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Evaluating Land and Water Resources for Freshwater Aquaculture Potential

January/February 1992

Fred S. Conte, Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis

When evaluating a site for freshwater aquaculture potential, the total land and water resources of the site will be among the determining factors. Additional criteria include what other farming or industrial activities are sharing the resources and how the landowner wants to partition the resources for various activities. Assessing the profitability of a proposed facility that is the sole monetary generator on a property is different from the assessment of an integrated operation where cash flow is generated from the production of several commodities.

Extension personnel working through the USDA-sponsored Western Regional Aquaculture Consortium are producing an extensive publication entitled Evaluation of a Freshwater Site for Aquaculture Potential. It will be available through California Cooperative Extension in early 1992. The following are some of the criteria examined by the publication and information potential growers should ask themselves before investing in an aquaculture project.

Resource Apportionment

  1. What is the present objective of the venture: recreational fishing or aesthetics, commercial fee fishing or a commercial production facility?
  2. Is the site to be exclusively an aquaculture venture? What other activities might occur on the property?
  3. Will aquaculture be integrated with other agriculture activities, and if so, what are they?

Water Supply

  1. What is the source of the water supply? Is the water supply from a reservoir, pumped well, artesian well, or a running stream?
  2. How many water sources are on the property? What is the capacity, volume, or flow rate of each? Does it vary seasonally?
  3. What is the temperature of the water source and the annual variation and range?
  4. Is it possible to secure the necessary water permits for the needed volume of water, or is a permit necessary? Is a water discharge permit needed? Will the discharged water impact a natural body of water such as a stream, river, or wetland? Will the discharge impact other private, state, or federal properties?
  5. Has a chemical water test been conducted on the water source to assess its compatibility with fish culture?
  6. What pumped wells are on the property? What are their volumes, depth, and location? What are their draw-down rates?
  7. What is the distance between the water source and the proposed facility site? What is the elevation and fall between the water source and the prospective production site?
  8. What other use demands have to be considered for the water source? Is the aquaculture operation to receive first-use water? Can the discharge water be used for other agriculture activities and if so, what?

Land and Related Considerations

  1. Where is the land located? How much land is available for the fish farming operation?
  2. What are the elevation of the land and the associated climatic conditions such as annual temperature fluctuation and snowfall? Is the prospective site subject to flooding?
  3. How close is the property to public roads, and what is the carrying capacity of the public roads and the roads on the property seasonally?
  4. Does the property allow for on-site, live-in management and allow observation of the facility from the living area?
  5. Is electricity available at the production site? What are the electrical rates in that area; can agricultural rates be obtained?
  6. What support structures are available at the site (houses, barns, storage facilities, etc.)? Can they be shared with other agricultural pursuits?
  7. Are ponds, raceways, or tanks being considered? If ponds are planned, what is the soil profile of the site? Get a soil analysis of the site based on a representative core sample taken at the site.
  8. Are other activities being conducted on or adjacent to the property that use agricultural chemicals? If so, what chemicals are used, and how are those chemicals applied?
  9. Have agricultural crops or other activities been conducted at the site that may have resulted in toxic chemical accumulation in the soil? If so, what chemicals are potentially present?