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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On the importance of getting the boundaries right in water management and governance

I’m working this weekend on two talks, one a webinar Wednesday with Audubon and the other a lecture for UNM Water Resources grad students Thursday, that both touch on one of the fundamental challenges in getting water management right – the question of how we draw the boundaries, both geographically but also conceptually – around …

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New study suggests water conservation remains the cheapest alternative

A new study published last week by Heather Cooley and colleagues at the Pacific Institute concludes that water conservation remains the cheapest water supply alternative as compared to the big new sources widely discussed, things like storm water capture, desalination, and recycling/reuse: Urban water conservation and efficiency are the most cost-effective ways to meet current …

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The Salton Sea and the risk of failure

While I was writing my book about the future of Colorado River water management, I joked about my efforts to leave the Salton Sea out of the story. It was only sort of a joke. The problems of the Salton Sea, an inland water body fed by agricultural drainage from the Imperial Valley, are an …

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rainfall variability is for not fighting over

Fascinating new paper by Lewis Davis at Union College (gated) arguing that the need for collaboration in early agricultural societies with highly variable rainfall led to the development of cultural norms of not fighting over water: The link between rainfall variation and individual responsibility draws on an extensive theoretical and empirical literature on risk sharing among …

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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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Climate science identifies the problem – it can’t tell us what to do in response

Writing in the latest Nature Geoscience, Reiner Grundmann of the University of Nottingham calls out a problem that I wish I’d understood years ago about our understanding of, and response to, climate change and the family of problems to which it is connected. (I hope that link works, let me know in the comments if it …

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