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Why Is Food Overlooked When California Talks Water and Farms?



It requires water to grow food, a fact often overlooked in the debate about agriculture's consumption of water in California. (Shutterstock)
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Re: “Western water crisis solutions inevitably end with a lot less water for farms

CalMatters contributor Jim Newton’s concern over California water is sensible. His solution, singling out Imperial Valley agriculture as the problem, is not. Newton falls into the trap of characterizing farms as California’s biggest water user.

Mike Wade Portrait

Mike Wade


Where does he think crops grown on farms end up? At the grocery store, of course – or at a restaurant, a school cafeteria, Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival, and even major fast food chains that buy Imperial Valley lettuce to put on their sandwiches.

Farms use water to grow food but we’re the ones eating it.

Newton’s water supply solution is to take water away from Imperial Valley farms. But for decades, the Imperial Irrigation District has been doing more by partnering with urban water agencies to implement state-of-the-art on-farm water conservation practices. These efforts conserve, on average, a half million acre-feet of water per year, and meet urban water demands across Southern California, all while growing more food.

About the Author

Mike Wade is the executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. He wrote this for CalMatters, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

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