Healthy Water

We focus on projects that protect water quality and quantity both in the urban and rural/agricultural landscapes by influencing water management and water conservation practices. In addition to addressing water quality and conservation through land management, we also work with innovative technology companies, industry and research centers, with a special interest in the water-energy nexus.

Our work:

Sustainable Water Infrastructure

Source of water supplies in the Chicagoland region. Source: CMAP.

We are currently working to guide the optimization of water resources to develop a strategy for more efficient water allocation in northern Illinois, where some communities face dwindling groundwater supplies. More efficient use of Illinois’ Lake Michigan water allocation and improvements to governance and infrastructure could expand access to safe drinking water, address social inequities, and generate billions of dollars in revenue, while conserving water, and reducing pressure on ecosystems.

Greenleaf co-hosted a roundtable of water experts to guide the establishment of a new economic research initiative by Resources for the Future, a Washington, DC based independent institution. The deliberations on urban infrastructure needs focused on the availability of safe, affordable water, and the mitigation of flood risks through improved stormwater management. Issues of governance, fragmentation, equity, and affordability were explored. Greenleaf brings water leadership and partners to this initiative and works with those partners to frame program priorities for RFF’s investigation.

Healthy Soils for Healthy Waters and Healthy Foods

Soil and water research and policy leaders, headed by The Ohio State University with support from Greenleaf Advisors, LLC, and the University of Arkansas launched a workshop and symposium series dedicated to the development of multidisciplinary and whole system management practices for the agricultural lands that impact our nation’s waters. A collaborative multi-year effort, the series has been organized around the development of data-driven, case studies highlighting conservation practices to reduce nutrient exports to water resources, improve soil quality, and increase yields. In 2020, we organized a sensor technology workshop with the Illinois State Water Survey and Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to benefit agricultural soil health for water use efficiency, carbon sequestration and plant nutrient availability. We are continuing work to advance carbon sequestration on farms through regenerative agricultural practices and carbon markets. Read more on our healthy soils work.

Protecting the Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River Basin provides water to 40 million people, provides habitat for wildlife, and a source of clean energy. The Basin is facing a major crisis and water demand has exceeded supply for many years. This will threaten both cities as well as millions of acres of farmland. We are working to protect water supplies in the Colorado River Basin by assessing markets that could serve agriculture, cities and conservation. We are working with Brian Richter of Sustainable Waters on the Colorado River Restoration Fund that will allow corporations to benefit the Colorado River by paying farmers to conserve water on their farms and leave unused water in the river.

Other Water Projects

  • Conservation of Ontario’s Lake Superior coast by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect unique land and water resources and the life they support.
  • Agricultural demonstration projects in multiple Midwestern states illustrate how best practices including gypsum application can reduce nutrient runoff into area waterways by an average of 50%. Nutrient runoff from agricultural fields impacts the integrity of aquatic ecosystems, and the quality of water resources across the country. Excess phosphorus contributes to annual algal blooms in Great Lakes systems, killing wildlife, polluting drinking water with toxins, and disrupting economic growth. Gypsum is shown to reduce phosphorus loading from fields. Greenleaf, alongside our research and industry partners, helped inform NRCS Conservation Practice Standard Code 333 on the use of gypsum as a soil amendment.
  • Advancement of Argonne National Laboratory’s soil and water project in Illinois demonstrating how growing perennial native grasses in unproductive sections of farmland can turn profits by yielding crops for bioenergy while reducing pollutants to our waterways and atmosphere.
  • Informed health care industry leaders at CleanMed on climate change and solutions for water security with Jacobs Engineering.

Reaping intelligence from innovative soil sensor technology benefits carbon, water, and nutrient management for sustainable agriculture.

As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.”  Innovation in soil sensor technology affords opportunities for water efficiency, carbon sequestration, and nutrient cycling in agricultural soils, with rewards to those who contribute.  It is time to sharpen and integrate soil sensing and modeling tools and remove barriers to use for decision-making by agriculture practitioners […]

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