Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future

This report by the Pacific Institute addresses water efficiency in the California agriculture sector, and presents a positive future for California agriculture and water – with a vision of a sustainable, healthy agricultural community as of 2050. The report describes some of the tools that can help maintain a healthy agricultural sector, reviews recent trends in the California agriculture, and addresses challenges such as climate change that will impose new difficulties for growers. The Executive Summary and the water conservation and efficiency assessment chapters offer adaptation policy recommendations. Throughout, farmers and irrigation districts are profiled who are already moving in innovative directions and whose experiences will help overcome barriers to a healthy agricultural sector in the future.

The analysis in this report 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. The water conservation and efficiency potential of three water management scenarios are quantified including: 

Efficient Irrigation Technology: shifting a fraction of the crops irrigated using flood irrigation to sprinkler and drip systems;

Improved Irrigation Scheduling: using local climate and soil information to help farmers more precisely irrigate to meet crop water needs; and

Regulated Deficit Irrigation: applying less water to crops during drought-tolerant growth stages to save water and improve crop quality or yield.


Publication Date: July 2009

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Heather Cooley
  • Juliet Christian-Smith
  • Peter H. Gleick

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment

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