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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Hanak on federal agriculture policies and water

When we think of federal water policy, we think Bureau of Reclamation or EPA. But just as agriculture is where the water is, federal agriculture agencies are where the money is. Ellen Hanak of the Public Policy Institute of California had a post yesterday with some useful suggestions for spending it well: Practical reforms in …

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