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The importance of California’s agricultural water supplies

For farming is irreducibly the process of mixing dirt, water and sunshine to bring forth from the ground what we need to eat. And no matter who you are, it’s true:  somebody, somewhere, must devote a lot of water to the process of feeding you. Some have been sidestepping this fact in the ongoing policy evolutions over the way we must capture, store and move water in California. Yet even the most ardent urban environmentalist finds herself at the local grocery store or the farmers’ market – filling her basket with California-grown nuts, fruits and vegetables. Some of these crops can only be grown here, or in one of the few similar agricultural climates around the world, in an irrigation-based agricultural economy.

Beyond that, the case for California agriculture is made by our farming practices and their regulatory backdrop, whatever natural reticence California farmers may have about being regulated. We do it more efficiently here, and with more oversight, than in most alternative agricultural venues around the world. I would compare a California avocado favorably to an avocado anywhere else in the world, on those terms.

Without question, we must continue on our trajectory of making California farming more water-efficient. If you have been watching California agriculture for a generation, you already know that much of the landscape has transitioned from old-fashioned flood and sprinkler irrigation to more efficient drip and micro-sprinkler techniques – even in the case of row crops. We must continue this path; new technologies related to irrigation continue to be developed, including better monitoring of applied water and crop water use.

Further, we must also carry forward processes to develop new water supplies for California’s farms and growing cities, whether those are storage facilities above ground or below ground, or stormwater capture and aquifer recharge, or desalination or recycling. In the face of a changing hydrology and the expected loss of snowpack, we simply cannot accommodate serious discussion on the demand side of water questions without working on the supply side. Otherwise, we are chasing a receding goalpost – and we will not get there.

Read the complete article at www.calmatters.org.


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