California farmers are good water conservationists, study finds

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For California businesses and communities, water is a precious resource. Policy makers are constantly seeking sources of “new water” through conservation and increased water usage efficiency in all sectors of industry. According to a new study, California’s agricultural water usage is about as efficient as it can be, laying to rest claims by some that farmers in the golden state are wasteful with their water supplies.

The report entitled “Agricultural Water Use in California: A 2011 Update” was released by the Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT) at California State University, Fresno. The key finding by researchers: tighter usage regulations on agriculture will not amount to large volumes of new water. This is because farmers are already operating at near peak efficiency. In fact, the only way agriculture could offer more water for environmental reallocation would be to take large tracts of agricultural land out of production.

The findings come after a yearlong review of published research and technical data aimed at assessing the potential for agricultural water-use efficiency to provide new water supplies. The goal of researchers was to update the 1982 University of California Cooperative Extension report “Agricultural Water Conservation in California with Emphasis on the San Joaquin Valley” by David C. Davenport and Robert M. Hagan.

It was concluded that the 1982 report:

“correctly framed the potential for agricultural water-use efficiency, and many of its findings are still relevant 30 years later.”

“The study is an important addition to the ongoing discussions about California water and specifically what decisions must be made to assure adequate supplies for the future,” said Director of CIT Dr. David Zoldoske. “The information presented in this paper should provide a valuable tool in moving the discussions forward.”

The complete report and its findings can be found here