California drought inspires promising farm water risk management studies

The California Institute for Rural Studies has issued a report, California Water Stewards: Innovative On-farm Water Management Practices, showcasing 10 California growers implementing a range of water-saving practices on their farms.

The agricultural water stewardship approaches help buffer farm operations against insecure water supplies while enhancing the environment, reducing costs, and conserving increasingly scarce water resources.

The California Department of Water Resources says California is facing the most significant water crisis in its history. While all growers will likely be affected, some visionary growers have implemented measures to enhance their water security in times of scarcity.

“California’s growers are known for their innovation and resourcefulness. We identified 10 growers who are taking action to protect their operations through both proven and emerging approaches to water conservation,” says the report’s lead author, Lisa Kresge.

“Agricultural water stewardship practices will not solve the water crisis, but they are a critical piece of the puzzle,” Kresge said. “Many of the growers were concerned about future water availability and adopted these practices as a risk management strategy.”

She notes that there has been insufficient policy attention to practices like those covered in the report, adding that “policy makers must take action to ensure adequate financial and technical support for growers who are ready to implement such practices on their farms.”

David Zoldoske, director of the Water Resources and Policy Initiative at Cal State Fresno, said, “It (the report) provides an excellent example of innovative farmers dealing with some of today's complex issues. I would encourage growers to read this publication and look for ideas that may be relevant to their own farming operations.”

The farmers highlighted in the report include small- and large-scale growers producing a wide variety of crops in diverse regions of the state. The water-wise practices featured in the report include soil management for improved water retention, dry farming, keyline design, water recycling, and irrigation management approaches among others.

The report is available online at

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