California never had much fresh water to begin with. Drought has been a challenge to California growers for many years now, and it will continue to present challenges as the effects of climate change bring a new, even drier normal to the state. Currently, California is experiencing a mega-drought, as rising temperatures increase evaporation, reduce rainfall, and severely decrease the amount of available freshwater in the state.
In California, 80% of all water usage goes to agriculture. And of that, about 40% is wasted through evaporation and runoff. When dealing with drought and rising water usage costs, this wasted 40% is bad news for everyone. When dealing with drought and water challenges, you can either be proactive or reactive, but change is inevitable. So let’s look at some challenges of California’s ongoing drought and what you can do to save water, save money, and set up your operations for continuing success.
Challenges of reduced water supply
Climate change and chronic overuse of water have led to consistent water shortages in California, where water availability is an ongoing concern for growers. Water use efficiency has increased in recent years, and new regulations have been implemented to limit draws on surface water. However, in certain parts of the state, wells have been drying faster than they have replenished, thanks to unsustainable pumping and decreased water availability. In response to water shortages, some growers have adopted “deficit irrigation,” or watering crops below their needs. While this conserves water, it also leads to significant crop yield loss. Water might have become more expensive for you in recent years, depending on where you grow. The reality is dire, and our ability to continue producing food in California depends partly on innovative adaptations to drought.
Solutions in the works
Fortunately, many folks across various industries are examining ways to solve or mitigate California’s water problems. Specific policy changes could help, including ones that address the negative impacts of unsustainable pumping. This could include incentivizing farmers not to pump in areas with the most significant adverse effects, creating mitigation plans for increased pumping, and replacing at-risk wells.
Certain technologies hold promise, as well. For example, certain areas have experienced preliminary success with recycling wastewater, which holds tremendous potential for making large quantities of water available. Better stormwater capture and desalination technologies are options, as well. After all, California is adjacent to one of the largest bodies of water on the planet. It’s just a matter of making desalination affordable, scalable, and energy efficient.
Remember that climate change does not necessarily mean we’ll be presented with a barren wasteland where nothing can grow – it means certain crops might no longer be suited to grow in certain parts of California, while perhaps some new crops will be better suited to the area. For instance, the University of California, Davis, is spearheading efforts to examine the environmental and economic feasibility of producing agave, a naturally drought-tolerant crop, in California. A crop that naturally survives well with little water, agave might be a good fit for production in the area.
What you can do
Remember how 40% of the water used for agriculture in California is wasted through evaporation and runoff? This percentage can be reduced significantly. Primarily, inefficient irrigation systems and poor irrigation timing are to blame. Specifically, flood and furrow irrigation systems are most likely to waste valuable water.
You can adopt more sustainable irrigation practices or a new irrigation system entirely. If you’re looking to reduce your water use, it’s vital to take basic steps to reduce water usage, such as irrigating only in the morning and evenings. Then, less water evaporates when the sun isn’t shining as directly, and your crops benefit more. You can strategically turn off some nozzles on a linear move or center pivot irrigation systems. But, the single best action you can take is to transition your operations to a more sustainable crop irrigation system, like drip irrigation. With its precise application, a drip irrigation system can save up to 70% of water consumption compared to flood irrigation. Remember that irrigating sustainably isn’t just crucial for conserving water; it’s smart business. Wasting water is like watching your money evaporate.
And keep an eye on the success of new types of crops being trialed in California. Perhaps a naturally drought-tolerant plant like agave would make a smart addition to your operations. As the climate in California changes, what you grow might change, too.
Need help getting started?
The good news is that individuals are using less water in California. Unfortunately, there is still a drought because the available water is even more scarce, but people are changing and adapting. And this is only the beginning. We have much more that we can do, individually and collectively, to protect our precious water resources in the future. At FGS, we help you adapt and transition towards more sustainable water use practices.
We have over 35 years of irrigation experience and a team of more than 20 irrigation experts who specialize in connecting growers with flexible, tech-forward irrigation systems that save water and optimize growers’ return on investments. FGS has irrigation engineers, seasoned agriculture professionals, and sustainability experts who will set you up with a custom system that makes sense for your business and the environment. After all, FGS has an “all-in” commitment to environmental sustainability, including water conservation, to provide for future business and natural resource needs.
If you’re ready to adjust, update, install or expand your crop irrigation system, stop by one of our supply centers today, call one of our irrigation professionals at (559) 793-7149, or fill out the contact form below.
Have any questions? We’re happy to help – stop in one of our supply stores today, or fill out our contact form by clicking below.