Aguacate: Water Resources and Systems Resilience among Avocado Growers in San Diego County, California

Monday, March 11, 2019 - 11:00am to 12:00pm
Event Location: 
Leighton Conference Room (room 101), Natural Resources Building

Mr. Riley Balikian (Illinois State Geological Survey)


San Diego County is considered an urban county, but has more farms than any other county in the United States, with over 5,700 operations. San Diego County is losing farmland at the extremely high rate of 8.4% every year, much of that land considered “prime.” This land is also among the most productive farmland in the United States in terms of crop production value, and is some of the last remaining land in agriculture in southern California. I take an interdisciplinary, systems approach to identify and describe the factors driving system change in the agricultural production sector in San Diego County, especially among avocado growers. Stakeholder interviews and a survey of avocado growers were supplemented by social and biophysical data to examine the issues at stake. Water-resource related issues—especially the cost of water—were identified as the most important issues facing avocado growers, but socioeconomic drivers and environmental drivers were identified as well, including land resources, drought conditions, tax laws, zoning ordinances, and commodity markets.

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About the speaker

Mr. Balikian is a hydrogeologist and geophysicist at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His field work for ISGS involves collecting and analyzing geophysical data for geologic mapping, analysis of aquifer and aggregate resources, and the detection and visualization of various other subsurface materials in Illinois.

In addition to geophysical data collection and analysis, Riley is currently pursuing a PhD in Geology with research focused on understanding and managing the interactions between the natural and built environment, emphasizing how people approach and prepare for geohazards using frameworks of resilience, transformation, and adaptability. He received M.S. degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Environmental Science and Urban and Regional Planning, where he studied the interdisciplinary approaches needed for effective water resources management in complex environments. His thesis focused on the drivers limiting water availability for avocado farmers in San Diego County, CA. He holds a B.S. in Geophysics from Wheaton College, Illinois.