring at all scales, being able to account, monetize, and incentivize positive
externalities and climate change mitigation strategies.
Gentrification is a potential negative externality from the current approach. This framework aims to solve
current injustices without creating new problems, and one of the most vulnerable stakeholders involved
are small farmers who rent their land (Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021a; Thao et al., 2019) since they may be
displaced. Likewise, as communities develop their infrastructure and improve quality of life, current
residents are at risk of being displaced because of the increased cost of living. Anti-gentrification policies
implemented locally can prevent undesired displacement of vulnerable stakeholders.
A significant portion of the increased wealth and jobs created should benefit the communities to counter
effect the historical legacy of injustice. Favoring local hires can be linked to tax incentives, facilitated
funding, and to anti-gentrification policies. Cooperatives controlled by local stakeholders can contribute to
a more equitable distribution of wealth.
Public funding to key stakeholders, such as socially disadvantaged farmers or disadvantaged community
groups, can leverage the benefits of this approach. It is recommendable that projects implemented at the
local level are published as reports or show cases to help others learn from them. Technical assistance
with project application procedures is a much-needed resource in similar financing programs, given the
complexity of legal terminology and potential language barriers.
Agreement among landowners should be incentivized. Our analyses suggest a high likelihood for new
socioeconomic development and favorable market conditions in land repurposing. However, this
approach necessitates adequate incentives and a critical mass of support among the various
stakeholders. Facilitating access to funding via loans or grants can help motivate more landowners to
invest in this type of framework.
Agriculture has been improving water use efficiency over time, but the irrigated area has also increased at
unsustainable rates, increasing water net use (Grafton et al., 2018). To stabilize the groundwater
overdraft, increases in irrigated agricultural land use at the state level should be disincentivized with
policy, especially in critically overdrafted basins. Approaches to improve soil health and water retention in
the remaining farmland, such as cover crops, should also be incentivized.
Sustainable agriculture should be incentivized to provide positive externalities and ecosystem services,
such as preserving habitat and mitigating climate change. Conserving multiple pollination-ecosystem
networks and services within agricultural systems can help control pesticide use with natural predators,
maintain biodiversity and habitat for endangered species, and provide educational and research
opportunities.
Tax incentives can help start land repurposing projects. For example, the California Land Conservation
Act of 1965 (also known as the Williamson Act) reduces property tax if the property provides land
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 14 of 38
conservation. This concept could be maintained if the repurposed land generates a positive balance for
conservation. In addition, part of taxes collected should help improve the local infrastructure. New industry
must not be polluting, and there must be an adequate balance of economic activity and environmental
protection. Turning the repurposed land into industrial land would most likely yield the greatest revenues.
However, that approach would defeat the purpose of this framework, and it may not be market wise. We
suggest that policymakers regulate the ratio of economic activity and environmental preservation land to
preserve the intent of bringing new socioeconomic opportunities while improving environmental justice.
Exemptions (partial or total) based on the California Land Conservation Act may help this framework.
Repurposing land may increase income gaps if done through an uneven distribution of revenue per unit
area. Land trusts or other forms of property governed by a balanced stakeholder board that includes a
significant participation of local residents may reduce inequities, particularly for landowners and tenants
that repurpose their land for public benefit (e.g., green areas, wildlife corridors).
There is potential to promote public-private partnerships regarding fundamental infrastructure and
transportation. For example, some food processing industries are water intensive, and they will need to
create water access and treatment infrastructure. These water treatment plants and deep wells can be
sized adequately to serve both industries and local residents who currently do not have water security
and/or sanitation. Water can be extracted, used, treated, disinfected, and then reused or returned to the
aquifers.
The solar energy generated locally should bring energy independence to the surrounding communities,
agriculture, and industry. Agriculture in California heavily relies on fossil fuels, which further decreases
climate change mitigation of the sector. A transition to renewable energy in agriculture can set the path to
create a net zero carbon emission sector. In addition, new California regulation to transform truck fleets
into electric vehicles will help mitigate the poor air quality issues created by the transportation sector
around disadvantaged communities. These fleets can also benefit from electric vehicle charging stations
at the communities where this framework is implemented, using locally generated solar energy.
Additionally, repurposing and restoring land with oil wells can bring additional environmental and
socioeconomic benefits.
Industry and solar energy generation and storage will likely bring positive externalities to the communities
that implement this framework and will also benefit local farmers. However, while the balance for the
agricultural sector is very positive in general, it is inconclusive for the trend of the workforce. Farm labor
shortage is a pressing issue in California. Research in agricultural automation and better-paid farm
employment can help mitigate labor scarcity.
As part of California’s efforts to reduce overall carbon emissions, large emitters from other regions of the
state can be incentivized to pay farmers to transition from conventional to regenerative agriculture in
exchange for carbon credits. This may benefit the state industry while they transition into cleaner
practices while reducing the overall state’s greenhouse gas emissions, improving farmers’ revenues,
creating better environmental conditions for disadvantaged communities, and benefit farmworkers with
more safe, stable, and better-paid employment.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 15 of 38
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Reduce Groundwater Nitrate in Rural Drinking Water Sources. Water 7, 1237. https://doi.org/10.3390/w7010012
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Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
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6. Methodology
The origin of rural disadvantaged communities of California dates back about a century ago, when African
Americans left the South fleeing from Jim Crow laws drawn by the promise of good farmland under the
California Colonization Project. However, they also found segregation and restrictions to live in cities,
leading them to create their own communities in rural areas (Eissinger, 2017). Over time, most African
Americans left the communities, and Latinos started to move in; in particular, farm workers who were
experiencing inhumane conditions in bracero-era labor camps (Mitchell, 2012). Many of these low-income
communities have never been incorporated, lacking fundamental infrastructure such as sewage or
drinking water (Flores-Landeros et al., 2021; London et al., 2021), and they are often underrepresented,
understudied, and underserved (Bernacchi et al., 2020; Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021b).
There are two main indexes to classify disadvantaged communities. The CalEnviroScreen Index used by
the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the California Office of Environmental
Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), and the definition based only on income by the California
Department of Water Resources. CalEnviroScreen 4.0 defines a disadvantaged community as a census
tract that performs in the 75th percentile or worse in a set of 21 socioeconomic and environmental
indicators. This score has two parts: (1) pollution burden, subdivided in exposures (ozone, 2.5 μm
particulate matter, diesel emissions, contaminants in drinking water, lead risk for children; pesticides, toxic
releases, traffic density; this component represents 33.3% of the final score) and environmental effects
(cleanup sites, groundwater threats, hazardous waste, impaired water bodies, and solid waste sites; this
component represents 16.7% of the final score), and (2) population characteristics, subdivided in sensitive
populations (asthma, cardiovascular disease, and low weight at birth; this component represents 25% of
the final score) and socioeconomic factors (education, housing burden, linguistic isolation, poverty, and
unemployment; this component represents 25% of the final score). Each indicator has a percentile for
each census track compared with the rest of the state, and the weighted indicators are averaged to
calculate the CalEnviroScreen score for each census tract. A census tract receives the disadvantaged
status when its score is between the 75th percentile and the 100th percentile (OEHHA, 2021).
