June 22, 2020, Oakland, California – A new report from the Pacific Institute shows that water use in California has only increased by 20 percent since 1967, despite the state’s population doubling and the economy increasing by a factor of five. Improvements in urban and agricultural efficiency, as well as a shift to higher value crops and less water-intensive commercial and industrial activities, have led to this dramatic “decoupling” of water use and growth.
“There is a widespread perception that population and economic growth inevitably increase water use, but this is not always the case,” says report author Heather Cooley, Director of Research at the Pacific Institute. “Our research shows that water conservation and efficiency efforts have made a huge difference in California’s water use.”
Urban and Agricultural Water Use in California, 1960–2015 shows that agricultural water use in California has remained flat since the 1980s, while the economic value of crop production has grown by more than 60 percent due, in part, to a shift toward higher-value crops and increased adoption of more efficient irrigation technologies and practices. Meanwhile, urban water use in California has declined rapidly since the mid-2000s, largely due to reductions in outdoor water use.
While this is good news for California, the state can and must do more. Across the state, rivers, streams, and groundwater aquifers are overtapped, and climate change and growth are putting additional pressure on the state’s water resources.
Additional water can be saved through improving and expanding efforts to improve water-use efficiency in homes, businesses, industries, and farms. The state can support these efforts and improve water management more broadly by improving data collection and online systems to make data more easily and quickly available.
Learn more and download the report here.