Potential Water Savings Associated with Agricultural Water Efficiency Improvements: A Case Study of California
Published: July 26, 2011
Authors: Juliet Christian-Smith, Heather Cooley, Peter Gleick
The Pacific Institute analyzes the potential for water savings from irrigation efficiency improvements in California, USA in a newly published peer-reviewed article in the journal Water Policy. The new article, Potential water savings associated with agricultural water efficiency improvements: a case study of California, USA models water savings associated with three efficiency scenarios in wet, average and dry water years.
The full article is available at the Water Policy website.
This study analyzes the potential for water savings from irrigation efficiency improvements in California, USA.
We model water savings associated with three efficiency scenarios in wet, average and dry water years. The ‘efficient
irrigation technology’ scenario shifts a fraction of the crops from flood irrigation to sprinkler and drip
systems; the ‘improved irrigation scheduling’ scenario uses local climate and soil information to more precisely
meet crop water needs; and the ‘regulated deficit irrigation’ applies less water to crops during drought-tolerant
growth stages to save water and improve crop quality or yield. The three scenarios evaluated here each conservatively
show the potential for significant water savings. Their combined potential applied water savings are between
5.6109 m3 (4.5 million acre-feet (MAF)) in a wet year and 7.4109 m3 (6.0 MAF) in a dry year. In total, these
scenarios could reduce water applied to California agriculture by 17% or reduce water consumed by California
agriculture by 13%. The results also indicate that water conservation and efficiency improvements are particularly
effective in dry years, when agricultural water demand is greater and conflicts over scarce water resources are more
severe. These approaches can reduce vulnerability to increasingly uncertain water supplies.
Go to the Water Policy website for the full article.