Couple months ago, the Pacific Institute put out a report, one in a series laying out a vision for California in 2030. Their overarching premise is that we have enough developed water sloshing around the state to get us through 2030, if we stop wasting it. They put out a volume on urban water use, but urban water conservation bores me to tears*, so I didn’t read it. They followed that with a report on the agricultural water use side. Since every last detail of irrigation is inherently fascinating, I read it breathlessly. They assert that agriculture can not only use substantially less water, but would profit by doing so.
Reaction to the report was mixed. It attracted a lot of attention, and in general people take what the Pacific Institute has to say pretty seriously. Some people liked it a lot. Others didn’t.
Enviros tended to like it because they see agriculture as the only potential source for the amount of water it would take to restore our rivers and the Delta. So much the better if agriculture can withstand the loss of that water and even thrive. Also, the Pacific Institute is talking big numbers, 3.5 MAF of water. That’s more than the size of the only proposed new dams that are real possibilities. We won’t need those dams if we can get that water from agriculture!
Ag didn’t like it, predictably. They don’t like being told they aren’t doing a good job at the livelihood that is also their identity. They especially don’t like being told that they aren’t doing a good job based on an outdated but widespread perception of their practices. They don’t like the implicit threat that the outside world is coming for the water they’ve always used. They (possibly mistakenly) see new dams as the only way of continuing their way of life, so they don’t like reports that suggest that dams aren’t necessary.
I’m sure you remember the sensational swirl of editorials, and how you yearned for someone to go through the report section by section and discuss each piece. You were hoping someone would look at it side by side a critique of the report issued by four irrigation professors. My heart heard your heart, dear reader. That’s what we’ll do this week.
*Here. I can tell you what it said. Meter water use and bill by volume. Fix leaks, big and little. Replace appliances. Switch out lawns and collect stormwater. That’s all good stuff, but just typing that bored me. I know you don’t come here to read boring things, so we won’t be talking about urban water conservation much here.