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  California Water Science Center

How Big Could This Be?

If California converted an area the size of the subsided lands in the Delta into carbon farms, the benefits every year could be about the equivalent of:

  • Changing from standard lightbulbs to compact fluorescents in all California households
  • Turning all SUVs in California into small hybrids
  • Turning off all residential air conditioners in California

What is the Carbon Capture Farming Program?

How carbon-capture farming works. Cutaway ilustration of peat soils building after 1 year, 5 years and 25 years.

A three-year, $12.3 million research project to take the concept of carbon-capture farming to full-scale in a scientifically and environmentally sound way.

Where is the project site located?

A 14-acre pilot project, begun in the mid-1990s, is on Twitchell Island in the western Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, about 40 miles south of Sacramento. Researchers are exploring several potential sites for the large-scale demonstration project, but a final decision has not been made.

Who is involved?

The research is being led by the U.S. Geological Survey's California Water Science Center, with funding and assistance from the California Department of Water Resources. Other research partners include the University of California, Davis, UC Berkeley and the University of New Hampshire.

How does Carbon Capture Farming work?

Carbon-capture farming works as CO2 is taken out of the air by plants such as tules and cattails. As the plants die and decompose, they create new peat soil, building the land surface over time.

Why do the study?

The Carbon Capture Program shows promise as a way to rebuild Delta islands that have "subsided," or sunk, below the level of surrounding waterways by building new peat soils. This would help to shore up delta levees which protect water delivered to 23 million Californians. In addition, by taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, "carbon-capture" farming could combat climate change by sequestering a major greenhouse gas.


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