The California Department of Water Resources defines disadvantaged communities at different spatial
resolutions, including a classification as census places (different from census tracts) with household
income less than 80 % of the median household income of California. If the median household income is
less than 60 % of the state’s, the community is considered “severely disadvantaged”. This definition
allows to use finer spatial resolution that works more adequately with small rural communities of the
Central Valley of California (Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021b).
6.1. Selection of the communities
We identified all frontline communities in the Central Valley listed as “disadvantaged
communities” (census places) by the California Department of Water Resources (information
available at https://gis.water.ca.gov/app/dacs/). The Department of Water Resources definition
allows for an adequate spatial resolution at the census place level, yet it has similar results to the
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
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selection produced by the CalEnviroScreen Index. CalEnvironScreen uses a coarser resolution
at the census tract level that is appropriate for larger cities such as Los Angeles or Fresno but
prevents it from identifying some small rural disadvantaged communities ( e.g., Tooleville, Tulare
County; Fernandez-Bou et al., 2021b).
We selected all disadvantaged communities less than 15 km2 (3,707 acres or 5.8 mile2) in
surface area since that size is not too large as to lose the main objective of creating a buffer
around the communities, but it is large enough as to include important locations such as Arvin
(Kern County city that suffers from extreme environmental justice issues) (Fernandez-Bou et al.,
2021a).
We divided the Central Valley in Sacramento Valley in the north, containing the counties of
Sacramento, Tehama, Yolo, Sutter, Glenn, Yuba, Butte, and Colusa, and the San Joaquin Valley
in the south, including the San Joaquin River and the Tulare Lake basins for the counties of San
Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Kern. Parts of Solano County
are in the Sacramento Valley, but the county had no disadvantaged communities within this
scope, hence we did not study Solano. The Central Valley contains minor areas of other
counties that represent about 1 % of the area studied here; in Sacramento, that includes a small
part of Shasta, and in the San Joaquin Valley it includes a small portion of Contra Costa, in the
Delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers. The Sacramento Valley region contains 33
disadvantaged communities less than 15 km2 in size, while the San Joaquin Valley region has
123. Not all those communities are rural, and we considered only the selected communities that
can physically benefit from repurposing land, which we established as those with at least 4
hectares (10 acres) of agriculture and/or oil wells (working, idle, or abandoned) within 1600 m
from the communities (we did not analyze the environmental effects of oil wells in this study).
This filter removed the urban-only communities of Lemon Hill and Fruitridge Pocket, in
Sacramento County. This resulted in 154 rural disadvantaged communities in total, 31 in the
Sacramento Valley Region and 123 in the San Joaquin Valley Region.
6.2. Creation of buffers
For each disadvantaged community place (the actual community, city, or town, not necessarily
the census tract), we created a 400-m and a 1600-m buffer. The choice for the 400-m width was
based on current regulation in California that establishes a ¼ mile (approximately 400 m) buffer
around schools to prevent pesticide drift to reach school sites (Department of Pesticide
Regulation No. 16-004). This narrower buffer would likely bring some improvement in air quality.
The 1600-m buffer (1 mile approximately) was based on reasonable protection of water security
within the frontline communities considering the recharge area of the surrounding agricultural
land (Equation 1) and community wells.
As = AW Acrop R-1 (Equation 1)
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
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where
As
is the area needed for aquifer recharge (m2);
AW
is the applied water (m yr-1);
Acrop
is
the area served by the well (m2), and
R
is the natural recharge of the aquifer (m yr-1).
We considered reasonable areas served by wells (200 acres or 81 ha, 500 acres or 203 ha, and
700 acres or 283 ha; the average farm size in California is 348 acres or 141 ha; U.S. Department
of Agriculture, 2021), groundwater reliance of 1.3 m (4 acre-feet per acre), 0.975 m (3 acre-feet
per acre), and 0.65 m (2 acre-feet per acre) of the total applied water per year, and yearly
natural recharge of 0.15 m, 0.3 m, and 0.45 m. Natural recharge in the Central Valley averages
0.3 m per year (Mayzelle et al., 2015). For comparison, almond crops require 1.45 m per year of
applied water in the San Joaquin Valley (see section 6.4.).
The average of all the estimations was 1,448 m (ranging from 610 m to 2,796 m), which means
that a well located closer than that distance will withdraw water from the community aquifer
(Table 1). We rounded up the distance to 1600 m, which is approximately one mile, to facilitate
the understanding for potential policy improvements. The objective of this estimation was to
verify that a 1600-m buffer is reasonable.
Table 1. Minimum distance between agricultural wells and disadvantaged communities of the Central Valley
necessary to prevent community well drawdown from contiguous agricultural wells
Land size served by
agricultural well
Applied water from
groundwater
(per year)
Distance of well impacting community
dry year
(m)
normal year
(m)
wet year
(m)
81 ha
(200 acres)
1.3 m
(4 acre-feet)
1,494 m
(0.93 mile)
1,057 m
(0.66 mile)
863 m
(0.54 mile)
0.975 m
(3 acre-feet)
1,294 m
(0.80 mile)
915 m
(0.57 mile)
747 m
(0.46 mile)
0.65 m
(2 acre-feet)
1,057 m
(0.66 mile)
747 m
(0.46 mile)
610 m
(0.38 mile)
203 ha
(500 acres)
1.3 m
(4 acre-feet)
2,363 m
(1.47 mile)
1,671 m
(1.04 mile)
1,364 m
(0.85 mile)
0.975 m
(3 acre-feet)
2,046 m
(1.27 mile)
1,447 m
(0.90 mile)
1,181 m
(0.73 mile)
0.65 m
(2 acre-feet)
1,671 m
(1.04 mile)
1,181 m
(0.73 mile)
965 m
(0.60 mile)
283 ha
(700 acres)
1.3 m
(4 acre-feet)
2,796 m
(1.74 mile)
1,977 m
(1.23 mile)
1,614 m
(1.00 mile)
0.975 m
(3 acre-feet)
2,421 m
(1.50 mile)
1,712 m
(1.06 mile)
1,398 m
(0.87 mile)
0.65 m
(2 acre-feet)
1,977 m
(1.23 mile)
1,398 m
(0.87 mile)
1,141 m
(0.71 mile)
Average groundwater recharge is 0.3 m per year (Mayzelle et al., 2015), and the assumed recharge for dry years
is 0.15 m per year, and for wet years it is 0.45 m per year.
