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Fall 2008

Report Calls for Big Changes

By Ashley Indrieri, Executive Director, Family Water Alliance

A report released in September by the Pacific Institute, an Oakland based Research Company, calls for big changes in the agricultural industry. The reported called “More with Less”, focuses on growing more food with less water. 

The report concludes that 3.4 million acres of water could be conserved if farmers; shift what crops that plant; alter irrigation scheduling to more precisely irrigate corps; apply  best management practice; and adopt more sprinkler and drip irrigation methods. 

The report has made headlines across the state, but fails to address some of the major accomplishments of agriculture over the past few decades. The fact is that agriculture all ready grows more crops with less water. Since the 1960’s farmers have nearly doubled food and fiber production in the state, yet only increased water usage by less than 3 percent. Due to increasing populations and water shortages many family farms have adopted water efficiency practices so they do not lose the family farm. 

Marketplace and economics drive what crops are planted across our state, not government and regulations. Furthermore, farmers retain some of the most historic water rights in the nation and the report asserts that growing the food that feeds the nation is not a beneficial use. 

The report fails to account for many different variables that affect agriculture, while we all agree that water conservation is important, it alone will not protect the most productive California farms in the nation. We need to balance the needs of agriculture with those of the environment, not sacrifice our vital agriculture economy to be able to ship more water to Southern California. ■

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