California Farm Water Facts & Myths

Fact: California produces the healthy and safe fruits, nuts, vegetables, and other farm products that consumers rely on.

  • Two-thirds of the U.S.-produced fruits and nuts and one-third of the U.S.- produced vegetables are grown in California.
  • Almost one out of every five gallons of milk produced in the U.S. comes from California as well as 80 percent of the processing tomatoes.
  • California produces over 400 commodities in total.(CDFA)

Fact: California's Farmers are Efficient.

  • Since 1980, California farms have generated 38% more production (value) using 14% less water (PPIC)
  • From 1984 to 2018, drip, trickle, or low flow irrigation quadrupled from under a million acres to over 4 million, now accounting for almost half of the state’s total irrigated acreage. (USDA NASS Census of Agriculture)
  • In 2017, California farmers invested more than twice the national average per acre improving both water and energy conservation on their farms. (USDA NASS Census of Agriculture)


Farm exports hurt California through “virtual” water exports, or the water used to grow the crop, which is sold overseas.


California is a net importer of “virtual” water.

Agricultural products are part of the global economy

While California is a major producer, it is also a major consumer of products coming from other countries that aren’t produced here.

In total, California imports about twice as much “virtual” water from imports than what leaves the state in all of our exports.

UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences


California farms use 80% of California's water supply.


Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban, though the percent used varies between wet and dry years.

Public Policy Institute of California - 2019 Fact Sheet
State of California, DWR Bulletin 160


“Fifty percent of the water in California goes to protect the environment. Forty percent goes to agriculture and about 10 percent goes to urban and commercial uses.”

  • Governor Jerry Brown, 2015 (Data source: DWR)

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