Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future

Published: July 22, 2009
Authors: Heather Cooley, Peter Gleick, Juliet Christian-Smith
Pages: 81

The report Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future shows that California agriculture can flourish despite diminishing water supply and future uncertainty from climate change, but it will require great strides in increasing the water efficiency of the agricultural sector.

Many farmers and irrigation districts have already been making water-use efficiency improvements. Yet the analysis estimates that potential water savings of 4.5 – 6 million acre-feet each year can be achieved by expanding the use of efficient irrigation technologies and management practices.

Download the Executive Summary

Download the full report

View the Agricultural Community Profiles

View the Press Release

California Success Stories:
Sierra Orchards

Federal Conservation Programs Help Farmers Become More Efficient

Watch this video to learn more about Sierra Orchards in Winters, California–one of the early adopters of water conservation and efficiency practices featured in this report. This is the first in a series of California success stories in agricultural water use to be released March 2010.

Read the transcription of the extended interview with Craig McNamara (PDF).


Comparison of Water Quantities

For an average water year, the water conservation and efficiency practices identified in this Pacific Institute report have the potential to save 5.6 million acre-feet of water, equivalent to:

  • more than 16 times the amount of water that can be stored in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir;
  • triple the water that can be stored in the far larger San Luis Reservoir;
  • 4.5 times the water than could be stored in the proposed Temperance Flats Reservoir;
  • 19 times the water restored to the environment in the recent Delta smelt ruling;
  • more than double the 2.3 million acre-feet in urban efficiency improvements identified in the Pacific Institute’s earlier evaluation of the potential for residential, commercial, and industrial efficiency improvements (Waste Not, Want Not).

This savings represents around 17% of all of the water used by agriculture in California.