Gabriela Morales

Gabriela Morales
M.S, Geography, Graduate

Cohort Level: Cohort - III

Career Goal: After I graduate from my current degree program, I would like to work for a government organization at any level -- federal, state, or local government. I want to get experience in my field by working for a few years, then consider applying for PhD programs.

Expected Graduation Date: August 21, 2021

Degree: M.S Geography

Research Title: Agricultural Responses to a Changing Water Supply in Imperial Valley, California

Research Synopsis: The Imperial Valley in southern California is a highly productive agricultural region that serves as a large source of winter crops on both national and international levels. Situated south of the Salton Sea near the US-Mexico border, the region receives little annual rainfall; high crop productivity is enabled by irrigation with water from the Colorado River. In addition, the Imperial Valley is both the basis for the economy of Imperial County as well as a source of job security and farmer livelihood. The enactment of the Quantification Settlement Agreement of 2003 (QSA) reduced the volume of water being transported to the Imperial Valley from the Colorado River, which may have impacted crop production and livelihoods that depend on the limited water supply. The QSA and its conservation programs, however, were never fully evaluated on either a Valley-wide or local stakeholder level. Thus, I look to explore the impact of the QSA programs on the small and larger-scale agriculture dynamics of the Valley using hydrologic analysis, remote sensing, and qualitative interviews.

Research Questions 1. How did agricultural land cover change (in fallowing, crop mix, and cropping patterns) in the Imperial Valley over the years of the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA)? a. What areas of dramatic change, or "hotspots" within the Imperial Valley can be identified using remote sensing methodology? b. Do the “hotspots” seen with remote sensing align with key informant narratives of change in the Imperial Valley? c. According to key informants, what drove the changes in agricultural land cover? 2. How did the QSA fallowing and water conservation programs influence farmer water use in the Valley? a. What drove changes in water use among farmers, according to local experts?

3. How did the QSA impact Valley-wide agricultural production, water balance, and water productivity? a. What other drivers of agricultural dynamics in the Imperial Valley contributed to changes in agricultural land cover and water use? b. Which stakeholders were impacted the most by the QSA?