California farmers have made progress in updating and modernizing irrigation practices, but despite past efforts, great untapped potential remains to use water more efficiently. Water efficiency – defined as measures that reduce water use while maintaining the benefits water provides – has been shown to be a cost-effective and flexible tool to adapt to drought as well as to address longstanding water challenges in California. Moreover, today’s investments in efficiency will provide a competitive advantage in the future and ensure the ongoing strength of the agriculture sector in California.
Water-efficiency strategies provide important benefits to farmers, ecosystems, and society. Some of the water saved represents new supply that can be dedicated to other uses. But there are also compelling reasons to seek reductions in total water withdrawals, e.g., allowing farmers to maintain and even improve crop yields and quality; protecting water quality; reducing fertilizer, water, and energy costs; and boosting profits. The multiple benefits associated with reducing both consumptive and non-consumptive water uses argues for a comprehensive approach for promoting water-efficiency improvements that allows us to address complex and interrelated water management challenges in California, including water-supply reliability, conflicts among water users, the risks of droughts, worsening water quality, and ecological degradation. This fact sheet and infographic, The Multiple Benefits of Water Efficiency for California Agriculture, describe some of these important benefits.