We performed the 400-m and the 1600-m buffers analyses (ArcGIS Pro, ESRI, Redlands, CA)
aggregating the cropland use by type and county from the Land IQ 2016 survey (data available
at the California Natural Resource Agency’s website https://data.cnra.ca.gov/dataset/statewide-
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
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crop-mapping) (Figure 2). The cropland use data was clipped by community, 400-m buffer, and
1600-m buffer. The total surface area of each cropland use for each region was calculated by
aggregating the data from each attribute table. Land IQ data is accurate above 95 % and it is
based on aerial photos, multi-spectral imagery, agronomic analyses, and
in situ
ground-truthing.
The data has been revised by the California Department of Water Resources to make
corrections, including verification that idle land was not harvested during that year at a different
moment, if a plot had been used for more than one crop type, and if perennial crops were well-
established or young trees. One limitation of the Land IQ survey is the lack of classification of
agricultural land uses as conventional versus organic or regenerative agriculture. That gap of
information inhibits a further important analysis to account for climate change mitigation and
other positive externalities of transitioning conventional agriculture to regenerative agriculture.
Figure 2. Example of cropland inside and 1600 m around several rural disadvantaged communities in Tulare County.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
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6.3. Economic and employment impacts
The Central Valley is one of the most important food industry hubs in the United States, and it has a wide
variety of crops, including alfalfa, almonds, pistachios, corn, cotton, deciduous tree crops, subtropical crops,
vine, and rice. These crops have different profitability, labor intensity, pesticides, fertilizers, and services
associated, and they have different roles in the supply chain where crops are devoted for such uses as
cattle feedstock, manufacturing, food processing, and beverages. All these factors influence the impact that
a change in the agricultural sector has in the local economy and employment.
In parallel, investment in the industry and energy sectors also have direct economic and employment effects
(from infrastructure construction and operation) and spillover effects (from purchasing supplies and
services to other sectors on the local economy).
Here we examine direct effects in the revenues and employment of agriculture (from cropland retirement),
industry, and energy sectors (suggesting potential alternatives to repurpose retired agricultural lands),
indirect effects (changes in transaction revenues between the studied sectors and others within the supply
change), and induced effects (changes in spending labor income after removing taxes, savings, and
transportation expenses by employees in the studied sectors within the supply chain). To estimate the
impact of buffer zones creation and repurposing of agricultural land, we used the input-output IMPLAN
model (Impact Analysis for Planning; IMPLAN Group, LLC., Huntersville, USA) with 2016 data at the county
level to match the land use survey year. We created two regions in IMPLAN corresponding to the
Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Valley by aggregating the counties listed for each region. We only
considered the main 16 counties that represent nearly all of the surface area. We assumed that one
community in Shasta (Sacramento Valley Region) and another one in Contra Costa (San Joaquin Valley
Region) behave as their respective regions (hence we did not study the counties of Shasta or Contra Costa
in IMPLAN).
IMPLAN uses Input-Output tables with multipliers that measure the intersectoral relationships in the local
or regional economy, which enables us to measure the implications for the economy from a change in the
production of a particular sector. IMPLAN has also the ability to classify economic sectors that correspond
to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and uses several data sets (U.S. Department
of Agriculture, U.S. Census, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis) to
inform the multipliers.
We report impacts as total output or revenue and total employment (sum of direct, indirect, and induced
impacts). Input-output models, and in particular IMPLAN, have been used to study the impacts in the
economy of changes in agriculture, investment in solar energy generation and storage, food industry and
other sectors (Bae and Dall’erba, 2016; Jablonski et al., 2016; Mayzelle et al., 2015; Parajuli et al., 2018).
6.3.1. Land retirement impacts
To calculate the local economic impact of land retirement in the 400-m and the 1600-m buffer zones, we
classified the land use categories obtained from the Land IQ survey for the California Water Resources
Department with 2016 data into the agricultural categories listed in NAICS (Table 2; Table S1 presents the
values in imperial units). Using the IMPLAN database (that reports total revenue by agricultural sector for
2016) and the land use data from Land IQ (that reports the cropland areas), we calculated the revenue
per unit area (Tables 2 and S1) to aggregate the total output loss per crop category (IMPLAN sector). We
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
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used the total direct revenues lost by agricultural sector as inputs in IMPLAN to estimate the total
employment and revenue loss (including indirect and induced effects) on the local economy per region.
IMPLAN uses data from federal government sources, and we verified California State sources for
comparability. In particular, we checked the average yearly agricultural employment data from the
Employment Development Department (EED) of California (available at
https://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/data/ca-agriculture.html) and the Ag commissioner reports for the
different counties. The total aggregated employment data in 2016 for the San Joaquin Valley for EDD was
212,300, while for IMPLAN it was 256,556; for the Sacramento Valley it was 28,300 (EDD) and 40,635
(IMPLAN). For revenue (excluding animal farming and other items to improve comparability), the
California Ag commissioners reported $19.4 billion for the San Joaquin Valley versus $16.8 billion
reported by IMPLAN in 2016; for the Sacramento Valley, the Ag commissioners report $3.4 billion versus
$3.7 billion reported by IMPLAN. Given that the methodologies and data aggregation are different
between federal data and California state data, the results from the verification were acceptable.
Table 2. Statistics of agricultural surface area (Land IQ, 2016), employment, and revenue (IMPLAN, 2016) for the San
Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley
San Joaquin Valley
Total Area
(hectare)
Direct
Employment
Direct Revenue
Direct
employment /
hectare
Direct
revenue /
hectare
Oilseed farming
16,834
17
$11,306,811
0.001010
$671.66
Grain farming
348,112
360
$233,814,387
0.001034
$671.66
Vegetable and melon farming
156,915
10946
$2,577,183,137
0.069757
$16,424.03
Fruit farming
382,372
34291
$5,846,484,008
0.089680
$15,290.03
Tree nut farming
678,919
48336
$6,843,652,104
0.071196
$10,080.22
Greenhouse, nursery, and
floriculture production
3,852
1481
$340,924,410
0.384495
$88,510.38
Cotton farming
86,933
2375
$392,564,157
0.027320
$4,515.73
All other crop farming
172,762
8135
$503,331,895
0.047088
$2,913.44
Total
1,846,699
105,941
$16,749,260,908
Sacramento Valley
Total Area
(hectare)
Direct
Employment
Direct Revenue
Direct
employment /
hectare
Direct
revenue /
hectare
Oilseed farming
22,913
141
$66,375,141
0.006154
$2,896.79
Grain farming
284,938
1755
$825,405,475
0.006159
$2,896.79
Vegetable and melon farming
38,036
2350
$420,659,514
0.061784
$11,059.62
Fruit farming
66,078
4882
$600,247,001
0.073882
$9,083.87
Tree nut farming
176,370
14695
$1,579,485,583
0.083319
$8,955.53
Greenhouse, nursery, and
floriculture production
613
441
$95,116,813
0.719771
$155,243.43
Cotton farming
1,258
31
$4,258,586
0.024647
$3,385.84
All other crop farming
67,103
2529
$86,289,646
0.037689
$1,285.94
Total
657,308
26,823
$3,677,837,758
6.3.2. Repurposing the retired agricultural land
The second economic analysis in this study is to estimate the economic impacts of repurposing land.
