Urban and Agricultural Water Use in California, 1960 -2015

Urban and Agricultural Water Use in California, 1960 -2015

Published: June 2020

Authors: Heather Cooley

Pages: 20

Urban and Agricultural Water Use in California, 1960 -2015


Water is the lifeblood of California, providing for the household needs of 40 million people and supporting one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, various commercial and industrial activities, and the health and viability of the state’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

This report examines statewide urban and agricultural water-use trends from 1960 to 2015. It finds that during this period California experienced a dramatic decoupling between water use and growth, due to improvements in urban and agricultural efficiency, as well as a shift to higher-value crops and less water-intensive commercial and industrial activities.

Yet water use in California is still high; rivers and streams are under stress from overuse, and groundwater is over-tapped. Climate change and continued growth are increasing pressure on the state’s water resources, including on water supply, demand, and quality. To address these challenges, more effort is needed to improve the water-use efficiency of homes, businesses, industries, and farms. The report also calls for the state to improve data collection and online systems to make data more easily, quickly, and readily available.

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