2021 Annual Report


Despite the many curveballs of 2021, we shared a year of hard-won progress toward thriving California communities, farms, and wildlife. Because of you, we have much to celebrate. Thank you for taking action with us for the enduring benefit of nature and people. 

The only way we can enable a bountiful water future for all Californians is by working for change with and alongside one another. We hope you feel proud of what you helped us accomplish.

Check In & Connect

Thanks to you, we continued our popular webinars with two series, Feeding the Future and Water in a Warming World. We’re so grateful to come together to offer resilience strategies for our food and water, and to continue platforming innovative, holistic, and considered collaborations to solve our most pressing environmental problems.

We also launched our California Conservationists. Your generous, increased support helped us meet our Emmett Family Foundation and Morgan Family Foundation matching gift challenges, and deliver exclusive membership benefits all year. 

Photo: The Nader Family, 2021 Leopold Conservation Award recipients, Paolo Vescia for Sustainable Conservation

We honored more dedicated California land stewards this year with the Leopold Conservation Award, and celebrated three amazing finalists in their efforts to leave the land better than they found it for future generations. 

And, thanks to you, we were able to share your stories! You shared your environmental journeys with our community and illuminated why Sustainable Conservation’s values align with your own. Your support inspires us every day, and your stories are a beautiful reminder of our individual and collective power to be environmental champions. 

Replenishing Aquifers

Thanks to you, we celebrated a decade of our groundwater recharge work. Groundwater is vital to the health of our communities, farms, and wildlife habitat, and is critical to our drought resilience. And, thanks to your generous support, we also developed two critical resources to secure our water future.

We gave farmers and water agencies field-tested information about when they can flood fields to replenish aquifers without risking crop yields, and we developed key scientific-based guidance for how growers can recharge groundwater and protect drinking water quality for the 600,000+ people who rely on contaminated groundwater in their domestic wells.

Your support helps us make the case that water quality and quantity are inextricably linked – and that we can address both to boost our collective resilience.  

Accelerating Restoration

Photo: K. King/USWFS

Thanks to you, Sustainable Conservation is leading the way toward fish and wildlife recovery, and healthy rivers and streams.

In 2021, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 716 (McGuire) to extend the Habitat and Restoration Enhancement Act (HREA) until 2027! Because of your steadfast support, restorationists who want to revitalize streams, remove barriers to fish passage, restore wetlands, and replenish natural water supplies can partner with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to get their projects approved more quickly and efficiently – without sacrificing any environmental protections. More of the project funding can go toward construction and implementation, and agency staffers can save administrative time so they can provide more technical assistance to applicants.

Additionally, we were honored to receive CalTrout’s Streamkeeper Award. We are humbled to be considered a key part of California’s habitat restoration successes, and legacy. We can’t do this work without you, so we hope you share in this honor. Big thanks to CalTrout for their steady partnership over the years.

A restored California is a resilient California. Thank you for making this work happen.

Advancing Soil Health

Thanks to you, we dug deep into soil health. Your support helps us evaluate and explore new initiatives.

Healthy soils are critical for drought-resilient agriculture and to combat climate change. Farming practices like cover cropping, compost application, and low-impact tillage can enhance soil’s ability to capture and store water, retain nutrients, and maintain or even increase organic matter. This organic matter supports an active and biologically diverse microbial environment, and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Thanks in part to Sustainable Conservation’s advocacy, the Central Coast Water Board’s new agricultural order includes an incentive for growers to use cover crops to mitigate nitrogen leaching from irrigated farmland.

We spent 2021 interviewing farmers and researchers to understand the barriers to soil health adoption in our state. We surveyed California-published soil science literature and interviewed over 60 Central Valley and Central Coast growers and stakeholders, and we are developing a strategy to help accelerate soil health practice adoption on our farmland.

Healthy soils have a lot of potential benefits, and we support solutions that may help reduce water use, improve water quality, and fit California’s cropping systems and climate.

Protecting Water and Air Quality

Thanks to you, we scaled innovation and environmental wins through our work to protect water quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on California dairies.

Together, we are driving dairy practices that better utilize manure, including methods that reduce negative impacts while improving aquifer, soil, and climate health. Our award-winning, first-of-its-kind irrigation system helps dairy producers use the manure their cows produce to hydrate their feed crops in ways that care for groundwater and help the industry move the needle on environmental gains.

The system allows the same, or more, corn to be grown with approximately 36% less water, 45% less nitrogen, and 70% fewer irrigation-related greenhouse gas emissions as compared to traditional flood irrigation.

Lowering water demand means less stress on our severely depleted aquifers and more water available for wildlife habitat, including in-stream flows for fish.

THANK YOU to our donors, project partners, Board, Advisory Board, and San Joaquin Valley Regional Committee. We would not be able to do this work without you.

You can view our 2021 audited financials here.