Since some new beneficial land uses are difficult to monetize, we analyzed different scenarios of
investment, rates of return, and payback for cleaner industries and solar energy generation and storage.
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We aggregated the investments per region (Sacramento Valley and San Joaquin Valley), but we did not
make any specific spatial planning assumption (this is, we do not assume that a specific industry would be
installed in a specific community). These benefits were calculated with IMPLAN using as input the
expected output from each of the investment scenarios as explained below.
6.3.2.1. Investments in industry
We assumed a range of investments in industry per community from $10,000,000 in 5 years to
$100,000,000 in 10 years. The industries selected were “Frozen fruits, juices, and vegetables
manufacturing”, “Frozen specialties manufacturing”, and “Canned fruits and vegetables manufacturing”.
These three industries are common in the San Joaquin Valley and in the Sacramento Valley, with a relatively
low environmental footprint and higher paid employment. In 2016, these industries totaled $6,779 million in
the San Joaquin Valley and $715 million in the Sacramento Valley for gross revenues (sector output),
according to the IMPLAN 2016 database. We considered the revenue ratio that each industry contributes
to each region to calculate the proportion of investment made by each industry (Table 3). To estimate the
annual income generated by the industries, we assumed a range of payback values (5 years and 7 years)
and a range of minimum acceptable rate of return (MARR, 8 % and 10 %). We used these boundaries to
create a range with the most favorable and the least favorable conditions and investments.
Table 3. Contribution of each of the selected industries to the economy of the Central Valley (IMPLAN,2016).
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Frozen fruits, juices, and vegetables
manufacturing
$1,288,606,880
19.0%
$0.00
0.0%
Frozen specialties manufacturing
$910,370,697
13.4%
$34,074,762
4.8%
Canned fruits and vegetables
manufacturing
$4,580,143,854
67.6%
$680,998,894
95.2%
$6,779,121,431
100%
$715,073,657
100%
6.3.2.2. Investments in solar and energy storage
Solar energy has been the most promising renewable technology to decarbonize California’s electrical
sector (De León, 2018). The state has greater solar resources than the national average, and manufacturing
cost have decreased more than two orders of magnitude in the last four decades (Haegel et al., 2019). In
2020, California had more than 20 GW of total installed cumulative capacity of solar photovoltaic (at the
customer and utility scales), and it is expected to have 30 GW of new capacity by 2030 (Kaur, 2021). This
pace of building renewable energy facilities is much faster than any other state in the United States, and it
is part of California’s energy policy (SB 100) to reach 100 % retail sales of electricity with renewable and
zero-carbon resources by 2045 (De León, 2018). This new solar energy generation has also increased the
curtailment because of lack of adequate solar energy storage facilities. A significant portion of the future
solar energy installed capacity is expected to be in the Central Valley where there is good solar resource
(that ranges from 5 to 6 h of sunshine per day in average) and more potential for land repurposing than in
other regions. Investments in clean energy infrastructure provide substantial benefits to the welfare and
stability of the local area, job creation, increased income and taxes collection, and local industrial
development, with multiple synergies with the agricultural sector (Hernandez et al., 2019).
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With decreasing prices of energy storage, hybrid systems such as solar photovoltaic paired with energy
storage (typically Lithium-ion batteries) will be the preferred renewable installations according to the United
States Federal Energy Regulation Commission. At least 9.5 GW of new energy storage will be added into
the grid (Kaur, 2021) and 89 % of the new solar installations in the California System Operator (CAISO) will
include energy storage (Gorman, 2020). One of the main benefits of a hybrid system is the capability to
capture surplus electricity to avoid curtailments from solar installations. Hybrid systems are flexible and
modular energy assets that can be adopted by disadvantaged communities of the Central Valley at different
scales to bring energy security for themselves and to provide energy for the rest of the state.
For the scope of this work, we created two plausible cases for solar adoptions inside the repurposed land:
a smaller investment of 10 MW per community (which resemble a commercial size installation), and a
larger investment of 100 MW (resembling a utility scale installation). The capacity of the solar system is
assumed to be enough to charge a commercial scale battery with up to 4 h of storage. This capacity can
be distributed (where it is needed) inside of the repurposed land in the nearest substation to match any
local demand. For the investment of solar energy generation and storage, we used the latest U.S Solar
Photovoltaic System and Energy storage cost benchmark (Ray, 2020; Wilson, 2020). We adopted the
“commercial cost” for the low-investment scenario and the “utility cost” for the high-investment scenario
(Table 4).
Table 4. Description of the possible range of investment in solar energy generation and storage. The lower bound
considers installing 10 MW per community in 5 years, while the upper bound considers 100 MW installed per community
in 10 years. Investment prices are from Ray (2020) and Wilson (2020).
Scenario
Technology assumed
Capacity
(MW)
Area needed
Cost
($/W)
Investment
(million)
Low
Fixed tilt 1-MW fixed-tilt ground-mount PV plus
600-kW/2.4-MWh
10
0.31 km2
(76 acres)
$2.06
$21
High
One-axis track 100-MW PV plus 60MW/240MWh
100
3.36 km2
(830 acres)
$1.71
$171
6.4. Net water use reduction
To calculate net water use reduction per year from crop land use change, we used the applied water and
evapotranspiration of the applied water per unit area per crop type reported by the California Department
of Water Resources (data available at https://data.cnra.ca.gov/dataset/land-water-use-by-2011-2015). We
utilized values at the hydrologic region level (Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin River Basin, and Tulare
Lake Basin), with a weighting average of the San Joaquin River Basin and the Tulare Lake Basin to obtain
the San Joaquin Valley region applied water values (Table 5; Table S2 presents those values in imperial
units). The net water use reduction is the water applied minus the water excess that is infiltrated to
groundwater, and we approximated it by considering that the evapotranspiration of the water applied was
the water amount saved. We aggregated crop land uses inside the communities and in the buffers in both
regions, and then we multiplied by the averaged crop specific water application and the crop specific
evapotranspiration of the applied water.
