California native hopes to improve sustainability and efficiency of irrigated farming

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Courtesy of National Ground Water Association (NGWA)

NGWA continues its monthly spotlight look at the 2016 Len Assante Scholarship winners from the NGWA Foundation. This month we get to know winner Julia Reese of Deary, Idaho, who received a $1000 scholarship.

You’re pursuing a degree in civil engineering with an emphasis in water resources and a minor in agricultural systems management at the University of Idaho. Where does your career passion come from?

Reese: I was born and raised in the Central Valley of California, one of the most productive irrigated valleys in the world. I have always been inspired by the resiliency and commitment of the individuals who ensure we are provided with a safe and reliable supply of food. Through my family’s work in the agricultural industry and my own experiences, I have become aware that the biggest obstacle many farmers and ranchers encounter is water availability and quality.

Particularly in the West, the threat of draining aquifers, drying rivers, and depleted water tables are beginning to cause a panic among farmers and urban residents alike. This clear pressing issue inspired me to pursue my chosen career path as a civil engineer with a focus on agricultural water issues.

What do you think the future looks like for the agricultural systems management industry?
Reese: Due to an increasing population, decreasing farmland, and depleted resources, agriculture faces constant pressure to increase productivity and efficiency. It is one of the most exciting yet challenging aspects of farming.

I believe the future of agriculture lies in the development of new technologies and strategies that will minimize necessary inputs, increase automation, advance plant breeding, and utilize water more efficiently. As the average age of the farmer increases and less of the population is involved in food production, there is tremendous opportunity and need for people to get involved in all aspects of agriculture.

What have you most enjoyed learning about thus far in college?
Reese: As I have progressed through school, I have found that each class adds to my overall knowledge. I have particularly enjoyed my applied math classes, especially mathematical modeling of systems and processes.

You’re currently the captain of the University of Idaho cycling team and were a four-time California state cycling champion. What do you enjoy most about cycling?
Reese: Cycling has been a very positive outlet for me. It has taught me about the value of hard work and perseverance. It is also a great way to see the country and meet new people. Biking provides balance in my life by building my physical fitness and helping me maintain perspective.

Where do you want to be in five years?
Reese: After graduation, I plan to work for an engineering firm for a few years. Eventually I want to obtain a professional engineering license and work as a consulting engineer in the Pacific Northwest, developing new ways to conserve water and incorporate more efficient water delivery and use systems.

Who do you look up to in life and why?
Reese: I have always looked up to my sisters. They are kind, hard-working, independent people. They have challenging, successful careers yet still have fun and make time for friends and family.

What is your ultimate goal?
Reese: In the future, I hope to work in a rural setting in a role that will help improve the sustainability and efficiency of irrigated farming. I want to help establish proper utilization of water, fine-tuned irrigation strategies, and advanced water infrastructure.

Lastly, what do you think is the most important water issue?
Reese: I think water shortage is the most important water issue and needs constant consideration. Conservation is important, and careful distribution will be critical to the success of our civilization.

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