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Agricultural Irrigation in This Drought: Where is the Water and Where Is It Going?

Daniel A. Sumner, Josué Medellín-Azuara, Duncan MacEwan, Jay R. Lund, Richard Howitt | May 14th, 2015

In the midst of its fourth year of drought, California now faces an estimated reduction in surface-water availability of 8.8 million acre-feet (maf) out of 29 maf in agricultural applied water statewide. However, groundwater, the buffer water supply during drought, is replacing about 6.2 maf of surface water via additional pumping. This increased groundwater pumping is in addition to the 1.5 maf of annual average groundwater overdraft in the Central Valley. The net reduction of 2.6 maf in the total supply in 2015 may result in about 564,000 acres fallowed statewide, or about 120,000 more acres than last year’s fallowing estimates.


agriculture, drought, Groundwater Exchange, modeling, planning and management, water supply