California Farmers Are Leaders in Water Efficiency

March 1, 2018

A recent editorial by the Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards suggested that Central Valley farmers employ wasteful irrigation practices and should be subject to the same water rules that the State Water Resources Control Board is currently contemplating for urban users. This shockingly uniformed viewpoint made it clear that we needed to provide a refresher on some points we’ve made over the course of the most recent drought.

First, California farmers employ some of the most precise irrigation technologies and methods in the world. These state-of-the-art design, delivery and management practices increase production efficiency and conserve water. For example:

  • Farms use satellite weather information and forecasting systems to schedule irrigation.
  • Growers employ evapotranspiration and soil moisture data to maximize efficiency.
  • Water suppliers throughout the state have upgraded and automated their systems to enable accurate, flexible and reliable deliveries.
  • Millions of acres have been converted to precision irrigation systems such as sprinkler, drip and micro-spray irrigation and more acres are converted each year.
  • Mobile labs are used to conduct in-field evaluations of irrigation systems.
  • Farms and water suppliers are increasingly utilizing geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) to improve overall farm water management.

The editorial boards suggest that California’s agricultural abundance and role in providing more than 400 different commodities and 99 percent or more of the U.S.’s supply of almonds, artichokes, dates, dried plums, figs, garlic, kiwifruit, olives and olive oil, pistachios, raisins, table grapes, and walnuts is an “irresponsible choice.” Maybe a more responsible choice would be to encourage consumers to save water and stop eating!

The simple fact is that it takes water to grow food. There is always room for improvement, and California’s farmers continue to invest in more efficient irrigation practices. Drip and micro-irrigation systems are more prevalent than ever, especially in the almond industry, where 70 percent of almond growers use micro irrigation systems and more than 80 percent use demand based irrigation scheduling.

California farmers provide a safe and reliable food supply for our residents and millions more around the world, not to mention the thousands of workers the industry employs. Pointing fingers at hardworking farm families and farm workers does nothing to further the debate or work toward solutions.

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