Agricultural Water Use Efficiency

California agriculture has made great strides in improving water use efficiency while increasing output. Since 1970, many water providers have modernized their water delivery systems, and farmers have moved to higher value crops and are utilizing technologies to save water and increase crop yields; this has significantly increased the overall economic value of the state’s agricultural production.

Agricultural and urban water users will continue to improve water conservation strategies moving forward. A survey of growers ​found that the irrigated acreage using drip irrigation and micro-sprinklers increased 16% between 2001 and 2011, while the acreage of land irrigated using surface irrigation methods decreased by 13%.

In some areas of the state, growers are being encouraged to retain flood irrigation infrastructure to enable on-farm recharge on fields during years with above average precipitation.


Agricultural Water Use Efficiency Program: DWR webpage with information on agricultural water management plans, farm gate reporting, and agricultural water measurement.

California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS): DWR webpage with real-time weather data to assist irrigators in water management.

UC Cooperative Extension: The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UCANR) webpage with many agriculture, natural resource and human resource programs to support California agriculture.

California Institute for Water Resources: Drought and water management information: UC Cooperative extension webpage offering videos and drought tips for irrigation management.

Agricultural Water Use Efficiency (Water Management Toolbox, Maven’s Notebook)

Farmers and SGMA

The California Farm Bureau Federation has ​outreach materials to help farmers and landowners understand why SGMA is important and to be involved.  ​

​DWR’s Ag Water Use Efficiency Program has information on agricultural water management plans, farm gate reporting, and agricultural water measurement.  Learn more about the Agricultural Water Use Efficiency Program

​CDFA’s State Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program (SWEEP) offers grants for irrigation efficiency projects.  Learn more ​about SWEEP.

​On-farm recharge methods show great promise for replenishing depleted groundwater basins.  Learn more about groundwater recharge.

Crops like rice, corn, and alfalfa provide over a million and a half acres of potential habitat when managed for multiple-benefits. Waterbird use of flooded habitats depends primarily on the depth and timing of flooding, and the extent and height of vegetation. Guide to On-farm Recharge and Waterbird Habitat (The Nature Conservancy)

Agricultural water use efficiency articles at Maven's Notebook
  • Notebook agricultural water use efficiency posts

Explore agriculture water use and efficiency at the California Water Library


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