Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Less Rain, More Water

That's right. The drought continues but we are told that we need more water. It is time to question that assumption. The largest use of water is for growing food in the arid Central Valley. That is exactly where we need to look for improvements in water management, from planning to usage.

That this can be done was the theme of a 2008 special report from the Pacific Institute. More with Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California – A Special Focus on the Delta.
Like all good things, it is frequently mis-represented and criticized for a variety of reasons. A discussion of those reasons follows if you click Read more!.

The staff at the Pacific Institute addresses the four most frequently cited criticisms here. They miss the biggest one... the dysfunction that controls the State Government in Sacramento. In particular, continuing the water wars is viewed by the Republicans in the state legislature as a way to keep their constituents, dependent on agriculture, happy. Expenditures that are necessary to make anything work are not going to be made, or the money will be spent on the wrong this. As long as there is no budget, we have little hope on there being any action to solve these problems.

I fully agree with Pete Gleick and Pacific Institute on the need to move quickly.
So, let’s quickly adopt the cost-effective options that can help us grow more food with less water. Let’s reduce the barriers to improving efficiency by offering financial incentives for new technology, and by expanding extension services that offer better information on climate and weather factors, soil moisture conditions, crop water demands. Let’s improve markets so that the trend away from water-intensive field crops continues.

The alternative is to let California’s unofficial water policy continue to be hoping next year is wet, and to respond after crises develop rather than before. We don’t believe this is the best thing to do, and we don’t think the agricultural community does either based on the many farmers and irrigation districts that are already trying to do more with less. In the end, not only can we do more with less, but we must.

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