Is Colorado River water responsible for 15 percent of U.S. crops?

I’ve seen this more than once: Fifteen percent of all U.S. crops are grown with irrigation water that originates in the Colorado River Basin. That’s from an Alternet piece, and it’s a number I’ve seen repeated many times (see here, here, here for just a few of the many examples). I am skeptical. I’ve been unable …

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A return to flood irrigation in search of environmental benefits

I’ve praised the successful shift from flood irrigation toward more efficient technology – meaning things like center-pivot and drip over flood irrigation – that has enabled a downward trend in the amount of water applied to a typical irrigated acre of farmland in the United States. According to the USGS, US farmers decreased their average …

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How “Cheap Talk” Helped Environmentalists and Water Managers Find Common Ground

An excerpt from my book, published by Earth Island Journal: a case study in how “cheap talk” – the relative informality of a “working group” without obligations – helped calm conflict between environmentalists and water managers on the Lower Colorado: In the short run, the relative informality meant that there was no concrete, institutionalized way …

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Despite drought, the value of California farmland is rising

California’s epic, headline-grabbing drought has not dented the value of the state’s farm land. According to a new USDA dataset released today, California cropland rose 2.1 percent in value per acre in the last year, and 16 percent since 2012. Despite drought, California cropland remains at $10,900 an acre the second most valuable in the …

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With Colorado River water, growing peppers

I’m not sure I would be as sanguine as this Coachella pepper packer about the long term availability of water: The process of producing peppers is both simple and complicated.  “Workers, water, weather–those are our three big headaches,” Aiton says. Aiton says while water is a concern in the state, it’s not as critical in …

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The inevitable decline of irrigated acreage in California’s central valley

It’s a relatively straightforward point: when there is less water to irrigate farmland, there will be less irrigated farmland. For example, OtPR last year: As groundwater sustainability agencies have to bring irrigated acreage in line with the sustainable yield of the groundwater basin, they will be retiring irrigated lands (Dr. Burt: 1-1.5 million acres; Dr. Lund: …

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