Due to requirements to achieve balance in groundwater recharge and extraction by 2040 in California
(Sustainable Groundwater Management Act 2014), we estimated how much water was applied from
surface water and groundwater using data available at the California Department of Water Resources
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
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(https://data.cnra.ca.gov/dataset/water-plan-water-balance-data). We also calculated the ratio of water that
is supplied by groundwater and surface water per California water planning area, and then we aggregated
it per hydrologic region. The groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley is about 2.3 km3 per year on
average (Hanak et al., 2019).
Table 5. Water applied and coefficient of evapotranspiration in the San Joaquin Valley and in the Sacramento Valley
according to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), and conversion of land use categories between
the Land IQ survey and the DWR classification. See Table S2 for imperial units.
Land IQ crop
DWR
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Water
applied
Coefficient
ET
Water
applied
Coefficient
ET
Alfalfa and Alfalfa Mixtures
Alfalfa
1,658
0.762
1,280
0.837
Almonds
Almonds & Pistachios
1,445
0.887
1,268
0.943
Apples
Other Deciduous
1,399
0.857
1,097
0.935
Avocados
Citrus & Subtropical
1,204
0.884
890
0.935
Beans (Dry)
Dry Beans
649
0.778
640
0.850
Bush Berries
Truck Crops
515
0.824
799
0.906
Carrots
Truck Crops
515
0.824
796
0.906
Cherries
Other Deciduous
1,399
0.857
1,097
0.935
Citrus
Citrus & Subtropical
1,204
0.884
890
0.935
Cole Crops
Truck Crops
515
0.824
-
Corn, Sorghum and Sudan
Corn
762
0.765
753
0.856
Cotton
Cotton
1,073
0.773
866
0.849
Dates
Citrus & Subtropical
1,204
0.884
890
0.935
Flowers, Nursery and Christmas
Tree Farms
759
0.806
713
0.934
Grapes
Vineyard
1,125
0.903
808
0.950
Kiwis
Citrus & Subtropical
1,399
0.857
1,134
0.935
Lettuce/Leafy Greens
Truck Crops
515
0.824
-
Melons, Squash and Cucumbers
Cucurbits
759
0.806
713
0.934
Miscellaneous Deciduous
Other Deciduous
1,399
0.857
1,134
0.935
Miscellaneous Field Crops
Other Field Crops
933
0.759
677
0.886
Miscellaneous Grain and Hay
Grain
1,707
0.777
378
0.882
Miscellaneous Grasses
Pasture
933
0.759
1,393
0.829
Miscellaneous Subtropical Fruits
Citrus & Subtropical
1,204
0.884
890
0.935
Miscellaneous Truck Crops
Truck Crops
515
0.824
796
0.906
Mixed Pasture
Pasture
1,771
0.757
1,396
0.829
Olives
Citrus & Subtropical
1,204
0.884
890
0.935
Onions and Garlic
Onions & Garlic
878
0.799
1,109
0.870
Peaches/Nectarines
Other Deciduous
1,399
0.857
1,134
0.935
Pears
Other Deciduous
1,399
0.857
1,134
0.935
Peppers
Truck Crops
515
0.824
-
Pistachios
Almonds & Pistachios
1,445
0.887
1,268
0.943
Plums, Prunes and Apricots
Other Deciduous
1,399
0.857
796
0.906
Pomegranates
Citrus & Subtropical
1,399
0.857
1,097
0.935
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Potatoes
695
0.847
-
Rice
Rice
1,295
0.649
899
0.921
Safflower
Safflower
1,295
1.000
582
0.857
Strawberries
Truck Crops
515
0.824
796
0.906
Sunflowers
Other Field Crops
942
0.759
750
0.878
Tomatoes
Tomato Fresh
780
0.873
856
0.850
Walnuts
Other Deciduous
1,399
0.857
1,134
0.935
Wheat
Grain
329
0.777
378
0.882
Young Perennials
Almonds & Pistachios
1,445
0.443
1,268
0.471
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 26 of 38
6.4.1. Soil groundwater banking potential and managed aquifer recharge
Aquifer recharge can improve water security by increasing water quantity and by improving water quality
(reducing the concentration of pollutants from pesticides and contaminants that are a result of overdrafted
aquifers). To estimate the overall soil groundwater banking potential of the buffered lands, we utilized the
Soil Agricultural Groundwater Banking Index (SAGBI unmodified), utilizing Esri’s ArcGIS software, the
SAGBI shapefiles, and the shapefiles containing the buffers and the disadvantaged communities
themselves. The SAGBI shapes were clipped by the area of the buffers and disadvantaged communities
respectively. Then the new area of each polygon was calculated using the “add geometric attributes”
geoprocessing tool. The clipped shapefile’s attribute table was then exported so that the SAGBI
characteristics of the total area could be calculated.
6.5. Pesticide use, nitrogen leaching, and greenhouse gas emission reduction
We estimated the reduction in pesticide use and in fertilizer leaching to groundwater from retiring
agricultural land uses inside the communities and in the buffers.
We employed spatial data available from the Pesticide Use Reporting (PUR;
ftp://transfer.cdpr.ca.gov/pub/outgoing/pur_archives) managed by the California Department of Pesticide
Regulation (www.cdpr.ca.gov). We aggregated the mass of chemical active ingredients contained in the
recorded pesticides used in 2016 within each Section of the Public Lands Survey mapping system. Each
section in California has a unique identification field called
COMTRS
(a combination of the codes for
county, meridian, township, range, and section of the Public Lands Survey mapping system; data available
on www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pur/purmain.htm). The shape files of the sections for each county are available
at https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/grndwtr/gis_shapefiles.htm. We clipped the shapes of the selected
disadvantaged communities, the 400-m buffer, and the 1600-m buffer to the sections’ shapes to estimate
the pesticides use reduction proposed for the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley regions.
To estimate the nitrogen use reduction from fertilizers, we used the Nitrogen Fertilizer Loading to
Groundwater in the Central Valley report (page 138, Table 11.24, in Harter et al., 2017), which reports the
nitrogen fertilizer use per crop type. Since the crop classification was different to the Land IQ one that we
used to identify land uses, we created a comparison matrix (a bridge) with those crop classifications and
the NAICS groups. To estimate nitrate reduction, we weighted the fertilizer use per crop by the area of
each crop type (Table S3). To estimate the reduction in N2O gases derived from fertilizer application, we
considered that 10 % of the applied nitrogen is emitted as gas (51 % leaches into the aquifer, 5 %
becomes run off, and 34 % becomes crops; Harter et al., 2012).
