UC Davis irrigation experiment shows big increase in alfalfa yield per acre foot of water

Cleverly managed deficit irrigation (when you significantly reduce water applied during the hot part of the year) substantially increased yield per unit water applied in a new study by researchers at UC Davis. In controlled side-by-side field experiments, Dan Putnam and his colleagues demonstrated that if you do it right, a big reduction in water …

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Melons, lettuce, and other things about 2016

On a personal level, 2016 has been pretty great. I published a book, Water is for Fighting Over: and Other Myths about Water in the West, which has been well received. When I was struggling three years ago to move from the general – “I want to write a book” – to the specific – “I …

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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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