Farm Water & Environment

California farms provide important environmental benefits, such as habitat for wildlife and migratory waterfow, as well as, an important food source for many species as harvesting typically leaves some product behind in the field.

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2014 Drought Impacts

As a $44 billion a year industry, agricultural plays a vital role in California communities.

Supply cutbacks, lost jobs, groundwater extractions, and diminished ag production hurt more than just farmers and the state’s economy.

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Farm Water & Food Costs

The average American household is spending $3,820 less for food each year in comparison to their counterparts around the world.

Learn more about the benefits of farm water and irrigation for your family.

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Farm Water Efficiency & Conservation

 

From 2003 through 2010 San Joaquin Valley farmers invested almost $2.2 billion installing upgraded irrigation systems on more than 1.8 million acres.

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2014 Farm Water Drought Impacts

0 Lost Jobs = $2.2 Billion in Lost Economic Activity
0% Increased Prices to Consumers
$0Billion Direct Farm Losses
0 Acres of Farmland Fallowed

Farmers Have Spent $3 Billion in Irrigation System Upgrades

From 2003 through 2013 California farmers invested almost $3 billion upgrading irrigation systems to drip and micro-sprinklers on nearly 2.4 million acres to help keep our economy and fresh food flowing. How can we help?

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Myths About California Farm Water Use

  • Myth: Agriculture uses 80% of California’s water supplies.

    Fact:  This statement is generally made in an attempt to explain the allocation of available water in California.  It ignores the amount of water dedicated to the environment, which includes action taken by laws, regulations and court decisions. When used to irrigate farms, CVPIA water as is understood as an agricultural use. When it’s use is transferred to an environmental purpose it must also be counted.

  • Myth: Farmers receive subsidized water.

    Fact:  When the federal Central Valley Project was authorized the U.S. Congress made the decision to exempt farm water users from paying the interest charges on the construction costs of the project. All other costs, including construction, maintenance and operation are paid by the water users. Since 1941 new tax revenue from farm operations made possible by the federal Central Valley Project totals an amazing $124.4 billion on an initial investment of just $7.3 billion.

  • Myth: Alfalfa uses too much water.

    Fact:  Alfalfa is grown in almost every county in California, from the hot regions of the Southern desert to the chilly mountains in Northern California.  Depending on the climate, a field of alfalfa will be harvested from four to 10 times a year.  Alfalfa is the primary protein crop for California’s dairy industry. Without California-grown alfalfa, dairy farmers would be required to import its feed supplies from other states, dramatically increasing the carbon footprint and pollution generated by trucking operations.

  • Myth: Rice is a ‘monsoon’ crop and uses too much water.

    Fact: California rice is grown almost exclusively in the Sacramento Valley where soil conditions create a “bathtub” effect that slows the percolation of the water into the ground. Rice uses only about 3.4 acre-feet per year, which is similar to many other crops grown in the same region.

  • Myth: Cotton is a water-waster.

    Fact:  Water applied to California cotton fields has decreased in recent years as a result of reduced planted acreage caused by a fluctuating world market price. Sprinklers are typically used to irrigate the cotton seed as it sprouts into a young plant. The average water application for cotton is 2.75-3.5 acre-feet per acre.

  • Myth: Flood irrigation wastes water.

    Fact:  Flood irrigation is a beneficial tool in recharging groundwater in a practice known as conjunctive use, or using both surface and groundwater at appropriate times.  Farmers who apply water through flood irrigation are providing the water resource needed by plants and also helping to recharge groundwater aquifers that we rely on during times of drought .

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Why Environmental Water Needs to Be Counted

“It is a persistent myth that 80% of California’s water is used on the farm. This simply isn’t true. California’s Department of Water Resources reports that about 41% of the state’s dedicated water supply is used by farmers, approximately 10% is used in urban areas for domestic purposes and commercial businesses, while 49% goes to the environment…In order to accurately account for statewide water use it is important to also keep track of water that has an environmental priority.”

~ Department of Water Resources

“Many State and federal laws and regulations govern California water use. Some of them mandate that a certain amount of water be used for specific environmental purposes including wild and scenic stream flows, required Bay-Delta outflow, managed wetlands and wildlife refuges. In recent years water that once irrigated farmland or ran from taps in homes is now serving environmental purposes. That water was counted as human use before is being reallocated to the environment.”

~ Department of Water Resources

“In order to accurately account for statewide water use it is important to also keep track of water that has an environmental priority.”

~ Department of Water Resources

 

CA Water Allocation

Fact:  The California Water Plan, developed by the California Department of Water Resources, reports the use of available water supplies as:

Urban Use 10%
Farms & Agriculture Use 41%
Environmental Use 49%