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 27 of 38
Supplementary Materials
Tables
Table S1. Statistics of agricultural surface area (LandIQ, 2016), employment, and revenue (IMPLAN, 2016) for the
San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley
Table S2. Water applied and coefficient of evapotranspiration in the San Joaquin Valley and in the Sacramento Valley
according to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), and conversion of land use categories between
the LandIQ survey and the DWR classification. Equivalent to Table 5 with imperial units.
Table S3. Classification names of the crops found in the selected areas in the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento
Valley for the LandIQ 2016 survey, NAICS and IMPLAN, and the nitrogen loading report, and amounts per area of
nitrogen leached to the aquifer.
Table S4. Demographics and socioeconomic statistics of disadvantaged communities of the Central Valley of
California with less than 15 km2 of surface area.
Table S5. Retired area and reduction in total water and groundwater use, nitrogen leaching, and pesticide use in the
San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley inside frontline communities, in a 400-m buffer, and in a 1600-m
buffer. Data in imperial units.
Table S6. Reduction per acre in total water and groundwater use, nitrogen leaching, and pesticide use in the San
Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley inside frontline communities, in a 400-m buffer, and in a 1600-m buffer.
Data in imperial units.
Table S7. Agriculture water source for frontline rural communities and buffers surrounding them at 400 m and 1600
m for 2016.
Table S8. Net water and groundwater use reduction per region and buffer, in acre-feet and in cubic meters.
Table S9. Economic and employment impacts, and water use reduction per crop type and retired area for inside the
frontline communities, the 400-m buffer, and the 1600-m buffer in the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley.
Data in imperial units.
Figures
Figure S1. Oil wells within 1600 m of several disadvantaged communities in Kern County, CA. From south to north,
Maricopa, South Taft, Taft Heights, Ford City, and Valley Acres. Kern County has the worst air quality of the United
States by year-round particulate matter.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 28 of 38
Table S1. Statistics of agricultural surface area (LandIQ, 2016), employment, and revenue
(IMPLAN, 2016) for the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley
San Joaquin Valley
Total Area
(acres)
Direct
Employment
Direct Revenue
Direct
employment
/acre
Direct
revenue
/acre
Oilseed farming
41598
17
$11,306,811
0.000419
$271.81
Grain farming
860203
360
$233,814,387
0.000419
$271.81
Vegetable and melon farming
387746
10946
$2,577,183,137
0.028229
$6,646.57
Fruit farming
944862
34291
$5,846,484,008
0.036292
$6,187.66
Tree nut farming
1677643
48336
$6,843,652,104
0.028812
$4,079.33
Greenhouse, nursery, and
floriculture production
9518
1481
$340,924,410
0.155574
$35,818.21
Cotton farming
214815
2375
$392,564,157
0.011057
$1,827.45
All other crop farming
426904
8135
$503,331,895
0.019056
$1,179.03
Total
4,563,289
105,941
$16,749,260,908
Sacramento Valley
Total Area
(acres)
Direct
Employment
Direct Revenue
Direct
Employment
/acre
Direct
revenue
/acre
Oilseed farming
56620
141
$66,375,141
0.002493
$1,172.29
Grain farming
704096
1755
$825,405,475
0.002493
$1,172.29
Vegetable and melon farming
93988
2350
$420,659,514
0.025003
$4,475.69
Fruit farming
163283
4882
$600,247,001
0.029898
$3,676.12
Tree nut farming
435819
14695
$1,579,485,583
0.033718
$3,624.18
Greenhouse, nursery, and
floriculture production
1514
441
$95,116,813
0.290889
$62,805.76
Cotton farming
3108
31
$4,258,586
0.009825
$1,370.19
All other crop farming
165814
2529
$86,289,646
0.015251
$520.40
Total
1,624,241
26,823
$3,677,837,758
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 29 of 38
Table S2. Water applied and coefficient of evapotranspiration in the San Joaquin Valley and in
the Sacramento Valley according to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), and
conversion of land use categories between the LandIQ survey and the DWR classification.
Equivalent to Table 5 with imperial units.
Crop
DWR
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Water
applied
Coefficient
ET
Water
applied
Coefficient
ET
Alfalfa and Alfalfa Mixtures
Alfalfa
5.44
0.762
4.20
0.837
Almonds
Almonds & Pistachios
4.74
0.887
4.16
0.943
Apples
Other Deciduous
4.59
0.857
3.60
0.935
Avocados
Citrus & Subtropical
3.95
0.884
2.92
0.935
Beans (Dry)
Dry Beans
2.13
0.778
2.10
0.850
Bush Berries
Truck Crops
1.69
0.824
2.62
0.906
Carrots
Truck Crops
1.69
0.824
2.61
0.906
Cherries
Other Deciduous
4.59
0.857
3.60
0.935
Citrus
Citrus & Subtropical
3.95
0.884
2.92
0.935
Cole Crops
Truck Crops
1.69
0.824
Corn, Sorghum and Sudan
Corn
2.50
0.765
2.47
0.856
Cotton
Cotton
3.52
0.773
2.84
0.849
Dates
Citrus & Subtropical
3.95
0.884
2.92
0.935
Flowers, Nursery and Christmas
Tree Farms
2.49
0.806
2.34
0.934
Grapes
Vineyard
3.69
0.903
2.65
0.950
Kiwis
Citrus & Subtropical
4.59
0.857
3.72
0.935
Lettuce/Leafy Greens
Truck Crops
1.69
0.824
Melons, Squash and
Cucumbers
Cucurbits
2.49
0.806
2.34
0.934
Miscellaneous Deciduous
Other Deciduous
4.59
0.857
3.72
0.935
Miscellaneous Field Crops
Other Field Crops
3.06
0.759
2.22
0.886
Miscellaneous Grain and Hay
Grain
5.60
0.777
1.24
0.882
Miscellaneous Grasses
Pasture
3.06
0.759
4.57
0.829
Miscellaneous Subtropical Fruits
Citrus & Subtropical
3.95
0.884
2.92
0.935
Miscellaneous Truck Crops
Truck Crops
1.69
0.824
2.61
0.906
Mixed Pasture
Pasture
5.81
0.757
4.58
0.829
Olives
Citrus & Subtropical
3.95
0.884
2.92
0.935
Onions and Garlic
Onions & Garlic
2.88
0.799
3.64
0.870
Peaches/Nectarines
Other Deciduous
4.59
0.857
3.72
0.935
Pears
Other Deciduous
4.59
0.857
3.72
0.935
Peppers
Truck Crops
1.69
0.824
Pistachios
Almonds & Pistachios
4.74
0.887
4.16
0.943
Plums, Prunes and Apricots
Other Deciduous
4.59
0.857
2.61
0.906
Pomegranates
Citrus & Subtropical
4.59
0.857
3.60
0.935
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Potatoes
2.28
0.847
Rice
Rice
4.25
0.649
2.95
0.921
Safflower
Safflower
4.25
1.000
1.91
0.857
Strawberries
Truck Crops
1.69
0.824
2.61
0.906
Sunflowers
Other Field Crops
3.09
0.759
2.46
0.878
Tomatoes
Tomato Fresh
2.56
0.873
2.81
0.850
Walnuts
Other Deciduous
4.59
0.857
3.72
0.935
Wheat
Grain
1.08
0.777
1.24
0.882
Young Perennials
Almonds & Pistachios
4.74
0.443
4.16
0.471
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 30 of 38
Table S3. Classification names of the crops found in the selected areas in the San Joaquin
Valley and Sacramento Valley for the LandIQ 2016 survey, NAICS and IMPLAN, and the
nitrogen loading report, and amounts per area of nitrogen leached to the aquifer.
