Community Gardens Project

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Our latest research initiative, the Community Gardens Project, looks to increase awareness of watering needs in urban gardens and promote water conservation through community science. Through this project, we are expanding Operation Smart Water to incorporate urban gardeners in the Inland Empire. While Operation Smart Water is gauging the most efficient watering regimes for trees, the Community Gardens Project is helping gardeners determine the watering needs for their fruits and vegetables.

What is Community Science?

Keeping with Earthwatch’s research style, this is a community science project. We believe that engaging with community members fosters relevant and implementable research. Not only does community science make for exciting research, it promotes a positive attitude toward our shared environment. While most community science projects use a top-down approach where the question and methods come from the researcher, this project will do the opposite. Our bottom-up approach will allow urban gardeners to develop their own research question as our science team assists with the methods and protocols necessary to answer the determined question. Our project partners for this exciting research are the Chino Basin Water Conservation District (CBWCD) and Huerta del Valle.

Project Location

The location for this innovative project is Huerta del Valle, an urban garden located in the heart of Ontario, California. If you continue past the warehouses and train tracks of Ontario, you will find nestled between homes this beautiful green escape. Huerta del Valle offers produce for sale though their urban farm production, youth activities, composting, and community garden plots. There are 60 plots where members can grow their own food, make new friends, and enjoy some time outside.

Progress to Date

In February 2019, project leads Marisela Lopez and Monica Curiel held a meet and greet event with Huerta community garden members. After a discussion on common gardening problems and the need for better management of water resources. The community came to the conclusion that focusing on efficient irrigation practices that conserve water and improve plant health would be the best path forward. The question the community came up with was How can we decrease our overall water consumption in this shared gardening space while increasing plant health and harvest?” Through the use of technology and creativity our researchers will guide participants on measuring the water needed through measuring soil moisture, looking at plant response, and providing efficient irrigation. Knowing what is happening underground is not always intuitive, so we are offering soil moisture sensors with WiFi capability to record real time data, workshops on specific plant watering needs, and new irrigation system installations to improve efficiency and ensure water is not being wasted.

Interested in Volunteering?

If this research sounds exciting to you, we are always looking for volunteers and participants. Please contact Mark Chandler at


  • Promote water conservation through best irrigation practices
  • Support and engage with Huerta del Valle in the “raised bed” section of the urban garden to promote community science
  • Identify how to best promote behavior change for urban gardeners regarding water conservation
  • Urban gardeners gain skills and confidence to assess and allocate water efficiently to maintain productive gardens and teach fellow gardeners the skills they acquire
  • Developing a replicable plan that can be used in other urban gardens

Tools for Smart

  • Sensors
  • Drip Irrigation
  • Ollas
  • Workshops on plant watering requirements
  • Tools to keep track of watering (notebooks)
Search Earthwatch Urban Resiliency Program