LandIQ 2016
IMPLAN/NAICS
Nitrogen Report
N leaching
(kg ha-1 yr-1)
N emissions
(kg ha-1 yr-1)
Almonds
Tree nut farming
Nuts
98
19.6
Grapes
Fruit farming
Vineyards
39
7.8
Corn, Sorghum and Sudan
Grain farming
Corn, Sorghum, Sudan
320
64
Pistachios
Tree nut farming
Nuts
98
19.6
Alfalfa and Alfalfa Mixtures
All other crop farming
Alfalfa, clover
30
6
Citrus
Fruit farming
Subtropical
124
24.8
Wheat
Grain farming
Grain and hay
195
39
Cotton
Cotton farming
Cotton
148
29.6
Tomatoes
Vegetable and melon farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Walnuts
Tree nut farming
Nuts
98
19.6
Young Perennials
Tree nut farming
Nuts
98
19.6
Miscellaneous Grain and Hay
Grain farming
Grain and hay
195
39
Mixed Pasture
All other crop farming
Field crops
75
15
Peaches/Nectarines
Fruit farming
Tree fruit
100
20
Onions and Garlic
Vegetable and melon farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Melons, Squash and
Cucumbers
Vegetable and melon farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Safflower
Oilseed farming
Field crops
75
15
Cherries
Fruit farming
Tree fruit
100
20
Plums, Prunes and Apricots
Fruit farming
Tree fruit
100
20
Beans (Dry)
Grain farming
Field crops
75
15
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Vegetable and melon farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Carrots
Vegetable and melon farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Pomegranates
Fruit farming
Subtropical
124
24.8
Miscellaneous Truck Crops
Vegetable and melon farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Olives
Fruit farming
Olives
26
5.2
Lettuce/Leafy Greens
Vegetable and melon farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Miscellaneous Grasses
All other crop farming
Field crops
75
15
Miscellaneous Deciduous
Fruit farming
Tree fruit
100
20
Flowers, Nursery and Christmas
Tree Farms
Greenhouse, nursery, and
floriculture production
Rest
122
24.4
Cole Crops
Vegetable and melon farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Rice
Grain farming
Rice
19
3.8
Bush Berries
Fruit farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Peppers
Vegetable and melon farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Apples
Fruit farming
Tree fruit
100
20
Kiwis
Fruit farming
Subtropical
124
24.8
Pears
Fruit farming
Tree fruit
100
20
Strawberries
Fruit farming
Vegetables and berries
84
16.8
Greenhouse
Greenhouse, nursery, and
floriculture production
Rest
122
24.4
Avocados
Fruit farming
Subtropical
124
24.8
Miscellaneous Subtropical Fruits
Fruit farming
Subtropical
124
24.8
Dates
Fruit farming
Subtropical
124
24.8
Miscellaneous Field Crops
All other crop farming
Field crops
75
15
Sunflowers
Oilseed farming
Field crops
75
15
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 31 of 38
Table S4. Demographics and socioeconomic statistics of disadvantaged communities of the
Central Valley of California with less than 15 km2 of surface area.
Region
Population
Households
Median household
income
# Communities
Sacramento Valley
129,528
42,315
$40,096
31
San Joaquin Valley
512,963
135,112
$37,084
123
Total
642,491
177,427
$37,802
154
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 32 of 38
Table S5. Retired area and reduction in total water and groundwater use, nitrogen leaching, and
pesticide use in the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley inside frontline communities,
in a 400-m buffer, and in a 1600-m buffer. Data in imperial units.
San Joaquin Valley
Retired area
(acres)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet)
Groundwater
overdraft reduction
(acre-feet)
N loading reduction
(pounds)
Pesticide use
reduction
(pounds)
Inside
communities
53,891
146,182
68,910
4,330,836
1,153,814
% of Total
1.2 %
3.7 %
0.9 %
1.0%
400-m buffer
87,178
255,340
122,991
7,615,545
1,678,137
% of Total
1.9 %
6.6 %
1.6 %
1.5%
1600-m buffer
432,017
1,303,150
634,061
39,269,683
9,560,802
% of Total
9.4 %
34.3%
8.1 %
8.5%
Total in region
4,572,984
1,850,000
485,418,911
112,450,227
Sacramento Valley
Retired area
(acres)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet)
Groundwater use
reduction
(acre-feet)
N loading reduction
(pounds)
Pesticide use
reduction
(pounds)
Inside
communities
17,069
43,724
12,218
1,321,102
161,046
% of Total
1.0 %
1.1%
0.8%
400-m buffer
19,465
52,097
14,267
1,480,804
182,522
% of Total
1.1 %
1.2%
0.9%
1600-m buffer
103,281
277,542
76,097
7,617,396
1,003,170
% of Total
5.9 %
6.2%
4.8%
Total in region
1,740,079
122,456,198
20,962,382
The Sacramento Valley does not have critically overdrafted basins according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 33 of 38
Table S6. Reduction per acre in total water and groundwater use, nitrogen leaching, and
pesticide use in the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley inside frontline communities,
in a 400-m buffer, and in a 1600-m buffer. Data in imperial units.
San Joaquin Valley
Retired area
(acres)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet/acre)
Groundwater use
reduction
(acre-feet/acre)
N loading reduction
(lb/acre)
Pesticide use
reduction
(lb/acre)
Inside
communities
53,891
2.7
1.3
80
21.4
400-m buffer
87,178
2.9
1.4
87
19.2
1600-m buffer
432,017
3.0
1.5
91
22.1
Sacramento Valley
Retired area
(acres)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet/acre)
Groundwater use
reduction
(acre-feet/acre)
N loading reduction
(lb/acre)
Pesticide use
reduction
(lb/acre)
Inside
communities
17,069
2.6
0.7
77
9.4
400-m buffer
19,465
2.7
0.7
76
9.4
1600-m buffer
103,281
2.7
0.7
74
9.7
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 34 of 38
Table S7. Agriculture water source for frontline rural communities and buffers surrounding them
at 400 m and 1600 m for 2016.
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Surface
Groundwater
Surface
Groundwater
Inside communities
43.1 %
56.9 %
63.7 %
36.3 %
400-m buffer
42.9 %
57.1 %
63.8 %
36.2 %
1600-m buffer
42.6 %
57.4 %
63.9 %
36.1 %
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 35 of 38
Table S8. Net water and groundwater use reduction per region and buffer, in acre-feet and in
cubic meters.
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Net water use
reduction (m³/year)
Net groundwater use
reduction (m³/year)
Net water use
reduction (m³/year)
Net groundwater use
reduction (m³/year)
Inside DACs
146,182
68,910
43,724
12,218
400 m
255,340
122,991
52,097
14,267
1600 m
1,303,150
634,061
277,542
76,097
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Net water use
reduction (m³/year)
Net groundwater use
reduction (m³/year)
Net water use
reduction (m³/year)
Net groundwater use
reduction (m³/year)
Inside DACs
180,313,227
84,999,708
53,933,166
15,071,188
400 m
314,956,794
151,706,918
64,261,101
17,598,599
1600 m
1,607,411,520
782,102,834
342,343,099
93,864,198
Note: current overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley is estimated in 2.3 km3 per year or 1.85 million of acre-feet per year
in average considering the previous 30 years based on a report by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 36 of 38
Table S9. Economic and employment impacts, and water use reduction per crop type and
retired area for inside the frontline communities, the 400-m buffer, and the 1600-m buffer in the
San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley. Data in imperial units.
Inside
comm.
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Retired
area
(acres)
Direct
employment
loss
(people)
Direct income loss
(US$)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet)
Retired
area
(acres)
Direct
employment
loss
(people)
Direct income
loss
(US$)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet)
Oilseed
farming
0
0
$0
0
923
2
$1,082,406
1,733
Grain
farming
7,248
3
$1,970,326
15,010
5,978
15
$7,007,682
12,029
Vegetable
and melon
farming
4,329
122
$28,739,193
7,965
1,063
27
$4,759,758
2,500
Fruit farming
9,834
357
$60,849,786
34,473
549
16
$2,019,616
1,711
Tree nut
farming
15,128
436
$61,715,002
58,192
5,085
171
$18,429,078
17,613
Greenhouse,
nursery, and
floriculture production
141
22
$5,065,501
284
3
1
$206,041
7
Cotton
farming
1,781
20
$3,254,031
4,846
0
0
$0
0
All other
crop farming
6,089
116
$7,179,274
25,413
2,211
34
$1,150,479
8,132
Idle
9,342
0
1,256
0
Total in
retired
53,891
1,076
$168,773,112
146,182
17,069
266
$34,655,061
43,724
Total in
region
4,572,984
105,941
$16,749,260,908
1,740,079
26,823
$3,677,837,758
% of Total
1.2%
1.0%
1.0%
1.1%
1.0%
0.9%
400 m
buffer
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Retired
area
(acres)
Direct
employment
loss
(people)
Direct income
loss
(US$)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet)
Retired
area
(acres)
Direct
employment
loss
(people)
Direct income
loss
(US$)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet)
Oilseed
farming
15
0
$4,172
65
854
2
$1,000,561
1,687
Grain farming
10,088
4
$2,742,181
19,445
5,072
13
$5,945,281
11,497
Vegetable
and melon
farming
4,912
139
$32,647,463
9,765
1,120
28
$5,011,286
2,614
Fruit farming
25,783
936
$159,537,597
90,304
2,258
68
$8,300,879
6,360
Tree nut
farming
26,209
755
$106,914,065
100,622
6,699
226
$24,280,016
22,613
Greenhouse,
nursery, and floriculture
production
327
51
$11,697,249
656
43
12
$2,689,884
94
Cotton
farming
3,475
38
$6,349,743
9,457
23
0
$31,394
55
All other crop
farming
6,055
115
$7,138,516
25,026
1,938
30
$1,008,348
7,178
Idle
10,314
0
1,460
0
Total in
retired
87,178
2,038
$327,030,986
255,340
19,465
378
$48,267,650
52,097
Total in
region
4,572,984
105,941
$16,749,260,908
1,740,079
26,823
$3,677,837,758
% of Total
1.9%
1.9%
2.0%
1.2%
1.4%
1.3%
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 37 of 38
1600 m
buffer
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Valley
Retired
area
(acres)
Direct
employment
loss
(people)
Direct income loss
(US$)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet)
Retired
area
(acres)
Direct
employment
loss
(people)
Direct income
loss
(US$)
Water use
reduction
(acre-feet)
Oilseed
farming
337
0
$91,726
1,426
3,947
10
$4,627,376
8,107
Grain farming
56,694
24
$15,410,250
112,084
29,601
74
$34,701,300
68,267
Vegetable
and melon
farming
25,933
732
$172,365,228
51,322
6,499
162
$29,087,783
15,212
Fruit farming
129,653
4,705
$802,245,920
455,017
12,307
368
$45,240,320
33,552
Tree nut
farming
131,091
3,777
$534,762,151
507,152
33,270
1,122
$120,578,149
112,630
Greenhouse,
nursery, and floriculture
production
1,129
176
$40,455,174
2,261
247
72
$15,494,600
539
Cotton
farming
15,579
172
$28,469,120
42,400
23
0
$31,394
55
All other crop
farming
31,533
601
$37,178,212
131,489
10,562
161
$5,496,467
39,180
Idle
40,068
0
6,825
0
Total in
retired
432,017
10,187
$1,630,977,781
1,303,150
103,281
1,969
$255,257,389
277,542
Total in
region
4,572,984
105,941
$16,749,260,908
1,740,079
26,823
$3,677,837,758
% of Total
1.9%
9.6%
9.7%
6.4%
7.3%
6.9%
Fernandez-Bou, et al. Water, environment, and socioeconomic justice in California: a multi benefit framework
Page 38 of 38
Figure S1. Oil wells within 1600 m of several disadvantaged communities in Kern County, CA.
From south to north, Maricopa, South Taft, Taft Heights, Ford City, and Valley Acres. Kern
County has the worst air quality of the United States by year-round particulate matter.
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